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Emma Watson is the feminist role model America needs

By MADHURA NADARAJAH

Emma Watson walked into everyone’s lives as the strong-minded and well-read Hermione Granger in the series Harry Potter. Since leaving her mark as the world’s most beloved wizard, Watson has continued to play characters that situate her as a role model for people. Perhaps her biggest role since Harry Potter is that of Belle in the much-anticipated Beauty and the Beast remake, which was released on March 17. It makes sense that Watson was cast as Belle because who better to play Disney’s beloved bibliophile than her? While Watson’s  intelligent, book-loving image began with Hermione, it was her life outside film that solidified this epithet.

After the completion of Harry Potter, Emma Watson graduated from Brown University with a degree in English Literature and was also appointed as a Goodwill Ambassador for the United Nations. Two of Watson’s most notable campaigns for the betterment of society are her HeforShe movement and her feminist book club. The HeforShe campaign — created by the United Nations and featuring Watson as a key contributor — emphasizes that men should also advocate for the equality of women. The other campaign, Watson’s feminist book club — Our Shared Shelf —witnesses Watson providing members with monthly recommendations. Between the roles she chooses to play, her ambassadorship with the United Nations, and her book club, Watson is collecting a new epithet to add — feminist. Therefore, when Watson learned that there was backlash surrounding her topless Vanity Fair shoot because it seemed too sexual for a feminist, she was confused to as to why her appearance not her actions defined whether or not she was a feminist.

The photo features Watson wearing a Burberry coat made from rope. The controversy first picked up when British radio host Julia Hartley-Brewer tweeted “Feminism, feminism… gender wage gap… why oh why am I not taken seriously… feminism… oh, and here are my tits,” in response to the release of this month’s magazine. Expanding on her Tweet, Brewer said in further tweets that Watson cannot complain that women are sexually objectified when she herself sexualizes women, i.e. the magazine cover. Brewer’s feelings about Watson’s photo indirectly revealed that Brewer still thinks of feminism as the close-minded definition of conservative women hating men. However, that is not at all what feminism is or looks like.

What people like Brewer need to realize is that women who are comfortable with their sexuality and who want equality across all genders are not mutually exclusive. A feminist does not have a specific uniform. A feminist can be a nudist and a feminist can have a penis. A feminist, however, is not a person who denounces those who strive for gender equality because they feel men are being slighted as a result.

“There is nothing inherently objectifying about the naked female form,” said senior writing major Toni Jones. “Especially since most of the female population do it at least once a day to shower. The fact that we as a society cannot see the nude female form for what is, skin and genitals, shows that the problem is with us, not the nude feminist.”

The sad truth is that, even though it is 2017 and Americans supposedly live in a progressive era, people are still ignorant in their understanding of progressive social perspectives, including feminism. Feminism does not look a certain way. The only way society can help clear up the understanding of feminism is to promote accurate information on feminism. We can start by looking to Emma Watson as a positive role model for forward thinkers and youth because her work with the United Nations and her book club. Watson’s HeforShe campaign addresses equality for both genders; similarly, her book club introduces stories that discuss feminism through various voices. If more people educate people on the importance of feminism, then gender equality can be achieved.

Madhura Nadarajah can be reached at madhura.nadarajah@spartans.ut.edu

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