No, Emma Watson did not criticize Beyonce or Bey’s feminism in 2014.

Emma Watson at Los Angeles International Airport

Earlier this week, Emma Watson defended her Vanity Fair editorial, in which she posed somewhat topless – you can see the photo here. People freaked out online, because this is 2017 and people still love to police women’s bodies. Most of the freaking out was a general body-policing and feminism-policing, as in there were comments like “how dare Emma Watson call herself a feminist and show some underboob! Doesn’t she know that every woman’s body must be heavily monitored by the state? HOW DARE SHE!” I’m paraphrasing, but you get the idea. Emma made a statement and I hoped everything was over.

As it turns out, there was a three-year-old ax to grind. In 2014, Emma did a cover and cover interview for Wonderland Magazine. The interview was conducted by wunderkind Tavi Gevinson, and part of the discussion was about feminism and Beyonce. It was conducted shortly after Beyonce’s self-titled album came out, and Beyonce was dancing on the stripper pole with “FEMINIST” written behind the pole. So, Emma and Tavi took some time in the middle of the interview to discuss their thoughts on Bey’s album and the videos. And people are still screaming about it and claiming that Emma “dissed” Beyonce and Bey’s feminism, therefore Emma cannot be allowed to call herself a feminist or pose for semi-nude photos. Emma heard about the yelling, so she literally highlighted the Beyonce section of the Wonderland interview and posted it to her Twitter:

If you take the time to read what she says in complete context, you might see that Emma is at no point “dissing” Beyonce or even lightly criticizing Bey. Emma is trying to analyze and interpret Beyonce’s message with the album, the music videos and the performances. While Lemonade was an explicitly political piece of art from Beyonce, her self-titled album was a more difficult read for some people, myself included. It was hyper-sexual and a sexual-liberation piece, but throughout it all, Bey made it clear that her body “belonged” to her husband. Which is part of what Emma says, plus she makes the point that Beyonce is inviting us to sexualize her through the “male gaze” of the camera lens. At no point does Emma say “I hate Bey because of this or that.” She’s trying to work out how she feels about it. And now I’m literally 20 minutes away from donning a pink wig and screaming “LEAVE EMMA ALONE.”

The 'Beauty and the Beast' Launch Event

Photos courtesy of WENN.

 

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32 Responses to “No, Emma Watson did not criticize Beyonce or Bey’s feminism in 2014.”

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  1. Shambles says:

    Yup. She’s honest about her conflicting feelings, and about the voyeuristic feel of the videos (from her OWN perspective). She then goes on to praise Beyoncé’s feminism. Art is about interpretation, and she gives a very complete account of her interpretation of Beyoncé’s art. You can tell she’s actually done her reserarch and thought deeply about it, too. She didn’t just listen to one song and spout off.

    It bothers me that we’re in a place of, “You said one thing three years ago, so you’re a phony forever!!!” Anyway, but especially because Emma did not diss Beyoncé’s feminism at all. It’s like… she came just short of complete and utter praise of Beyoncé because she had some thoughts about the male gaze, and suddenly she’s dissing Beyoncé. This is where the Diefying of Bey becomes problematic.

    • Sam says:

      I agree with your statement completely. I was trying to find the right way to respond to all of this and you pretty much did it for me lol

    • Gene123 says:

      I completely love your point about “you said one thing 3 years ago etc.” because everyone is on a journey, especially with feminism. People aren’t born with a complete understanding of feminism and I know I am constantly learning and changing and thats a good thing. My opinions from 2014 are completely different from my opinions of 2017 because our world is completely different. Its one thing if the person behaved completely sexist or racist but even then, people can change and if they come forward, own what they said and make a point to change, I can accept it.

      Sorry I am rambling

      • ScrewStewRat19 says:

        I love the point too because 5 years ago I would have been saying problematic things myself about feminism.

        I was raised in a pretty racist and problematic setting. If people judged me based off of who I was as a child and things I said while young, I would be hated like Trump. When I was a kid me and my step siblings made a racist parody of Iron man. My father and his friends loved it and encouraged us to come up with more. They told us they would pay us $5 for every song we came up with that they liked. I was told that if I ever brought a black guy home that his foot wouldn’t make it to the first step. I was a teenager when I began to see things differently. I would get into fights with my stepfather during dinner because he would always make nasty comments about black people. It was a mess.

        I’m proud to say that I had some major realizations growing up and that my beliefs became the complete opposite of what was taught to me. Sometimes I still find myself having problematic thoughts or opinions, but I’m able to realize that they are problematic and I am able to think about them and reassess those thoughts. However, I think I will always be a work in progress. I’m so different than I was just 5 years ago.

        I got off topic there, but I understand what Emma was saying and I don’t think she insulted Beyonce or her feminism. I think she was having a discussion and trying to understand it. She clearly states that she supports her and believes in her feminism.

      • TheOtherOne says:

        ^^^ Hugs & more power to you. SOMETIMES we are quick to dismiss a person and don’t give them the time to grow and unlearn negative behavior, which can be counterproductive when you think about it. Anywho, good look with your journey and growth.

  2. AreYouForReal? says:

    But posing provocatively and showing boob isn’t for the male gaze? I don’t have a problem with her brand of feminism (she’s been very outspoken on the issues and held her own against internet trolls), but that comment was a critique of Beyonce and trying now to say it wasn’t is hypocritical. IMO

    • Bettyrose says:

      It’s more complex than that, though. Enjoying showing off your body isn’t in and of itself anti-feminist. Make up and high heels also conform to the male gaze, but we enjoy those things for our own purposes too. You have to consider the entire package. Is Emma a “cool girl” who markets herself primarily as male entertainment? No. Nor did she accuse Beyonce of that.

    • paranormalgirl says:

      How much of the male gaze is focused on Vanity Fair?

      • Celest says:

        Its Hermione. The dream girl to a million geeks. That photo was instantly on 4Chan and Reddit. As was the love scene she did in that film about the South American cult.

        Now lets flip your logic. How much of the hetero male gaze was focused on Beyonce, an act straight men now famously catalogue as “for my girlfriend”?

    • Chaucer says:

      I don’t know if posing with your arms crossed and a slightly open mouth is necessarily provocative? Nothing about that hammock threaded jacket and awful hair is provocative to me. Haha.
      But if you’re at the pool in a bikini, is that for the male gaze? Is it if you cross your arms while in said bikini? Showing off your body isn’t necessarily for the male gaze, but if you choose to do that, that’s okay too. It’s about the power to choose what you want to do with your body. Kwim?

      • Otaku Fairy says:

        “Showing off your body isn’t necessarily for the male gaze…” Exactly, @Chaucer. That can’t be said enough, because there’s this problematic idea on all sides that any time a woman presents herself to the public without being modestly dressed first or completely devoid of any physical appearance choices or behavior that anyone interprets as ‘sexy’, then it has to specifically be ‘For The Male Gaze’. It’s problematic for a couple of reasons, but mainly because it feeds into patriarchal entitlement by teaching that because men are turned on by a woman or something she’s doing or wearing, that woman or her choice specifically hast to be FOR men and making everything women do all about pleasing men. A woman can not want to be modest all the time without it being about her wanting to please men all the time.
        @ParanormalGirl: Good point. The “She did that for the male gaze” card always falls a little extra flat to me when it’s a criticism of a woman not choosing to be modest on a platform that’s aimed mostly at women.
        @Celest: Just because men are attracted to Hermione doesn’t mean Emma Watson not always being modestly covered has to be for the male gaze. I think Emma’s motive for doing this photoshoot was the same as what I thought Beyoncé’s motive for pole-dancing with the word feminism behind her was: To provoke the “You can’t be a feminist because ‘Slutty!” crowd.

  3. Chaucer says:

    THANK YOU.

    Emma doesn’t get it right all of the time, but neither do any of us. The only thing I’d like to see her talk about is the skin lightening cream ads she did a while back. Maybe I’m too nice, but I’m generally willing to give a pass to those who are sincere about educating themselves on feminist issues. Lord knows I made some comments in my youth that I would be (deservedly) crucified for, because I genuinely didn’t know better.

  4. Brandy alexander says:

    Real question. Everybody hails Lemonade as being this amazing political album. It was a complete album about her husband cheating on her, and her forgiving him, with Formation thrown in. What am I missing that makes it so political?

    • scar says:

      You are missing everything. It is not an album about her husband cheating on her. She hasn’t said anything so most of it is just speculation. Is freedom also about her husband cheating? Or sandcastles? All Night?

    • AreYouForReal? says:

      The visual album was political and unapologetically Black. I agree with you that the lyrics of the Lemonade do not meet the visuals to some extent, but the lyrics do mirror the Black experience, albeit with respect to love and not necessarily politics.

      • BrandyAlexander says:

        Well, thank you for your explanation. I have listened to a few songs, but I did not watch any of the visual elements (life with an 11 month old doesn’t leave a whole lot of tv time). I guess I probably need to look at the media as a whole. I will say I have thought she has been pretty groundbreaking in the way she releases her art for a while now. I actually am a Beyonce fan, and don’t mind her getting political. I just needed clarification, I guess.

  5. Lucy says:

    Talking about things you’re conflicted about and changing your thoughts and ideas as you grow up and learn more about life is hard, and yet she’s doing it. That’s feminism too.

  6. Mia4S says:

    Not a fan of Emma as an actress but yeah I am kind of done with the “you expressed something once that may or may not have been perfectly thought out once, aughhhhhh!”.

    Oh and if we want to talk problematic, am I allowed to point out that Beyoncé once played a private concert for the son of Libyan dictator Muammer Gaddafi? A man who reportedly kept sex slaves? How dare she call herself a champion of social issues! Ignorant!…

    See how that works? We are not one act only.

    I left out that she then donated the money to Haiti and hasn’t done it again and so she hopefully learned something. If she gets the benefit of the doubt for that (!) then so does Emma for a mild critique.

    • Nyawira says:

      Beyonce is attacked on all those things and more. Usually by all sides of a particular debate. The problem WOC have with Emma is that she seems to think she should be immune from the “conflicted” feelings she discussed in her article. Many are saying here that Beyonce is not immune to criticism (as though there even one artist who takes as much heat as Beyonce) then why should Emma be? If Emma said another artists work leaves her conflicted why shouldn’t her critics say the same and more about her? Why does she get to deconstruct a black feminist when we can’t return the favor?

  7. OhDear says:

    I feel like this is going to be a situation like the Cho-Swinton emails in that some people will see this as a “gotcha/mic drop” moment when the issue is with the underlying assumptions. These articles explain why people had an issue with her comments about Bey in the first place and this response: http://www.cosmopolitan.com/entertainment/celebs/a9101840/emma-watson-beyonce-feminism/ and http://wearyourvoicemag.com/more/fashion/emma-watson-white-feminist

    To me, this (and a lot of her other comments during the press tour) come across as very defensive – “See, I’m a good feminist! I didn’t say what you said I said!” It comes across as performative – as if she’s more interested in being seen as a good feminist instead of trying to learn and grow. As the UN Special Ambassador for the issue, she has a responsibility to know and discuss about how gender inequality affects different people differently. This would have been a good opportunity to open a discussion and/or to learn more.

  8. Jeesie says:

    A lot of self-titled was really problematic. There’s the sexualising of Tina Turner’s abuse (seriously, wtf was that and why did they both get a pass despite not even giving a half-hearted apology) and the focus on being a sex object FOR Jay. And nothing to do with feminism, but sampling the Challenger disaster audio was really messed up.

    An awful lot of the commentary surrounding it was really damaging too, it leaned very much towards ‘all this sex is only ok because she’s married, if not she’d be a disgusting harlot like all those other pop skanks’. One of the better commentaries I read was from a young black woman from a conservative Southern Baptist background, who talked about the fact that it was groundbreaking and meaningful for her personally, but still deeply regressive in general.

  9. Nancy says:

    What is Beyoncé untouchable now. I am not a fan of hers, her voice, particularly her speaking voice or anything about her. I’m just a citizen so nobody should care about my opinion except for the beehive maybe. Point being, why does she have to defend or deny or bold print anything. Political correctness truly bores me. I remember when we could speak our mind without having twitter go on a rampage. Nonsense to me.

    • Otaku Fairy says:

      She’s just clarifying that she didn’t pull the tired “Beyoncé can’t be a feminist because slutty/immodest” card on Beyoncé, because her original quote was taken out of context. That’s not necessarily about Beyoncé being untouchable, it’s about Emma wanting people to get that she’s not being hypocritical when she says that feminine modesty is a matter of personal choice for women and feminists, not a requirement of being a part of the movement.

      And the “political correctness is bad, why should people have to worry about saying anything racist or sexist, free speech means everyone has to just shut up and take it” mentality is a part of the reason why we’re in the situation we’re in right now, no?

  10. Dani says:

    Even if she was criticizing Beyonce…she’s entitled to her opinion. Whether we agree with her or not, or share that same opinion, doesn’t make her unable to voice what she feels. Why can one woman’s brand be accepted but another can’t? Why do we feel the need to silence someone who maaaaay or may not have expressed her feelings that differ from ours? That’s what feminism is about. We don’t all have to see it the same way, but we should support each other regardless. We should want women to have their own opinions and feel courageous enough to speak out, even if we don’t agree. Silencing Emma and throwing her opinion under the bus is not feminism. And, to be quite frank, I’ve never seen Beyonce as anything close to a feminist. She’s just like Taylor Swift – using feminism for her own gain (which is fine, because they’re allowed to do whatever they freaking want) and when it appeals to her sales but you don’t see me screaming about it. Live and let live. We should support women through and through, not only when we agree.

  11. deevia says:

    Unpopular opinion but I missed the old Beyonce (removing the last 2-3 albums). Her music used to be really entertaining. Now she delivers a more social message BUT her music is sub-par compared to those days. Or may be cuz everyone else is sub-par too so she doesnt have to try THAT hard? Sometimes I even think Destiny Child delivered those messages better than B solo work.

  12. A says:

    “She’s trying to work out how she feels about it”–that’s exactly it. That’s the problem. Look, I love Emma Watson, but for all that she does, she is still a white woman. The fact that she, as a white woman, is still putting out a thought regarding Beyonce’s art and speaking about how “conflicted” she feels about it is exactly what’s so discomfiting about the entire experience. I don’t see that sort of similar, pinpointed criticism being made of any other white female musician who puts out images or art of themselves and their lives in that way. It’s Beyonce’s work that invites “conflict” within white women and their brand of feminism. It’s Beyonce’s work that makes them wonder if a person can be feminist while still presenting a “hyper-sexual” piece of art about how their “body belongs to their husband” without considering for a moment the fact that feminism for black women is something that cannot be divorced from the larger movement for black liberation, which involves men. This is something that black feminists (bell hooks, Audre Lorde, Angela Davis and numerous others) have acknowledged time and again, and is something that I myself am paraphrasing in an incredibly poor way.

    This is exactly why “criticism” from white women regarding how black women conduct their feminism is annoying. There is little acknowledgement of the fact that black women are sexualized to the point where people are unable to see a visualization of a black woman’s own body without having to question its motives and feel “conflicted” about it. There is no understanding of the fact that black women choose to include men in the narratives of their feminism because of the unique mode of oppression that they face. There is little understanding of black feminism period. And in spite of all of that, a white woman, a feminist, is able to put out her thoughts on the subject matter in public, even as she herself states that they’re not fully formed and are likely imperfect. But black women like Beyonce are criticized and questioned and queried and poked and prodded to see if they measure up to the standards of white feminism. And if they don’t? Heaven help them.