Author’s Note: I am not an educated feminist, I would not survive the sort of quiz that Mia McKenzie posits in the second-to-last paragraph of her article, cited below. I also know that, in writing this, I run the risk of upsetting people. But this blog is about being bold and honest. That being said, these are my opinions and I own them utterly and completely.
*digs in the closet, pulls out my soapbox, dusts it off, and stands on it* Just for a little while, I promise.
I noticed something that disturbed me last night. Recently, Emma Watson – the portrayer of the beloved character Hermione Granger in the Harry Potter movie series and now appointed a Goodwill Ambassador to the UN – presented a speech announcing the formation of HeForShe, a campaign to advocate for the ending of gender inequality. Now, notice what I just said: to end gender inequality. I did not say to promote feminism. Emma Watson calls herself a feminist, says that she has been ever since she was young girl, and now her position as a Goodwill Ambassador has placed her in a unique position to affect growth and change in the journey toward and fight for gender equality. What has disturbed me is that, already, there are those who would say that she isn’t doing enough, that her feminism isn’t rounded out well enough or analyzed deeply enough. I refer particularly to Mia McKenzie’s article “Why I’m Not Really Here For Emma Watson’s Feminism Speech at the U.N.“.
Miss McKenzie, a prolific writer on the subjects of race, gender, queerness, and class, admonishes that Emma Watson is far from being the icon for feminism that society would apparently make her, calling for her analyses of specific issues in feminism and gender politics, some of which, honestly, I have never even heard of. (I’ll definitely have to look up misogynoir.) And my immediate reaction was to think, “Why is it not enough to make a good start?” Why must we tear someone down just as they get out of the gate? Who are you to say just how much of a feminist she is, and how right her stance is just because she is different from you? What makes her experience or her voice and opinion any less valid than yours or mine, just because of who she is? Why should she have “to step aside and make room for women of color to be heard if gender inequality is ever to be eradicated (McKenzie)”. There ARE women of color being heard, every day. You, for example, Miss McKenzie. Emma Watson did not ask to be called a “game-changing feminist”. She merely cited her personal experience as a feminist on the platform that was afforded her. This woman is young, in her first decade of adulthood, and is still researching and redefining her feminism, as is evident in her own speech.
Most of us had nicknames when we were kids, and, 90% of the time, they were not nicknames that we chose for ourselves and, roughly about that same amount of the time, I’m sure we didn’t care for them. How would you feel is someone decided to judge you based on a nickname that someone else gave you but that didn’t truly represent you as a person? Unfair, yes? Then let’s not do it. Let us not judge Miss Watson purely by the title that others have begun to tack onto her, rather than on her own merits and actions.
I, personally, do not call myself a feminist. In fact, I kind of dislike being called a feminist as it often feel exclusionary to me. I don’t read every article, I don’t research every issue. I don’t go blind with rage at the injustices that are readily apparent in the world. I know they are there. I see them. I acknowledge them. They break my heart. As you can see from the dust around my feet, though, this soapbox doesn’t get used all that often. More’s the pity, some would say. I need to step up and make my voice heard, my actions seen, others would say. And while this might be true, I still don’t call myself a feminist. The rights that women fight for are the same rights that should belong to all human beings. They are human rights. I will happily quote Miss Watson’s speech here as she has put it just as I would myself: “For the record, feminism by definition is the belief that men and women should have equal rights and opportunities. It is the theory of political, economic and social equality of the sexes.” Equal rights for both men AND women. Men and women of all ages, races, shapes, and abilities, working together on equal footing – politically, socially, financially, and emotionally.
Because Emma Watson is white and (we assume) straight, it appears, to me, as though Miss McKenzie is discounting her feminism in her article. I hesitate to even qualify my statements here as coming from a black woman because I’m about as vanilla as you can get as far as gender issues and politics go. But, nevertheless, I think that Emma has made a good start in the position to which she has been appointed. Further, deeper changes, insights, and analyses will come with time. This is but a start. It more than bugs me that someone’s good beginning should be discounted because you don’t agree with everything they said and they didn’t vomit forth on every gendered issue out there in a thirteen-minute speech. I will agree with Miss McKenzie, however, in that I hope that Emma Watson does turn out to be a kick-ass game-changer as she continues on in not only her feminist but also humanist work as an adult and a Goodwill Ambassador. Thank you, Emma Watson, for your work and your good beginning thus far.
Just remember, people, this is a start. You don’t cross the finish line when you leave the starting block. You have to run the race first.
*steps down off my soapbox, dusts off my feet, and puts it back in the closet*