The last few days have seen debates about the definition of feminism sparked by Emma Watson’s decision to partially reveal her breasts in a photoshoot for Vanity Fair. The main argument against Watson is that her decision to display even the slightest hint of her sexuality to the public immediately undermines her position as a feminist and the extensive time and effort she has put into women’s rights debates and movements. And so I have one main question, since when was modesty equated with being a feminist? It just seems so backwards to me that in order to be taken seriously we must cover our bodies – and god forbid you show any indication that you have a sexuality or that you even are a woman. Women have boobs. Fact. It seems that a lot of people have forgotten this during this little debate. They’re a part of the female body, we did not choose them, we don’t always love them (for example if you’ve ever tried running in a poorly fitted sports bra they become your nemesis) but they are there and they are functional and they have a power to sometimes make us feel better about ourselves. Just because you choose to show off your body in this way does not mean your political or professional views should be tainted. Reading these headlines felt to me what I imagine it would have been like in the 19th century to read an angry article about a woman flashing her ankle to passers by as each one gasps in outrage. This is the twenty-first century and people need to get a grip.
I’ve read some tweets saying Emma Watson shouldn’t have done the shoot due to her position as a childhood star and now a Disney icon. If you haven’t noticed Watson is now 26 years old. She’s all grown up and not the little Hermione Granger we usually see her as. She’s a grown woman free to make her own choices. I also read several tweets arguing that she is now officially a Disney Princess – due to her role as Belle in the upcoming remake of Beauty and the Beast – and therefore she should be careful in displaying herself in the media in this way for it could affect her extensive child fanbase. One woman was particularly concerned with her 8-year-old “thinking it would be acceptable to show off her body in this way”. For one, what person is giving an 8-year-old Vanity Fair to read? I don’t think primary school children are really their target audience. If you don’t like it, just don’t show it to your child. Simples. And secondly, the way I see it, Emma Watson is continuing her character’s influences and legacy for her fans. I’m a 90’s kid and Hermione for me,was one of the best female characters around. She was intelligent, independent and didn’t take any crap from the boys. In my opinion, Emma Watson has continued Hermione’s strength into her real life. Those who looked up to Hermione now often look up to Emma Watson. This woman has achieved outstanding academic qualifications, whilst maintaining her acting career, as well as campaigning worldwide for better education for women, starting her own fair trade fashion line, she has been the UN Women’s Goodwill Ambassador as well as playing a huge role in the HeForShe campaign – this cannot all be undermined by her showing a glimpse of her cleavage. It’s not even an overtly sexualised image – unlike the photoshoots page-three caused controversies with. It’s a celebration of fashion and liberation. So if your kid does see the picture and asks you about it, tell her about all of Watson’s achievements and that girls can do both – they can do whatever makes them happy.
The goal of feminism – or at least the feminism I wish to be a part of – is to provide choice. Choice of whether you want a career or family life (or both – which is still a working progress in today’s world). Choice over our bodies – to cover up or to show it off. Skin is skin. Boobs are boobs. Deal with it. Most of these backlashes are actually written by women – many by ‘feminists’. What kind of feminist are you to think you can beat down another woman based on her choices? Surely that defeats the whole point of your aims. Feminism is about joining us together, it is about equality; equality to men, and equality amongst the female community. Women are beautiful. Humans are beautiful. And its about time we celebrated that rather than judge one another for what we choose to wear. As Watson says, “Feminism is not a stick with which to beat other women with”.
Emma Watson is a feminist with or without her tits out.