Is Emma Watson Still an Advocate for Feminism? | Redbrick | University of Birmingham

Is Emma Watson Still an Advocate for Feminism?

Elin Kaemmar-Bailey and Amelia Hiller take opposing sides regarding whether Emma Watson can still be deemed an advocate for feminism

‘I don’t know what my tits have to do with feminism’ declared Emma Watson in response to allegations that she can no longer identify as a feminist following the publication of a semi-naked Vanity Fair cover. Watson was subsequently branded a hypocrite after a 2014 interview emerged in which she critiques the ‘voyeuristic’ elements of Beyoncé’s 2013 self-titled album. Beyoncé fans condemned Watson’s stance as a form of ‘white feminism’, defined by her modern western privilege, a narrow ‘pick and choose’ approach to women’s rights. This opens up the debate: to what extent does Emma Watson’s Vanity Fair cover undermine her views on feminism?

Elin Kaemmer-Bailey arguing yes

Since being appointed as the UN Women Goodwill Ambassador in 2014, Watson has been involved in the promotion of girls’ education in rural Africa and being the face of the HeForShe campaign. In spite of the inconsistencies identified in her approach to feminism, it is undeniable that Watson has been immensely productive in using her platform to positively promote feminism.

The concept of empowered female sexuality should lie at the heart of the feminist movement

In spite of deeming elements of the Beyoncé’s new music as ‘voyeuristic’, she goes on to clarify that she respects Beyoncé made an empowered choice to project this image of herself. As Watson herself defines it, feminism is entirely rooted in giving women choice. Thus, Watson goes on to praise the album for its inclusive nature which ‘puts feminism, femininity and female empowerment on a broad spectrum.’ This advocates the same notion of empowered female sexuality that Beyoncé manifests in her album.

Personally, I believe that the concept of empowered female sexuality should lie at the heart of the feminist movement. After centuries of the social oppression of the sexual desires of women, a problem that persists into the 21st century, we must escape the notion that female sexuality always entails male gratification. It is immensely empowering for women to inspire others who are successful, intelligent and confident in their sexuality. After being taught for so long that these qualities cannot coexist, both Watson and Beyoncé act as fantastic role models to promote a woman’s right to choose her sexual image.

Amelia Hiller arguing no

Emma Watson’s ability to empower girls and women across the globe cannot be denied. Many hail her as an immense contributor towards the promotion of women’s rights and education. However, it is difficult for me to ignore the evident hypocrisy in Watson’s approach, accentuated in her recent photoshoot for Vanity fair magazine in which she wears a revealing white capelet.

While this has been branded as a ‘topless’ image, I would disagree. It is more revealing than what has been seen from Watson before, though this is a matter of personal choice and what Watson feels comfortable with revealing to the public. Or at least, this would be the case if she had not accused Beyoncé of allowing her body to become the subject of the male gaze. Is this not exactly what Watson has done in agreeing to be pictured in such a way?

It is difficult for me to ignore the evident hypocrisy in Watson’s approach

This recent controversy serves to highlight evidence of Watson’s white privilege. As Elin argues, the empowered female sexuality which Watson advocates is a positive thing. I do not deny this, though I cannot disregard the fact that Watson criticised Beyoncé for the way she chose to portray herself in the media, yet sought praise when she did what is fundamentally the same thing.

My opinion is shared by many. Indeed, columnist Julia Hartley-Brewer recently tweeted the Sun’s reproduced image along with the statement, ‘Feminism, feminism... gender wage gap... why oh why am I not taken seriously... feminism... oh, and here are my tits!’ Whilst I would argue that she did not approach the controversy in a particularly sensitive way, I do understand her point of view. Watson has spent years implying that there is more to a woman than her body and working to prevent the sexualisation of women in the media. I do not see how the media will take her seriously after this, which I view as a setback for the feminist movement, and undermines everything that Watson has previously worked for.

‘I don’t know what my tits have to do with feminism.’ Ironically, in this instance it appears that they have quite a lot to do with it.


14th March 2017 at 9:00 am

Images from

Marco Bond