Why Emma Watson is Awesome (and a note on the feminist movement)

Preamble: I’m trying harder to actually plan before I write anything like this but I had already started writing. So I wrote a plan after I’d finished this and tried to edit but I’m super lazy and couldn’t be bothered to do too much. I just find it much easier to write as it comes to you rather than planning, I feel then it is less censored and probably more true to yourself, even if it does get lost in the tangled webs of thought to speech. Moving on, don’t hate me, I can’t always say what I mean without sounding like a dick. But I promise my intent is just to understand, learn, and hopefully better myself. Also this is another big wall of text, sorry.

First and foremost my general stance is that I don’t really care what people choose to do so long as what they do doesn’t infringe on another person’s freedom. So yes everyone should have the same access to everything and anything they want to do or be. Some people need more, some people need less, which I guess would be an argument for equity rather than equality but that gets very complicated and I don’t want to focus on that right now (although I probably will).

Before I start, I’m going to try and explain how I disagree with the term ‘feminist’ but not it’s goals. I’m trying to say this in a way that doesn’t make me look like someone who is opposed to equality. My problem with the word feminist, and any other specific movement, is that it focuses solely on their tribes issues. Not that they aren’t important, of course they are, but as are gay rights, black rights, religious rights, just straight up human rights. Whilst Watson doesn’t think the word itself is bad she does recognise that people “associate the term with man-hate”. Watson also tackles this well by saying she does recognise that all these oppressions that occur for various reasons are inter-related, but as I will go on to mention, explains how her mandate is the focus on women’s rights. She goes on to state how her “dream would be that I would be working for the UN equality agency”.

Now as with any movement there are positive, logical, rational people and there are negative, illogical and radical people. Malcolm X had an impact on civil rights for sure but don’t forget that he was an advocate for keeping black and white people separate “separate but equal”. He argues that it’s not segregation because segregation “means that which is forced upon inferiors by superiors” but whatever you want to call it, it’s hardly forward thinking (and ok yes, later he accepted the fact that cooperation rather than separation was the way). On the other side you have Martin Luther King who wanted integration and equality, in my eyes a much more admirable goal.

Feminism gets a bad rap for the same reasons, there are plenty of people who preach equality, but that doesn’t get as much news coverage as the more radical views. This is a problem with the media as a whole and not the fault of any activist be they rational or radical.

However I have strayed from my original point on the word ‘feminist’. I feel a more appropriate term for any activist concerned with equality would be egalitarian. They could state maybe they are an egalitarian focussed on one particular area but I think simply by changing the name you make a big difference. Of course, just because it’s a fight for women’s rights or any other people’s rights it doesn’t mean you can’t contribute if you are not of their ‘tribe’ but it can feel like that. Again Watson echoes my feelings here by saying “men think it’s a women’s word”. It is especially difficult when the radical people in those movements will insist that ‘not being…how could you understand’ or ‘how could you help?’. Now, being a white, male, middle-class British citizen I guess I’m fairly privileged. Ok, I don’t know what it’s like to be a woman, or gay, or black, so enlighten me rather than shunning me as someone who will never understand. Give me a chance as, I’m only speaking for myself here, I honestly just want to understand people who have different feelings, experiences, opinions to me as, not only does that further educate me and give me a more well-rounded view of the world and its inhabitants, it also allows me to appreciate someone’s individualities more. I have often asked friends who are gay about when they came out as I’m interested to know how they felt and whether people were supportive. One reason this was always an interesting question for me is that I wanted to see if any of them were greeted with indifference when they told their family or friends, rather than some sort of major revelation, more just a “oh, ok cool. So did you see the new episode of Game of Thrones?”

But again I’m waffling and this part was only meant to be brief. To summarise, my solution would be anybody concerned with equality or equity amongst the people should refer to themselves as an egalitarian focussing on the area of xyz. I’m not saying it’s perfect but that’s my suggestion, maybe you can help me improve upon that.

Now, back to Emma Watson and, I need to get this out of the way. She is inspiringly beautiful (not that it matters but it helps), well spoken, strong and rational. Also she’s playing Belle (my favourite Disney princess) in the new Beauty and the Beast and in the words of the village people “it’s no wonder that her name means beauty”. She’s even a lover of good cheese and accompaniments such as one of my favourites, manchego with a little quince jelly. But I shall try to make sure my enamourment doesn’t get in the way of my justifications.

With my infatuations dealt with we can move on to something of more substance as to why I think she’s an awesome person!

Where I’m getting most of the quotes

By attempting to redefine the image of feminism in the social eye she’s helping repair the damage that the media, radicals and anti-feminist propaganda have created. A bastion for “equality: politically, culturally, socially, economically it’s that simple”. Anybody who doesn’t agree with that core principle, for anyone regardless of what label you ascribe to them, I would argue just doesn’t understand their place in a society built by people of differences and probably feels inferior leading to a fear of more people having opportunity (there I am being aggressive again!). Without the differences present in the world we would live in such a bland, rice pudding without jam, kind of world.

I’m not saying this is the only reason I think she does feminism a service, but to a lot of people who say feminism isn’t about equality but female superiority, she makes a clear effort to include examples of how she feels men suffer from gender inequality, here are some examples of things she’s said.

“we need to include men in the conversation we need to be including them in the dialogue…I can see gender inequality is affecting them just as much as it’s affecting me”

“I think we don’t acknowledge how much pressure we put on men to conform to a certain perception of masculinity”

I don’t mean that feminists should focus on men’s issues, but merely by acknowledging there are inequalities both ways is automatically going to make men feel more included, and possibly more willing to unite.

Another thing that I will find hard to articulate here but I will try. We all suffer at the hands of prejudice, some which affect our lives in much more drastic ways. Whilst this sounds like a selfish way to solve the issue I reckon it would be very effective as I’m pretty sure people are inherently selfish (ok to different levels but it’s a pretty basic instinct). So, to engage those that aren’t suffering you need to make them realise what it would be like if the shoe was on the other foot. I’m not saying do it literally, but explain in such vivid and evocative ways that people can’t help but experience the gut wrenching pain that is realising we live in an unequal world. Where people are judged not by the merit of their character, the strength of their resolve, but by having twice as many x chromosomes or having different genetics that is made observable through pigmentation or any other visual difference.

I’m sorry Ms Watson, oooo, I have digreeeeessed (you can figure out the tune)

Emma (oh yeah, first name basis obviously) is aware of how privileged she is herself in the opportunities that have been available to her that probably aren’t available to other women. She has no illusions as to how lucky she is and again, this self-awareness is something I find very humbling. Speaking of opportunities she goes on to talk about education (one of my 5 pillars alongside; healthcare, housing, safety and sustenance) and how girls are not doing as well in maths, science and engineering. She doesn’t state that they don’t have the opportunities to pursue these paths but that because of the general perception of these as ‘male’ subjects, female students aren’t going down these paths for fear of becoming “less attractive”. This shows that whilst there may be issues within the system of employment and other things, one of the key issues are the cognitive flaws within society. She doesn’t point the finger or accuse people of doing these things but explains how there are errors in thinking that might not necessarily be active but do need to be addressed.

Now I’ve grown up on Hollywood romcoms and all sorts of other tosh alongside lovely literature that has turned me into somewhat of a romantic. Chivalry and gallantry are things I think are very important but are they inherently sexist? I feel Watson tackles this in a good way that I think again is very fair. I’ll hold the door open for you, and it would be nice if you’d hold the door open for me. Realistically it all should just depend on location rather than gender! Essentially, ‘yeah you can treat me so long as I can treat you back’. Sounds good to me.

Watson goes on to talk about being taken out for dinner and again just reiterates the point that it’s about fairness. Sure pay for dinner, and next time I will, or we’ll split it, or cook for me. Personally if someone took me out for dinner and offered to pay I think I would have to decline a couple of times and then use it as the opportunity to instigate a second date saying “well it’s only fair that you let me pay for dinner next time” it’s a perfect segue into asking for that second date!

Moving away from gender politics for a minute I have a personal pet peeve of when I do open the door for someone, maybe an elderly person or someone with a pram, where if they don’t say thank you I passive aggressively thank them. In these instances I think there’s no doubt that you should help them, but they should still say thank you.

My last point is something quite close to my heart. I have a big thing about raising a family, having children, I mean, I think it’s the best thing someone can do with their life to raise a child. We move on to maternity leave.

Ultimately Emma is pointing out how the amount of maternity leave women take is hardly going to impede their professional life. Emma explains how it’s a joint responsibility to raise a child and obviously affects men and women. I mean I love kids so I really appreciate the focus she puts on this being one of the most important things a person does in their life, and how it’s vital to have both parties being present in creating a nurturing environment for raising a child. One way around this issue I would say is that as a national policy either the father or mother can take leave to look after the child. Obviously initially the mother would definitely require time to recover, after all you’ve just carried and created a life, but once the mother is physically recovered it would be up to both parties to decide who took time off work to look after the baby. Then you could take it in turns or do whatever you prefer. I personally would love the opportunity to be able to stay at home with my newborn child (heck I’d even carry a child myself if I could).

Now again, I feel some sort of disclaimer is needed. I’m not saying activists are bad or anything of the sort. But negativity bias means that those radicals (that are most likely a minority of the movement) are more prominent in our minds and get more press. It’s why I think, ok whilst you should support movements you feel linked to, before becoming overly vocal on the subject, arm yourself with knowledge. Get the facts, think about both sides, don’t attack people (verbally or otherwise), use a rational and calm approach. I know it’s very hard to keep your emotions in check, god knows I have a hard enough time doing it in writing where I CAN edit myself, but it will be worth it when you might convince someone that change is necessary.

Be great, be wonderful, be thoughtful, be compassionate, and to quote Doctor Who “be the best of humanity”.

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