Celebrity Feminism at 3 AM


I originally wrote a lengthy reply to someone’s post and then realized it was 3:30am, and that I missread a few critical parts to their prompt and in the source content. There’s some merit and evidenced data to my remarks still so I’m saving it here.

“Hey, look! Someone’s made a mistake. And she’s human, so pointing that out doesn’t mean saying she’s a bad person or a terrible feminist.

But! Since mistakes are opportunities for growth, let’s take a look at how this could’ve been better, shall we?

Emma’s response to “are you a White Feminist?” essentially boiled down to “Here’s what a white feminist is, and why I’m not one (starting with a version of ‘some of my best friends are black…’).”

Instead, she could’ve said something along the lines of: “I’m a wealthy, white, able-bodied, cisgender woman. That means my perspective is inherently limited to what ‘equality’ means to the most privileged women, and it means I can and do make mistakes that hurt marginalized people. In order to avoid being a White Feminist and use my power and platform for good, I have to actively work on not making those mistakes, center oppressed people’s voices, and listen to what they have to say about how I can best use my platform to support all of us, not just the most privileged among us. I’m not perfect, but I commit to making an effort.”

What do you think?”

Maybe it depends on the audience(s) she needs to address? Another perspective in case it helps foster empathy–not trying to escalate a win/lose battle or debate here, it just turned into a very long explanation:

I think there’s a lot at stake for her to represent, and it makes it very challenging to get all the points for someone taking lead in her capacity. Yes, that doesn’t exempt her from recognizing her unique advantages and privileges.
The thing here is that she’s actively trying to examine them while serving as a high-profile celebrity and in some ways, an international dignitary who might be able to reach and activate larger populations around the world than most people can. She’s also actively meeting people around the world and expresses that she’s trying to hear perspectives from men too.
It’s more sound to speak from what she knows best in a way that meets many people where they are, disclose she’s willing to learn (again, in wanting to hear more perspectives by meeting lots of people), while remaining inclusive of others who can address the issues in greater nuance.
I’m approaching this from a U.S.-centric point of view:
Just getting people to recognize and dialogue on basic concepts of women’s rights with the same understanding of nuanced language is a huge first step.
Consider that 1/3 of the population likely takes a literal interpretation of the bible (Gallop pole data), oppose evolution (also a Gallop pole), and support radical conservative Tea Party platforms (more recent Gallop data).
Many of the above demographic aren’t found in metropolitan areas. Very few places for community and humanizing face-to-face public dialogue aside from the internet and television exist at this time.
That means building outreach capacity to non-traditional audiences with accessible language becomes top priority. Educating–perhaps not yet dialoguing, but just putting nuanced foundational terms into perspective–like intersectionality, cisgender (or Judith Butler’s non-binary performative gender identities?), even privilege–would be a substantial undertaking. These concepts often discussed and honed among people privileged to partake in collegiate gender studies courses or front-line social justice advocates.
From a strategic perspective and considering her role, I would suspect it’s more effective to activate large-scale attention on the basics to many people–mindful and with intent to open the door to cultivating more nuanced understanding.
There’s a rough rule about efficiency in “tragedy of the commons” & “Prisoner’s dilemma” decisions too: you collaborate when you can to create the best win-win for everyone, rather than a winner-take-all outcome.
e.g. If you had to choose between getting half of the world to instantly use cars that got 80mpg OR all of the world to use cars with 40 mpg, getting all to switch to 40mpg is the better choice.
Of course, people aren’t cars, and the way to beat the tragedy of the commons actually requires trustbuilding and dialogue (google this and you’ll find slides for beating the TotC–from a World Bank or IMF conference if I recall).
So Emma Watson’s approach has its merits: she’s striving to reach as many people as possible AND leaning on the practitioners who are able to move the needle toward more advanced understanding, dialogue, and action. What’s most visible though, might be the first part.

It’s not necessarily correct or the best way to go about everything. If the person asking posed the question or it was read in accusatory tone, that’s very different from asking how Emma stands on feminism/what’s her role in that area of social justice.


Also: hello, I’m Ian! We’ve never met, your comment showed up in my newsfeed through a friend (Ray). I’ll stress that the giant reply was intended to flesh out what I suspect is a nuanced differing but (I hope) reasoned point of view with civility.

It’s not necessarily correct or the best way to go about everything. If the person asking posed the question or it was read in accusatory tone, that’s very different from asking how Emma stands on feminism/what’s her role in that area of social justice.

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