Thoughts on Emma Watson
Like, good for you for speaking up about feminism and gender roles and sexism. Glad you are using your privilege as a celebrity to discuss these issues (albeit in a pretty basic ass speech).
But all I kept thinking when I saw all these silly articles claiming that Emma Watson gave a “game-changing” speech at the UN is that the only reason she has this opportunity and is receiving all this praise as a pioneering “game changer” is because she is a (wealthy, straight, young, Eurocentrically/stereotypically pretty, able bodied, cis) white woman. And she hasn’t even said anything really revolutionary that other feminists have not said before.
Notice how, unlike Beyonce and Nicki Minaj and other PoC celebs who have claimed and defended their feminist identity, Emma Watson’s feminist self- identification/speech has not been immediately contested or rejected because of her work or profession.
Notice how she spouts ideas about “gender as a spectrum” that queer scholars, activists, and theorists, many of color as well, have been saying for decades.
Notice how she pulls out the trope of rural African girls not receiving an education as a marker of gender progress- as if Africa is a monolith, as if other European and non-European nations don’t also have problems with disparities in women’s education, as if that statement doesn’t revive troubling, racist stereotypes about Black nations.
Notice how she places the impetus on men to spread gender equality- as if masculine identified people have not already been part of feminist movements, as if the only way to make feminism acceptable and effective is to invite men for the sake of their “sisters, daughters, and mothers” and not because people of all genders are human beings who deserve rights/respect, whose freedom is inherently interconnected.
Notice how her discussion of feminism does not include the intersectional weights of racism, classism, homophobia, transphobia, and ableism.
I appreciated some aspects of the speech- tying up men’s liberation from the limits of gender roles alongside other genders within feminism, for instance. And I understand that she is promoting some kind of UN program for men & gender equality, that perhaps she saw her speech as an introduction to feminism, that she is probably not being intentional in her mistakes.
But I can’t see past the flaws of her words and her undeniable privileges that have made her the spokesperson for feminism in the UN’s eyes, therefore lending her limited vision of feminism more international/mainstream weight. And how the contributions of so many women of color, queer peoples and other marginalized groups who ACTUALLY have shaped and led feminist movements are being erased in one fell swoop by the kind of widespread media attention she is receiving.