Feminist, Anti-Feminist Or Actually Neither?

Ex-Wizard and Current Feminist Emma Watson recently caused a stir by posing in a rather sparse cardigan for Vanity Fair magazine.  The amount of cleavage and underboob on display has sparked a debate on what it means to be feminist.


Some talk is of hypocrisy with feminists complaining of hyper-sexualisation of women while one of their leading public voices gets her boobs out in public.

Indeed, Watson herself admitted to being “conflicted” in 2014 when Beyonce quoted some of Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie’s speech “We Should All Be Feminists” on her self-titled LP.  Watson basically accused Beyonce of talking the talking but not really walking the walk.

Others are praising Watson for being an empowered woman posing for a tasteful photo.  There aren’t any hints that Watson was being controlled against her will and that she is, therefore, “exploring and championing feminism”.

For her part, Watson claims to be “confused” about the furore:

Feminism is about giving women choice. Feminism is not a stick with which to beat other women with. It’s about freedom, it’s about liberation, it’s about equality. I really don’t know what my tits have to do with it. It’s very confusing.

There are a few points worth mentioning.  I think this is yet more evidence that feminism really has no idea what it is in specific terms.  In the above quote, Watson talks about choice but, in an interview for the BBC, Dr Finn Mackay, a feminism researcher at the University of West England, rejects the view that feminism is about giving women “choice” and says it is a social justice movement.

Emma’s saying feminism is about choice and the choice to do whatever you want, but that’s a nonsense.  Some women choose terrible things, some women choose to work for parties that deny women access to abortion, access to healthcare or mothers access to welfare.

There is also the issue of intersectional feminism.  Would someone who isn’t Watson (famous, slim, good looking) be asked to pose in such a way by such a magazine.

A few years ago I received a message from a friend asking me to choose between two colours.  When I asked what for, apparently they were two different coloured bras – one would have made her boobs look bigger and the other would have looked nicer against her skin tone.  (Her words, not mine; I thought she would have looked beautiful whatever she was wearing.)

Using similar arguments that could be leveled at Watson for this shoot, one could ask whether the choice of bra or to be in the picture or not, in the words of Biba Kang for The Independent, was made in spite of the patriarchy or because of it.  Is the photo a feminist act in which case the opinions have some weight, or is it not?  Is the choice of bra or attire in the photo made for the pleasure of men or to exert some sort of power of equalisation over them by use of femininity?

I wonder if the answer lies in another photo in the shoot that Watson did.  Yes, yes, there was at least one more! Here it is:



There’s no furore around this one.  No-one is commenting on it.  It is just a perfectly normal photograph of a famous person on the cover of a magazine, staggering in the fact that it isn’t (no offence to Emma or the photographer).

So is the “problematic” photo feminist, anti-feminist or just a woman wearing a crochet top posing for a photograph?  Maybe it’s possible to make a choice with no real meaning other than the superficial and we see more problems and we read more in to things than is actually there.

Perhaps that is something for feminists and non-feminists alike to ruminate over.

You can’t trust anyone nowadays
Brown shirts don’t make it
I’m not so brave and I’m not too crazy
And I’d rather be a coward than pushing up daisies
Never rocked the boat, never tipped the scales
Never got off the fence, never had that much to say
So when I get a leather glove across my face
I say ‘yes sir, no sir, whatever you say sir’
And when the Nazis stop me
Shouting ‘get out your pass book’
I say ‘yes sir, yes sir’
I don’t trust to luck
Who’d Adam and Eve it
They’re rationing clothes
And where they find a molehill a mountain grows
So please, no pictures ’cause the snap you took
They’ll take it as a sign
Jesus H Christ–just my luck
You can’t trust anyone nowadays
You can’t trust anyone nowadays
I’d stay at home and sit it out
But in a dirty world you need a launderette
Two short minutes
I look the other way
Some bastard robbed me blind
You can’t trust anyone nowadays

You Can’t Trust Anyone Nowadays by Chumbawamba



Comments 1

  1. I think all women are feminists to some degree by default because of all the inequality and abuse we have to deal with. From cat-calling to outright discrimination, women have to fight.

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