Emma Watson, The UN, and Continued Frustration

Come on….you should have known this post was coming.

It was unavoidable really. I have a hard time keeping my mouth shut. But before I continue, let me make a view statements first because of full disclosure and writer integrity and all that.

1) My primary frustration is definitely with the UN, not Emma Watson.
2) That being said, I’m not super keen on her.
3) But, and let me make this abundantly clear, I am not angry or put out with Emma Watson.

When I think of celebrity overexposure, Watson doesn’t really come to mind. Since the final Harry Potter movie premiered I’ve continued to hear and see her, but I never felt like I was being forced into liking her. Even my friends who were die hard HP/EW fans never had consistent news about her so I definitely took notice when practically every single person on my news feed was sharing the same photo of her and I got a notification telling me Emma Watson was trending (thanks Mark Zuckerburg). Well as it turned out, Watson had given a speech to the UN about feminism which I thought was cool but, still, I didn’t think much of it. However, I started seeing more and more headlines calling Watson’s speech “ground breaking” and “game changing” so I decided to check it out. I read a transcript of the speech and honestly thought it was a intelligent, well thought-out, and honest speech. But was a floored? Nope. Would I call it game changing? Definitely not.

First of all, it was the exact same message countless women have been trying to explain over and over for years but suddenly one celebrity reworks the diatribe and it’s suddenly earth shattering and worth listening to? Fame shouldn’t be a trump card. But hey, it’s America and this is 2014 and fame is always a trump card. Be it Emma Watson speaking about feminism or Miley Cyrus “inventing” twerking, fame reigns supreme and it would be a waste of time for me to wax poetic about the problems with celebrity worship. However, I can definitely say we are giving the UN WAY TOO MUCH CREDIT.

I commend the UN for even having the Women Goodwill Ambassadors because it shows that they care-or are at least tying to convince people they care-about women’s rights. But seriously, out of the three women goodwill ambassadors two of them are actresses-Emma Watson and Nicole Kidman. The third is Bajrakitiyabha Mahidol, the princess of Thailand. I think we can all agree that that is some piss poor representation. For the record, three is a hella low number and, during a time when feminists are constantly shouting the term intersectionality, having the 2:3 ambassadors be privileged white women, a lot of opinions are getting left out. But to a certain extent, the ambassadors are not to blame considering they can only speak from their personal experience and make an effort to understand the systems of inequality they are exempt from; and I applaud Emma Watson for questioning if she is even qualified to speak on this issue. Like I said above, I can’t and don’t want to blame Emma Watson, but I want to get all of this out of the way because I’m about to absolutely go in on the UN.

I’m going to speak directly to the United Nations and just say seriously? Is that honestly the best you can do? You decided that you were only going to give three women a platform to speak so you chose from a very narrow subset of the population. Did you try at all, UN? Because I really don’t think you did. And I get why you want actors and actresses. It’s smart and calculated because people will say “hey! I like Emma Watson. She likes feminism. I like feminism too!” And that would be great. If feminism was only as important as the number of people willing to call themselves one. But it’s not. At all. It’s a movement and what that movement can accomplish that concerns us, not how many people can be swayed by celebrity endorsement. We’re marketing equality…..not soda. SO. If you cared, if you really and truly cared, you would have made a larger (or you know…any) effort to chose a diverse group of women to be ambassadors. And preferably more than three. But in case 3 is your favorite number might I suggest you give one of those spots to someone who, without this UN platform, would have a far smaller voice? Or if you’re hellbent on choosing someone with at least a little bit of acclaim, might I suggest someone like bell hooks? Or Angela Davis? Or maybe even Janet Mock? Just someone, ANYONE, that could provide an otherwise overlooked opinion on why feminism is so important. It’s more than just a HeForShe campaign or a #YesAllWomen twitter trend. It’s real. You can’t ignore it or hide it with celebrity endorsements that only serve to pacify the audience. Feminism is not a hobby. And when you behave this way, UN, it kind of feels like you treat it as such.


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