There’s a real whiff of hypocrisy about Emma Watson’s latest shoot for Vanity Fair, in which she poses semi-nude. Women’s magazines will tell you it’s stunning, artistic, so feminist, and the rest, but the lady doth pose too much, methinks.
This is, after all, the gal who’s spent the last three years lecturing others about breaking away from the limitations of gender; who once said 'with airbrushing and digital manipulation, fashion can be an unobtainable image that’s dangerously unhealthy.' Yeah, yeah.
It’s Watson’s brand of 'have your cake and eat it' feminism that has proven particularly bothersome; a variety that has largely been swallowed up by the public, ever since her appointment as the UN Women Goodwill Ambassador in 2014. Since taking up the role, she's treated us to an earful of GCSE-standard statements on sexism, gender stereotypes and body image.
No one’s listening, though, otherwise they would have noticed Watson’s ability to contradict these very platitudes. Laughably, she once complained: 'I feel like young girls are told that they have to be a princess and fragile. It’s bullshit. I identify much more with being a warrior - a fighter.' That’s before a Disney executive came to her and said 'fancy being... a princess?' Because if you didn’t already know - I don’t know how - Watson is to play Belle in the upcoming film Beauty and the Beast.
Producers say this version will be terribly feminist, dahling! This story about a woman housetraining a hairy bloke. Frankly, I think a UN ambassador has better things to worry about than frocks and fairytales. Like - I dunno - saving the world? That someone in this position gets away with such silliness says everything about the superficiality of third-wave feminism.
And what about those boobs, ’ey? Are they not the victims of everything Watson cares about, whether that’s objectification, evil photoshop and exploitative industries (cough * fashion * cough)? Newspapers reacted positively on the whole; 'Emma Watson strips topless in raciest shoot EVER' ran the Sun's headline. I'm sure its editors have never loved feminism so much. Yet some journalists were attacked for pondering Watson’s double standards.
But no wonder! At a time when other female activists, political or otherwise, are desperately campaigning to be judged for their ideas, not looks, no one’s going to appreciate the poster girl for feminism getting her clothes off. It’s all a little bit HeForMe.
This simply confirms what a trivial, shallow industry feminism has become. When you think of Emily Davison who made the ultimate sacrifice for the sisterhood, to the complexity of the Paglias and Greers, to the activities of the Kurdish female fighters, you have to ask yourself just what young girls find so impressive about a Disney Princess. I fear they, like Watson, are living in a fantasy.