The former Harry Potter star has been attacked for showing her breasts in a Vanity Fair photo shoot. To which one can only respond: how misguided is that?
Emma Watson was on the radio yesterday morning.
The Harry Potter star had been attacked on social media, for 'exposing her breasts' in a Vanity Fair photo shoot.
Emma, who is an activist in the HeForShe campaign, which encourages men to become advocates for feminism, was accused of betraying the ideals of feminism, by participating in the photo shoot, carried out by the fashion photographer Tim Walker.
In truth the shots were not very revealing at all. But that seems to be neither here nor there where social media trolls are concerned.
“It just reveals to me how many misconceptions and what a misunderstanding there is about what feminism is,” she responded, in a radio interview. "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. I really don’t know what my tits have to do with it. It’s very confusing.”
The pictures are widely available online. Looking at them, you’d have to ask what sort of a fucked-up world we are living in, that people can attack an individual woman in a nasty and vindictive way, for something so – well, so anodyne?
Which is not meant as a put-down. The shots are tasteful and, in the ordinary, everyday sense of the word, flattering. There is nothing gauche or in-your-face ‘sexy' about them either.
The only way in which these Emma Watson shots might be deemed to be politically ‘wrong’ is that you can see parts of the actress’ breasts. How terrible!
Now by what criteria is that supposed to be anti-feminist? What bizarre new form of prudishness has taken hold that she can be attacked on that basis?
Women strip off on the beach all the time. You can see their breasts. It is perfectly normal, something only a fool would start throwing accusations of betraying feminism about. So what is supposed to be the difference here?
Male actors are frequently photographed with their tops off. So are rock ’n’ roll stars. If Emma Watson is ‘betraying feminism’, what are those men – from the Red Hot Chilli Peppers to Soulja Boy – doing to ‘men's liberation'? Deflating it?
But the bigger question is this: what is wrong with a woman deciding that she will do something sexy or erotic if that is what she wants to do? Or to put the boot on the other foot, what would be wrong with a man doing something sexy? Are we really trundling back to a society that wants to suppress sex?
Thankfully not everyone has joined the thought-police.
"Emma Watson has done more for women and for young girls than most of us put together," Sam Smethers, chief executive of the Fawcett Society, which campaigns for gender equality and women's rights, told BBC. "So I don't really see that just because she's made that decision, any of us should be criticising her. She's an empowered woman who is posing for a very tasteful image. She's not being exploited, she doing it in a controlling position. It's a positive use of her body."
And Sam Smathers was not alone: numerous women have spoken up for her. But what even those expressions of support can’t hide is that a new kind of bigotry has taken root and – like a lot of other boorishness – is being ventilated in personalised attacks against individuals online, and on social media.
There are those out there – women and of course men too – who want to dictate what women can and can’t wear. The new prudes want to prevent women from expressing themselves. Like the old predominantly male prudes of various religions, they want propriety to rule.
Emma is, of course, right in her response. The right to choose, in the broadest sense, is what feminism seeks to enshrine. Control of your own body. Control of your look. Control of your destiny.
Should women be forced the wear the hijab? Most certainly not. Should women be entitled to wear the hijab if they choose to? For sure. It is about the freedom to make your own decisions.
There are many different strands to feminism. By far the most important aim of the movement is full, unqualified equality of opportunity in education, in work and in pay. That in itself would bring an end to a male-centred, paternalistic way of looking at the world and of organising society.
That has to be the primary goal. But feminism is also about establishing women’s equal right to dress exactly as they want to, to put clothes on or take them off as they see fit and not to be beholden to anyone for their personal choices. Feminism is not about stupidly narrow-minded options being forced on anyone, male or female. And it is certainly not about a hopelessly old-fashioned anti-sex prudishness.
The new moral police want women to deny their sexuality. They want to intimidate women in general, to prevent them from being playful about sex. And, as the treatment of Emma Watson confirms, they are particularly hell-bent on bullying women who feel sufficiently confident and empowered to publicly express anything to do with the erotic into submission to their new orthodoxy.
If you want to talk about a betrayal of feminism, look no further.
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