Amid the hugely positive response to Emma Watson’s speech last week on feminism, there has been some predictable backlash and naysaying. But during an interview with
, Taylor Swift explains why this message and, more importantly, this messenger were so vital to the feminist conversation. Swift says:
The only thing that I saw was incredible acclaim and praise, and that’s just me going off of what I’m tuned into, which is my fan base of real girls out in the world living their lives. And when they saw their favorite actress get up in front of the U.N. and say what she said, I wish when I was younger, I wish when I was 12-years-old I had been able to watch a video of my favorite actress explaining in such an intellectual, beautiful, poignant way the definition of feminism. Because I would have understood it. And then earlier on in my life I would have proudly claimed I was a feminist because I would have understood what the word means.
Swift is referring to a 2012 interview, where she answered the question “Do you consider yourself a feminist?” with the following statement: “I don’t really think about things as guys versus girls. I never have. I was raised by parents who brought me up to think if you work as hard as guys, you can go far in life.” But last month, Swift told
that she had changed her view on the f-word, citing friend (and fellow Watson champion) Lena Dunham as an example.
As a teenager, I didn’t understand that saying you’re a feminist is just saying that you hope women and men will have equal rights and equal opportunities. What it seemed to me, the way it was phrased in culture, society, was that you hate men. And now, I think a lot of girls have had a feminist awakening because they understand what the word means. For so long it’s been made to seem like something where you’d picket against the opposite sex, whereas it’s not about that at all. Becoming friends with Lena – without her preaching to me, but just seeing why she believes what she believes, why she says what she says, why she stands for what she stands for – has made me realise that I’ve been taking a feminist stance without actually saying so.
And it’s that clear definition, out of the mouth of a figure like Watson, that is so necessary. No, Watson didn’t make any groundbreaking, edgy, or boundary-pushing statements in the realm of gender politics. It’s not a crime to wish she had. But what she
say provided a very important service for young men and women, Watson’s most devoted audience, who might not understand what the word feminism means in the first place. To assume that something as basic as Watson’s message is unnecessary is to assume that everyone understands feminism in the first place. As Swift very clearly demonstrates, this is not the case.
Most importantly, praising Watson does not hurt anyone else. It doesn’t take away from the accomplishments of Laverne Cox on the cover of
or Beyoncé’s neon declaration at the V.M.A.s. It’s all part of a larger conversation that’s constantly evolving. But for many people, particularly younger people, that conversation can’t actually start until everyone understands that feminism isn’t a divisive term, but an inclusive one.
what Emma Watson achieved for so many. Out of the mouths of babes? No. Into the ears of babes.
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