By now pretty much everyone has either listened to or heard about Emma Watson’s speech on gender equality at the United Nations headquarters in New York. Watson is in fact a U.N. goodwill ambassador, and her speech was meant to launch the HeForShe campaign. The campaign aims to educate men and boys on gender inequality and the challenges women face around the world.
Watson, who recently graduated from Brown University, was eloquent on the subject of feminism. She was also self-deprecating, calling herself the Harry Potter girl and doubting her own qualifications. She received overwhelmingly positive feedback, including a letter from 15-year-old Hertfordshire, UK boy Ed Holtom which was printed in The Sunday Telegraph. Which read, “Feminism is not about man-hating or female supremacy. It is, by definition, the opposite.”
While Watson is on the positive end of the spectrum, especially considering the fact that she’s actually doing something that produces results, it seems that lately the media loves collecting female celebrities’ opinions on feminism. Especially the younger ones. Katy Perry, Shailene Woodley, Lady Gaga and more have been criticized for insisting they are not feminists (usually because they “love men,” as if the two are mutually exclusive).
Meghan Trainor—whose catchy hit song “All About that Bass” is geared toward celebrating larger women because “boys like a little more booty to hold at night”—is another celebrity who insists she isn’t a feminist. When faced with the criticism that her song actually tells young women to base their opinion of their own body on whether it’s pleasing to men, 20-year-old Trainor seems to not understand at all. “I never had a problem getting boys,” she said to Sean Michaels of The Guardian, who reminds us that her next single, “Title,” instructs a boy to treat her like a trophy and show her off.
The constant barrage of celebrity interviews about feminism has drawn a lot of ire. Amanda Hess of Slate just wrote an article called, “Celebrity Feminist Identification has Reached Peak Meaninglessness,” which kind of says it all. The argument is that even artists who identify as feminists, such as Beyoncé, are subscribing to a commercialized, pre-packaged version. Both embracing and rejecting feminism can be seen as marketing ploys.
But then there’s Watson, who is clearly not out for self-promotion. And there’s Holtom, a young fan who was inspired by what she had to say. Doesn’t Trainor have fans like this? Aren’t there arguably teenage girls and boys learning that feminism is a dirty word and that their self-confidence should come from whether they can “get” boys?
Whether celebrity views on feminism matter is irrelevant, because the media will still ask what it wants to ask. The point is that it doesn’t seem to matter if Beyoncé uses feminism as a marketing tool or if Emma Watson left out intersectionality (or whatever the elite social justice hipsters are complaining about). The point is that they have a direct influence on young people who might not understand what feminism is at all, and who could be genuinely inspired and influenced in a positive way.
Watch the speech on the He For She You Tube channel: