You’ve heard the news by now: vaunted feminist Emma Watson posed scantily on the cover of Vanity Fair, somebody (probably a man) tried to gotcha her on her feminism, somebody else (probably another man) tried to get Gloria Steinem to talk shit about her–despite the fact that Ms. Steinem eloquently shut them down on Emma already last week–and twitter went insane.
… it does behoove us as feminists to question the nature of the choices that we make.
Emma Watson says in response: “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.”
So that’s true: the female body should be celebrated, not shamed. I love showing skin from time to time, and I’m thankful for generations of feminists before me that have made it socially acceptable for me to wear what I like, and socially unacceptable for men to touch and catcall and harass me because of what I’m wearing (or choosing not to wear.)
But I do believe there’s valid rationale hidden somewhere in the criticism–however tactlessly deployed to stir up drama around one particular woman whose contributions to feminism are undeniable. Hell, Emma Watson herself deployed this tactic, calling out Beyonce for her sexualised image in 2014:
“As I was watching [the videos] I felt very conflicted, I felt her message felt very conflicted in the sense that on the one hand she is putting herself in a category of a feminist, but then the camera, it felt very male, such a male voyeuristic experience of her,” Watson said during a conversation with journalist and actress Tavi Gevinson, as published in a 2014 issue of Wonderland Magazine.
Emma Watson said Beyonces feminism is for the male gaze and now I’m seeing her titties in a magazine. I love how consistent white women are.
— Richey Collazo 🇵🇷 (@RicheyCollazo) March 5, 2017
Emma Watson: “Beyoncé using her sexuality as empowerment isn’t feminism!”
Also Emma Watson: pic.twitter.com/ZhfKmXfsRi
— ☾ jay (@WOLVERlNES) March 3, 2017
Here’s the thing: it does behoove us as feminists to question the nature of the choices that we make. Nobody’s choices are made in a vacuum. If you as a woman are consistently making choices that play into society’s patriarchal expectations of femininity, it’s worth considering potential value in challenging those expectations, both within yourself and in confrontation with others.
But there is a difference between critiquing an individual’s choices and critiquing the dynamics of the patriarchal system. Women didn’t fight for feminism so that we could start modesty-policing each other.
Emma Watson is a feminist warrior AND a babe. There are better ways to engage in criticism of patriarchal constructs than a call-out culture that tries to gotcha women for failing to act in line with anybody’s expectations–regardless of who is setting those expectations.
And as Emma’s own feminist perspective evolves over time, I’ll be looking forward to her apology to Bey.