Emma Watson, best known for portraying Hermione Granger in the Harry Potter film adaptations, has spent much of her off-screen time as a feminist advocate. The young British actress who’s a graduate of Brown University was appointed a United Nations women’s goodwill ambassador in July 2014, and served as an advocate for HeForShe, a program that hopes “to mobilise 1 billion men to accelerate the achievement of gender equality.” She gave a memorable speech at the U.N. headquarters in New York to launch the campaign. For years, Watson has arguably been one of Hollywood’s leading voices for feminism.
But now, thanks to a photo in Vanity Fair, some are calling her a hypocrite! The cover story, which focused on her feminist views, came out as her new film, Beauty and the Beast, is about to hit theatres. “I used to be scared of words like ‘feminism,’ ‘patriarchy,’ ‘imperialist.’ But I’m not anymore,” Watson said in the piece. In one photograph, Watson stands in a room with fur-covered walls. In another, she is trapped in what appears to be a birdcage. And in another, her breasts are loosely covered by a white crocheted capelet. That led some people to dismiss her history of advocacy.
One popular British radio commentator, Julia Hartley-Brewer, tweeted a photograph of the Sun’s page 3, which reproduced the photo with the headline Beauty & the breasts. Hartley-Brewer tweeted this caption:
Emma Watson: "Feminism, feminism… gender wage gap… why oh why am I not taken seriously… feminism… oh, and here are my tits!" pic.twitter.com/gb7OvxzRH9
— Julia Hartley-Brewer (@JuliaHB1) March 1, 2017
On Instagram, a mother suggested that Watson was sending the message that women have to take off their tops to promote a movie. “When you have children you become hyper-aware of every instance of every sexualized image of women and it becomes harder to teach them about feminism and treating people equally. So this instance more about objectification, but that ultimately holds back feminism,” she wrote.
Now Emma is firing back at critics questioning her feminist views. The “Beauty and the Beast” star, 26, addressed the controversy in an interview with Reuters, saying it “reveals to me how many misconceptions and what a misunderstanding there is about what feminism is. It is not a stick with which to beat other women with. It’s about freedom, it’s about liberation, it’s about equality,” said Watson, a United Nations Women goodwill ambassador. “Feminism is about giving women choice.” She acknowledged that many are confused by what it means to be a feminist. “I’m confused. Most people are confused,” she said.
But Watson, who acknowledged that she was “slightly taken aback” by the shot itself, said overall she was pleased with how the photo shoot turned out. “We’d been doing so many crazy things on that shoot but it felt incredibly artistic and I’ve been so creatively involved and engaged with Tim,” she said. “I’m so thrilled about how interesting and beautiful the photographs were.”