In which I grumpily disagree with everyone on Emma Watson’s UN Speech

For those of you living under a rock, Emma Watson gave a speech to the UN a few days ago to launch the #HeForShe campaign, which is intended to get men to help eliminate sexism:

I mentioned that I’m grumpy (and overworked), right?

This speech has been called a “game changer.”  Sorry, folks, it’s not.  It’s a speech, which is not worth a damn unless it is followed up by action.  Bush’s Ground Zero speech on 9/11 was a game-changer because it was backed up by the greatest military in the history of the world. Emma Watson’s UN speech is as much a “game changer” as was Obama’s speech after the Arizona shooting.  (If you don’t remember what I’m talking about, you’re making my point.  A brief refresher: after Gabby Giffords was shot and Obama made some allegedly amazing speech, people asked if it would change the course of his very Presidency. For about a week, there was wall-to-wall media coverage about how this speech would ‘transform’ his ailing tenure in Washington.  Turns out, it didn’t change his Presidency, because a good Presidency requires so much more than a cute speech.) Watson’s speech belongs in the same category: lovely, inspirational, not gonna change a damn thing.

Moving along to the content of the speech: let’s not conflate the minor issues that Western women face (i.e. small pay gaps, wolf whistles, ageism, etc.) with having some freak chop off your head or cut off your clitoris.  Both sets of issues fall under the umbrella of “sexism,” but only in the same way that failing to recycle a soda can and the Exxon-Valdez oil spill are both “pollution.”

Watson started off with the relatively benign idea that she, as an actress, should be paid as well as her male peers.  Fine.  But then she said that she has the right to control her own body, which is basically “free birth control and abortion on demand.”  Such a construct of “feminism” excludes women pro-lifers, religious people, and those who believe that empowered feminists ought to pay for their own sex lives.  Watson then cannot fathom why so many women fail to self-identify as “feminists.”  Cause, meet effect.

That isn’t to say I’m against the ideals of equality and treating women well. 4chan showed why women still have reason to complain when it threatened to release nude pictures of Watson in retaliation for her speech.  As said on The Other McCain, this is “exactly the kind of behavior she was complaining about.”

doesn’t seem to understand that concept.  He writes, “And I mean, for God’s sake, what’s wrong with a woman’s body being sexual? Of course it’s sexual. So is a man’s, only, it’s alright to sexualise men these days, and luridly obsess over the private parts of male celebrities, but don’t you dare suggest that a woman who makes a living by being hot ought to be careful what she does with nude photographs of herself.”

That false equivalency is even more absurd than Watson’s comparison of the wage gap to FGM.  That we are “sexual” (i.e. capable of sexual reproduction) hardly means that it’s okay to leer at us.  Nor is it acceptable to pretend that Emma Watson “makes a living by being hot.” Watson’s looks are part of her fame, but she’s a talented actress, not a model – a woman who must bring tremendous skill to the table in order to succeed.  She did not give up her right to dignity or privacy by being an actress instead of an engineer or an accountant.

Anything I missed?


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Filed under Feminism, Nerdiness

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