Being a feminist isn’t just about advocating women empowerment and gender equality. It isn’t just calling out the disadvantages of being a woman in an oppressive patriarchal society, either. It’s simply not enough to couple all these key words in the last two sentences to be able to define it and call yourself a feminist ideal.
While many look up to actress and UN ambassadress Emma Watson for being a feminist, she is also heavily criticized for failing to evaluate her stand, and falling into the traps of “white feminism.” It’s Watson’s previous inability to check her privilege that the pvblic has since accused her of an uninformed activism, where race, social standing, gender, health conditions are disregarded in her version of feminism.
Like any other ideology, inclusivity must be a guiding and driving principle behind it. In a discussion in her Goodreads book club called Our Shared Shelf, Emma acknowledged her advocacy’s lack of intersectionality.
“When I gave my UN speech in 2015, so much of what I said was about the idea that “being a feminist is simple!” Easy! No problem! I have since learned that being a feminist is more than a single choice or decision. It’s an interrogation of self. Every time I think I’ve peeled all the layers, there’s another layer to peel. But, I also understand that the most difficult journeys are often the most worthwhile. And that this process cannot be done at anyone else’s pace or speed,” Emma writes.
“What was the need to define me—or anyone else for that matter—as a feminist by race? What did this mean? Was I being called racist? Was the feminist movement more fractured than I had understood? I began… panicking,” she continues.
“It would have been more useful to spend the time asking myself questions like: What are the ways I have benefited from being white? In what ways do I support and uphold a system that is structurally racist? How do my race, class and gender affect my perspective? There seemed to be many types of feminists and feminism,” Emma says.
The actress’ move to share her learning progress when it comes to the ideology that she has sworn to live by is inspiring. It’s not easy to admit to mistakes. Not only does it prove that our learning process is limitless, it also calls out other feminists to reevaluate their stands.
With Emma having so much realizations all coming off reading “Why I’m No Longer Talking to White People About Race” by Reni Eddo-Lodge, I think we should all put it on our reading lists.
Read Emma’s complete letter here.