In a recent interview with Reuters, Emma Watson said that she was "quietly stunned" by critics who accused her of going against her feminist values when she partially exposed her breasts in a Vanity Fair photo shoot.
In the photo shoot, which was shot by acclaimed fashion photographer Tim Walker, Watson appears in a white crocheted bolero jacket with no shirt or bra underneath.
The photo sparked controversy on social media and from some media companies who felt that the revealing photos made her anti-feminist.
British talk show host Julia Hartley-Brewer wrote on Twitter, "Emma Watson: 'Feminism, feminism... gender wage gap... why oh why am I not taken seriously... feminism... oh, and here are my t--s!'"
Emma Watson: "Feminism, feminism... gender wage gap... why oh why am I not taken seriously... feminism... oh, and here are my tits!" pic.twitter.com/gb7OvxzRH9— Julia Hartley-Brewer (@JuliaHB1) March 1, 2017
Emma Watson is a disgusting hypocrite for this and I hate her even more pic.twitter.com/hqftBtShWQ— Khaleesi (@Kelechi_AI) March 1, 2017
Watson, who is a UN Women Goodwill Ambassador and the pioneer behind the #HeForShe campaign, told Reuters that she's simply confused by some of the criticism she's received.
“It just always reveals to me how many misconceptions and what a misunderstanding there is of what feminism is,” she said.
“Feminism is about giving women choice,” she went on. “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 t--s have to do with it. It’s very confusing.”
“I’m confused. Most people are confused... I’m always just kind of quietly stunned,” the Beauty and the Beast star added.
With the criticism, however, came a great amount of support for Watson.
Good on @EmmaWatson for making it clear what feminism is about: equality and CHOICE. A woman can be both sexual and serious.— Emily Ratajkowski (@emrata) March 5, 2017
I can't believe the criticism Emma Watson has received. This is why feminism is needed. Feminism doesn't have a dress code.— ♠︎ Billy Taylor ♣︎ (@billy_author) March 4, 2017
Yes Emma Watson can expose her breasts AND still be a feminist. Of course she can.— Garbage (@garbage) March 6, 2017
This entire "misunderstanding," as Watson puts it, just brings into focus the larger issue: That we're having the wrong conversations about feminism.
Why ask if she's undermining her own beliefs when her actions are only emboldening her beliefs?
Watson's point is that gender equality is about giving women a choice — not telling her what she should or shouldn't say, do, wear, etc.
It's about women being able to choose whether to dress conservatively or bare it all. Whether to enter the workforce or stay at home with her kids. Whether to use contraception or have children.
Victoria Jenkinson, a member of Girlguiding, told BBC that "the shoot doesn't suggest hypocrisy nor does it undermine her work as a feminist. [...] I don't understand why people have an idea they can tell a woman what she can and can't do and I agree with Emma that critics have missed the point."
"A woman should be able to choose what she wants to do," Jenkinson said. "This is what feminism is all about in 2017."
Watson's comment that feminism is "not a stick with which to berate other women with" rings true amid the opinions and arguments flying around social media. The truth is, one woman's expression of herself does not detract from another's. She can choose to be however she wants to be.