While it’s true that feminists can wear whatever they want, some are calling Watson a hypocrite because of a 2014 interview she did with Wonderland magazine. When discussing Beyonce’s new album with Tavi Gevinson, Watson stated, “I don’t know whether you have spoken to anyone about it, but my friend and I sat and we watched all the videos back-to-back and I was really conflicted.”
She went on to say, “I so admire her confidence to put her music out in that way, in amidst all these very sensationalist sort of MTV performances, I was so psyched about that. On the one hand she is putting herself in a category of a feminist, this very strong woman — and she has that beautiful speech by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie in one of her songs — but then the camera, it felt very male, such a male voyeuristic experience of her.”
Beyonce fans on Twitter were furious about this, especially after seeing Watson’s Vanity Fair cover, as Black women’s bodies have been historically policed under white supremacy and colonialism.
“Policies and commodification of black women's bodies have reinforced this over the decades, making it especially important to understand and critique modern examples of this—like when a white woman of a certain privilege feels the need to put down a black woman expressing her agency as she sees fit,” Martha Tesema writes for Mashable.
Watson responded to her critics saying, “Feminism is about giving women choice. Feminism is not a stick 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.”
Her response about “choice” and “freedom” definitely seems to contradict her 2014 comments, condemning Beyonce’s choice of attire for her music videos. Watson also seems to miss the point entirely — it’s not about her “tits,” it’s about the fact she policed a femme black woman’s choice of how to display her body in music videos, but then as a white woman dressed in a similar fashion for a magazine photoshoot.
Because we, as feminists, always grow and learn, it would have been nice to see Watson apologize and admit her 2014 comments were wrong. Instead, she got defensive and didn’t even comment on the long-standing judgment placed on black women’s bodies or how women of color have their sexuality regulated in ways white women do not.
While Watson’s intentions are good, her lack of understanding and nuance about intersectional feminism is harmful. She should definitely read up.
Top Image via Flickr/Marco Bond