Spotlight on: Emma Watson

At only twenty-seven, Watson has already done so much for feminism. Not only has she brought feminist issues to the attention of a younger generation, but she has made concrete steps towards equality.

Watson is an ambassador for Camfed International, which campaigns for female education, as well as a UN Women Goodwill ambassador, an organization with which she founded the HeForShe Campaign. However, Watson is far from being just a face for these organizations. Having visited Bangladesh and Zambia to actively campaign for female education, Watson is clearly dedicated to making a difference. Her UN speech is credited with being the reason that Malala Yousafzai decided to call herself a feminist. Watson dispelled the myth that feminism was about hating men, and established that, at its purist form, it is simply a fight for equality. With progress like this, Watson is doing far more than is asked of her.

Aside from her links to major equal rights campaign groups, Watson has made feminism tangible for her fans, particularly her younger fans. Watson began a feminist Goodreads bookclub, named Our Shared Shelf, in which they read and discuss a feminist, monthly. This is an effective method of getting her younger fans involved and educated in feminist text and issues while making it fun and interactive, rather than a sermon. Simple ideas such as bookclubs are an incredibly influential method of getting feminist texts out there and read, and it is particularly important that they are read by teenagers and young adults, as they are the voices of our next generation, a fact that Watson is clearly aware of.

Watson’s latest film, Beauty and the Beast, sees her playing the protagonist Belle. While it should be clear that Belle is an intellectual, brave and selfless character, Watson has had to defend her decision to play a role that critics have claimed is ‘anti-feminist.’ The film is criticized for portraying Belle falling in love with her captor, though Watson does not think that it happened that way. Belle’s love for the beast grew from a friendship – after he had already let her go. Furthermore, Belle is depicted on a number of occasions making her own decisions, from rejecting Gaston to taking her father’s place as prisoner. She maintains that Belle is a feminist character, and that Beauty and the Beast is a feminist film.

Watson also came under fire for her photoshoot with Vanity Fair, where parts of her breasts were exposed. Speaking of the controversy Watson said, “It just always reveals to me how many misconceptions and what a misunderstanding there is about what feminism is. 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.”

As a young woman fighting for equality, it is refreshing to see that Watson uses her intellect, maturity and strength to fight off the critics of feminism. Watson is an inspiration to young women everywhere, and proof that fighting for feminism is possible – and effective.


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