By Carolyn Todd
September 22, 2014 at 08:35 PM EDT
Emma Watson
Credit: Eduardo Munoz Alvarez/Getty Images

While some female stars including Shailene Woodley and Taylor Swift have bolted away from the word “feminist,” in a speech to the United Nations introducing a new campaign called HeForShe, Emma Watson made it clear she isn’t afraid of it at all.

Watson, who was appointed a Goodwill Ambassador for UN Women earlier this year, explained how she has identified as a feminist from a young age. “When I was 8, I was called bossy because I wanted to direct a play we would put on for our parents,” the Harry Potter star said. “I decided that I was a feminist. This seemed uncomplicated to me.”

Watson laments how what seems to her such an elementary concept has become such an unpopular word. In her advocacy work for UN Women, the actress has encountered many of the same misconceptions about gender equality that have been circulating the media as of late. “I realized that fighting for women’s rights has too often become synonymous with man-hating” and “women are choosing not to identify as feminists.”

Watson cleared up any confusion about the meaning of the word: “For the record, feminism by definition is the belief that men and women should have equal rights and opportunities. It is the theory of political, economic and social equality of the sexes.”

Maybe most revelatory was Watson’s calling upon men to join the fight for their own good. “Gender equality is your issue, too,” she told the crowd, insisting men too fall victim to gender stereotypes. “If men don’t have to be aggressive in order to be accepted, women won’t feel compelled to be submissive. If men don’t have to control, women won’t have to be controlled.”

Watson isn’t the first star to take a refreshingly sincere stand on the issue. Here are a few of the smartest celebs’ thoughts on gender:

-Ellen Page to The Guardian on the necessity of feminism: “I don’t know why people are so reluctant to say they’re feminists. Maybe some women just don’t care. But how could it be any more obvious that we still live in a patriarchal world when feminism is a bad word? […] Feminism always gets associated with being a radical movement – good. It should be. “

-Joseph Gordon-Levitt to The Daily Beast in August, when asked about celebrities shunning the “feminist” label: “Coming out against the label? Wow. I guess I’m not aware of that. What that means to me is that you don’t let your gender define who you are—you can be who you want to be, whether you’re a man, a woman, a boy, a girl, whatever… That, to me, is what ‘feminism’ means. So yes, I’d absolutely call myself a feminist.”

-Lena Dunham on her feminist identity: The idea of being a feminist—so many women have come to this idea of it being anti-male and not able to connect with the opposite sex—but what feminism is about is equality and human rights. For me that is just an essential part of my identity.”

Joss Whedon, while being honored by Equality Now last November: “People feel removed from sexism. ‘I’m not a sexist, but I’m not a feminist.’ They think there’s this fuzzy middle ground. There’s no fuzzy middle ground. You either believe that women are people or you don’t. It’s that simple.”

-Lorde speaking up for her peersto Rookie in January: “I’m speaking for a bunch of girls when I say that the idea that feminism is completely natural and shouldn’t even be something that people find mildly surprising, it’s just a part of being a girl in 2013.”

-John Legend putting it succinctly at a press conference for the Chime for Change concert: “All men should be feminists.”