Emma Charlotte Duerre Watson is an accomplished individual. At 26, the humanitarian, actress, model and women’s rights advocate has recently added United Nation’s Goodwill Ambassador to her list of accomplishments. To say that she’s an over-achiever is an understatement, and a huge one at that. Yes, Emma Watson is, by all accounts, a successful, intelligent individual. So, why must we talk about her boobs? Well, it’s because of this:
Watson found herself smack bang in the middle of a war on feminism earlier this month when she posed topless under a loosely crocheted Burberry bolero in Vanity Fair. The photograph was one in a series of artistic portraits which accompanied her feature piece in the publication. In it, Watson talks of her ascent to fame, her uneasy association with it and her latest role as Belle in the modern adaptation of Disney’s Beauty and the Beast. It was smart, sensitive and thought-provoking.
Then social media caught wind of it and the whole thing became one massive tit-fest. All anyone could talk about was Watson’s perky pair and not in a good way. She was labelled a phoney, a hypocrite and a detriment to the advancement of modern-day feminism. Dramatic, amirite? Well, it seems many people just couldn’t quite understand how Watson could expose bare flesh AND advocate women’s rights. This proved all too much for Julia Hartley-Brewer, British radio presenter and social commentator, who took to twitter to condemn Watson’s actions.
For Hartley-Brewer, like many other radical-libertarian feminists, female nudity is simply out-of-bounds as a means of advancing gender politics. Instead, the focus lies in liberating women from “biological imperatives and polarised sexual roles.” Therefore, female nudity, regardless of the intent, is seen as submission to the patriarchal gender roles that have exerted dominance over women for centuries, debasing them to sexual objects.
But why, might I ask, must nudity be a form of oppression? Why, in the 21st Century, can’t women, like Watson, reclaim female sexuality from the male domain? After all, it’s ours to take. What people fail to realise is that these two concepts are not mutually exclusive. It is possible to be sexual without being sexualised. Believe it or not, feminism and flesh, boobs and brains, go hand in hand. Supressing female sexuality only renders women powerless in their own choices and actions. By reframing nakedness from a male’s insistence to a female’s choice, we are rupturing the power structures that perpetuate female inferiority.
In order to bridge this gap to achieve gender equality we must do so together as a united movement. Feminism should empower not chastise. To quote Watson feminism is “not a stick with which to beat other women with.” And yet, all too frequently women like Julia Hartley-Brewer are leading the charge pitch-fork in hand.
In an article by Naomi Riley, Watson is criticised, yet again, for her partial nudity. But, she takes it one step further by removing a quote from its context to implicate Watson of hypocrisy. When asked about Beyonce’s 2013 self-titled album Watson said she was “conflicted” about the singer’s work describing it as a “male voyeuristic experience.” However, Watson goes on to say that “[Beyonce] does make it clear that she is performing for him. And the fact that she was doing it for herself and the control that she has directing it and putting it out there, I agree is making her sexually empowering because it is her choice.” This omission only helped to further Riley’s anti-feminist agenda, leaving Watson with no choice but to clarify her remarks on twitter with the full interview transcript (below).
What Riley so clearly misunderstood is that feminism isn’t about what you do or don’t wear. And it’s certainly not about pinning the blame on an awaiting target or pitting women against one another and the cause at hand. Heck, women have enough trouble as it is without tearing each other down. When one woman falls, we all do. The real question here is not whether nudity has a place in the modern feminist movement, but, rather, how can we overcome our differences to achieve gender equality? Ultimately, the end goal is the same. We either get there together or not at all. And if you have a problem with that, tough titties.