As long as Emma Watson has identified as a feminist, the internet has called her a “white feminist.” “White feminism” is the antithesis of intersectional feminism, and Watson just acknowledged that she’s a “white feminist” in a new statement to her book club, “Our Shared Shelf,” where she discussed recognizing her white privilege and how she’s holding herself accountable in her quest for a more intersectional approach to feminism.
“When I heard myself being called a ‘white feminist’ I didn’t understand (I suppose I proved their case in point). What was the need to define me — or anyone else for that matter — as a feminist by race? What did this mean? Was I being called racist? Was the feminist movement more fractured than I had understood? I began…panicking,” the actress wrote to the book club.
“It would have been more useful to spend the time asking myself questions like: What are the ways I have benefited from being white? In what ways do I support and uphold a system that is structurally racist? How do my race, class and gender affect my perspective? There seemed to be many types of feminists and feminism. But instead of seeing these differences as divisive, I could have asked whether defining them was actually empowering and bringing about better understanding. But I didn’t know to ask these questions,” Watson added.
When the world started calling out Watson’s “white feminism,” she used that as a wake-up call and found allies willing to help her fill in her “blind spots.”
“I met a woman this year named Happy who works for an organization called Mama Cash and she told me this about her long history working in the women’s sector: ‘Call me out. But if you’re going to call me out, walk alongside me as I do the work’. Working alongside women like Happy is a privilege. As human beings, as friends, as family members, as partners, we all have blind spots; we need people that love us to call us out and then walk with us while we do the work,” Watson said in the statement.
Watson is now embracing a more intersectional approach to feminism, not because the internet wagged a finger at her, but because she wants to ask questions, talk to people whose lives are not like her own, and listen. Watson has found people who “walk with” her while she’s doing the work of expanding her own understanding of feminism outside of her whiteness.
Juliet Williams, professor of gender studies at UCLA, described intersectional feminism to USA Today as, “a form of feminism that stands for the rights and empowerment of all women, taking seriously the fact of differences among women, including different identities based on radicalization, sexuality, economic status, nationality, religion, and language. Intersectional feminism attends to the ways in which claims made in the name of women as a class can function to silence or marginalize some women by universalizing the claims of relatively privileged women.”
You can read Watson’s entire statement here.