OPINION

Emma Watson is a "bad feminist" for showing some skin. Are we really still having this conversation?

Emma Watson as pictured in The Sun (Photo: Twitter) 

Emma Watson's critics say that women can't be feminist and sexual. Zoë Beaty says BS 

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By Zoë Beaty on

Emma Watson is a Bad Feminist. Watson, a UN-ambassador, known for speaking out about issues affecting women and an equal pay campaigner – the woman who backed #HeforShe and has delivered rousing speeches demanding that she and all women are treated with the same respect as men  – can no longer be and should no longer be taken seriously in her views on equality. At least, according to some. 

A photograph of Watson’s exposed chest, precariously close to showing a nipple, prompted her feminist credentials to be called into question. The snap was part of a cover shoot for Vanity Fair, and one of a series. It’s actually not that interesting. But that didn’t stop it becoming the eye of another Twitter storm yesterday – because feminist Watson wasn’t wearing her women’s rights robes.

Julia Hartley-Brewer, a Talk Radio host, took to social media to criticise Watson, to a  audience. “Emma Watson,” she snarked. “‘Feminism, feminism… gender wage gap… why oh why am I not taken seriously… feminism… oh, and here are my tits.” 

Right. Because “serious” women are sexless, and true advocates of equality wouldn't dream of being so brazen. Why are we still having this conversation? Why are we so fixated on Good and Bad Feminism, and why do our bodies and what we wear on them connote which camp we fall into? Emma Watson was not covered up, said Hartley-Brewer, therefore she is a hypocrite. Because she has “complained” about being sexualised by society – as all women are – and is now pictured with exposed skin. Hartley-Brewer went on to publicly mock Watson’s boobs in an exchange with Giles Coren (immediately sexualising the photograph herself which, aside from anything else, hugely undermined her own point). When a tweeter patiently asked whether anyone who wore a bikini should be deemed anti-feminist, Hartley-Brewer replied that “it probably depends where you are and whether you’ve bleated on about how you’ve suffered from sexism at work or not, doesn’t it?” 

In other words, put up and shut up: there are criteria for complaints of sexism, and you might also have violated the regulations. And women cannot be feminist, and political, and sexual too. What a load of bull. 

Female sexuality is not something to be covered up, or demonised. Emma Watson shouldn’t be taken any less seriously because she’s not wearing a roll neck, or an “appropriate” length, or a “modest” blouse

Female sexuality is not something to be covered up, or demonised. Emma Watson shouldn’t be taken any less seriously because she’s not wearing a roll neck, or an “appropriate” length, or a “modest” blouse

It seems quite simple that the respect a woman receives should not be determined by her sexuality or her body, but time and time again we are going over this tiresome ground. A woman who has breasts – or even bares her breasts – is not an object, it is society which objectifies her. In this case, Watson’s shoot was objectified by The Sun, infamous purveyors of the Page 3 franchise, who coupled the sole photograph showing any skin from an 11-page shoot with the crude headline “Beauty & the Breast”. What is the difference between The Sun’s Page 3, and a shoot in Vanity Fair? it was later asked. Is it class, or social hierarchy? No. It is context. 

The context in which the image is shown, the context of how it is viewed. The purpose of it. The voice behind it, or accompanying it. Autonomy, without self-objectification; making your own choices about your body, devoid of pressure to be “sexy” solely for male pleasure, which Watson is entitled to do. Page 3 and the like who actively presented women as objects by erasing their voices – with The Sun went even further by adding a condescending “sound-bite” on current affairs, serving only to mock the girl on the page. Without losing sight of the fact that this was one, barely sexual picture, it’s important to point out that Watson had a strong voice alongside her photoshoot for the US magazine. Objectification is not passive, it’s an act – and it’s the very idea of women being seen and not heard, and diminished to nothing more than a sex-vessel in the process.

Female sexuality is not something to be covered up, or demonised. Emma Watson shouldn’t be taken any less seriously because she’s not wearing a roll neck, or an “appropriate” length, or a “modest” blouse. She shouldn’t be undermined on her opinions, simply for showing some skin. She shouldn’t be called a “bad feminist” for being multifaceted. Aren’t we all?

@zoe_beaty

Emma Watson as pictured in The Sun (Photo: Twitter) 
Tagged in:
Feminism
Emma Watson
gender equality
women in the media

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