It’s not news that Emma Watson is a huge advocate for female rights and gender equality. From third world to first, she has extolled the principles of feminism and how the public can join in the movement.
Feminism isn’t a novel concept. It’s been around since 1848. In Watson’s own words, feminism is “the belief that men and women should have equal rights and opportunities”.
Maturing from Hermione to Belle in @beautyandthebeast is a true coming-of-age story for @EmmaWatson: "I couldn't care less if I won an Oscar or not if the movie didn’t say something that I felt was important for people to hear." Read the full cover story at the link in bio. Photograph by Tim Walker.
But after posing in a cut-out crochet cape and a white lace skirt by Burberry for the shoot with the British fashion photographer Tim Walker, she has prompted a fierce debate. What’s surprising is that even the most acclaimed of personalities – notably radio presenter and columnist Julia Hartley-Brewer – have presented the idea that sexuality and feminism cannot coexist.
Hartley-Brewer calls this out as “hypocrisy”, as have many others (feminists or not) on social media platforms.
The shaming of Watson’s actions is sadly ironic. Being a feminist does not imply compliance with traditional, conservative standards about body image and your choice of clothes. Anyone can be a feminist and uphold its virtues, regardless of sexuality, gender, and other superficial features. The way you look does not place you in the category of “good feminist” or “bad feminist”. Labelling someone as anti-feminist based on self-determined criteria is exactly what feminism isn’t. Imposing double standards on feminists is in itself hypocrisy and irony.
More crucially, detractors of Watson’s Vanity Fair cover seem to have missed the point of feminism entirely. To support feminism is to support freedom of choice for women. Invalidating anyone’s choice because they deviate from societal expectations is to reject the core of feminism. The pressure on young women to dress or look a certain way and be judged based on their appearances is disturbing. This is the patriarchal, stubborn, and outdated system that feminists are rallying against.
Further, why should sexuality hold negative connotations? The association of sexuality with “sluttiness” or character flaws is convenient, but inherently fallacious. (This point is so straightforward it is literally impossible to elaborate any further.)
Emma Watson has also spoken up, expressing confusion as we have. “Feminism is about giving women choice. Feminism is not a stick with which to beat other women with. It’s about freedom. It’s about liberation. It’s about equality. It’s not — I really don’t know what my t*ts have to do with it.”
Gloria Steinem, a high-profile feminist, chimed in, “Feminists can wear anything they f****** want. They should be able to walk down the street nude and be safe.”