Emma Watson Addresses Being A 'White Feminist' In Powerful Letter

"When I heard myself being called a 'white feminist' I didn’t understand."

Emma Watson has long been known for being a champion for gender equality. As a United Nations Women Goodwill Ambassador, the 27-year-old serves as an advocate for UN Women's HeForShe campaign, has been involved in the promotion of girls' education for several years, and has delivered powerful speeches at the U.N. on women's rights. She's been outspoken in interviews about the importance of feminism, used her platform to speak out against sexism, and even started a feminist book club for her fans. Plus, she had hand in making her portrayal of Belle in Beauty and the Beast more feminist and got Gloria Steinem's seal of approval

However, being heavily involved in humanitarian efforts and advocacy doesn't mean she doesn't still have a lot to learn. In a recent letter to the aforementioned book club, Watson addressed this head on and explained what she's learned about her White privilege and "White feminism."

"There is so much racism, both in our past and present, that is not acknowledged and accounted for. I know this to be the case from my own education, and I know there is so much more for me to learn," she wrote. 

In the letter, Watson announced that the club's first book selection of 2018 would be Why I'm No Longer Talking to White People About Race by award-winning journalist Reni Eddo-Lodge. The non-fiction title details the history of social and structural racism in Britain, and shows how we can see, acknowledge, and challenge race discrimination. The book was inspired by a viral blog post Eddo-Lodge wrote back in 2014 with the same title. 

For Watson, this was the most important book she read in 2017.

"When I gave my UN speech in 2015, so much of what I said was about the idea that 'being a feminist is simple!' Easy! No problem!" she wrote in her book club letter. "I have since learned that being a feminist is more than a single choice or decision. It’s an interrogation of self. Every time I think I’ve peeled all the layers, there’s another layer to peel. But, I also understand that the most difficult journeys are often the most worthwhile. And that this process cannot be done at anyone else’s pace or speed."

"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?" she wrote. "I began ... panicking."  

But she's learned a lot since then. She's realized that instead of asking these dismissive questions, she should have been listening — and asking better ones. 

"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?" Watson wrote. "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." 

Acknowledging that her feminism was clouded by her White privilege is one step forward toward fighting for intersectional feminism. Watson hopes to continue to listen, grow, and learn as she commits to making positive change and empowering all women — and she invites her fans to do the same. 

"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," she wrote. 

"Everyone has their own journey, and it may not always be easy, but what I can promise is that you’ll meet some extremely cool people that you will REALLY love and respect along the way that will walk this path with you. You’re not alone. And even if you are, in a particular moment ... remember you come from a long line of feminists who did this work, in the outside world but also inside themselves."

Cover image via Denis Makarenko / Shutterstock.com

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