Emma Watson: ‘Feminism is not here to dictate to you… it’s not dogmatic’

emma elle

Emma Watson covers the December issue of Elle UK, which is incidentally the same issue/month with the special Benedict Cumberbatch supplement (Elle UK released more of their Bendy story, which you can read here). This is Emma’s first major interview since she became the face of the United Nations HeForShe campaign, promoting feminism and gender equality. Emma’s UN speech contained nothing particularly groundbreaking, but it still went viral and started a massive dialogue about feminism in celebrity and non-celebrity circles. Emma talked more about her new UN mission and feminism with Elle UK. Some highlights:

Giving the UN speech: “I was very nervous. It wasn’t an easy thing for me to do. It felt like: ‘Am I going to have lunch with these people, or am I going to be eaten? Am I the lunch?'”

On fame: “Fame is not something I have always felt comfortable with; I have really grappled with it emotionally. And, in a funny way, doing this is my way of making sense of the fame, of using it. I have found a way to channel it towards something else, which makes it so much more manageable for me. And this is something I really believe in.”

Believing all people should embrace feminism: “Feminism is not here to dictate to you. It’s not prescriptive, it’s not dogmatic. All we are here to do is give you a choice. If you want to run for President, you can. If you don’t, that’s wonderful, too.” It’s an attitude she learned as a young girl. “I’m lucky I was raised to believe that my opinion at the dinner table was valuable. My mum and I spoke as loudly as my brothers.”

[From Elle UK]

Okay. I don’t see anything wrong with Emma’s words here, nor did I have a problem with her UN speech. I never really understood why any of it was so groundbreaking. Feminism needs to be a big tent with more diversity of opinion, diversity in agendas and diversity in solutions. Now, that being said… I think feminism could be here to dictate to some people. Like, I’d like to see feminists dictate the crap out of equal pay and reproductive choice and quality health care and ending violence against women. DICTATE!! We’re 53% of the voting population. Surely we can dictate some of the agenda?


Photos courtesy of Elle UK.

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50 Responses to “Emma Watson: ‘Feminism is not here to dictate to you… it’s not dogmatic’”

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  1. Nina says:

    She speaks about the hesitance that some women have to embrace feminism and goes on to explain that there is not need to because it is not a constraining element, quite the opposite – that it provides enhanced freedom of choice, with a broader range of readily available choices. Nicely said, Emma!

  2. 'P'enny says:

    she needs a hairdryer

    Is this related to the feminism t-shirt that our Benny and Tom boys are wearing?

    I’m not sure I’m on board with this feminism campaign, however, I hate misogynist men and unequal pay based on sex. I’d rather see men wearing t-shirts that’s says I am not a misogynist instead. And, watch them live up to it.

    • Kitten says:

      I’m not sure that not being a misogynist is really something to be proud of, you know?

      Let’s set the bar a bit higher for men and make feminism the standard.

    • Sixer says:

      It is a Fawcett Society campaign, Penny, the t-shirt. Intended to link into the UN campaign that Watson spoke on behalf of. All the political party leaders here have worn one and been photographed wearing one to help promote it, except David Cameron. Elle magazine asked him so many times that in the end he had to outright refuse to wear it rather than just avoid wearing it. That’s why Harriet Harman wore one to PMQs this week, to highlight Cameron’s refusal.

      Sixlet Minor’s football coach has been wearing one to training sessions (and it’s a boys only team) – which I think is fabulous.

      • LadySlippers says:



        I feel strongly that people need to see that feminism isn’t just women spouting men-hating BS. And here’s an article that mentions the Fawcett Society campaign. But Sixer, can you elaborate on it more? Thanks.


      • Sixer says:

        The t-shirt was from an old campaign by the Fawcett Society, years back, LS. You might remember Tracey Emin wearing it? Anyway, Elle magazine is doing a feminism issue and decided to bring it back out – the idea is to tie in with the UN campaign – which, as mentioned below, is about INCLUSIVITY. It’s about explaining to men that there’s no gender reason that they shouldn’t be feminist in the same way you don’t have to be black or brown to be anti-racist.

    • LadySlippers says:


      The most powerful message that feminism isn’t anti-male comes from men proudly stating what feminism IS and that they support it.

      We actually need men to set good examples for other men — both young and old, in order for change to take place.

  3. savu says:

    Man do I love her for saying this. It only educates people and gets feminism the attention it deserves, instead of people assuming radical feminists are the norm (which I think is a means to discredit feminism because they’re uncomfortable with the actual idea).

    And feminism means you have CHOICES. Like Emma said, if you want to be president, you should have the opportunity to try. If you want to be a stay at home wife and mother, as long as it’s YOUR choice, go for it! We are not here to judge each other for it.

    I LOVE what she says about growing up knowing her opinion at the dinner table was valued and important. I grew up in a similar home and am grateful for it every single day.

    • Kitten says:


    • Carol says:

      I think for awhile there was a hesitancy among some women to embrace the label “feminist” because some of the women who fought hard for women to have choices then seemed to get upset when other women chose differently than they wanted. I think Sherry Lansing’s book mentions a panel discussion in which an older woman said to the younger women (and I am paraphrasing badly), “When we fought to get you choices, we didn’t know so many of you would choose to stay home with your kids.” I also don’t think being pro-life makes you anti-feminist.

      Between Emma’s “we aren’t dogmatic and just want you to have choices” and Amy Poehler’s “stop using feminism to try to drive a wedge between us” I feel much better about the movement.

      I grew up in a large family of girls, and my dad made it clear our opinions were always wanted and important. I am grateful as well.

      • Kitten says:

        “When we fought to get you choices, we didn’t know so many of you would choose to stay home with your kids.”

        Yes and statements like this are exclusionary, no doubt, but you need to put it in historical context to understand where they were coming from.

        What these women were fighting for was equality in areas of life where women did not have a presence–in the work force (in a prominent role, not a factory), in politics, and the educational system. Women were traditionally supposed to stay at home, clean house, and tend to the children. The achievement of full equality mandated that women get out of the house and enter into the same roles as men, period. I think they simply foresaw the achievements that could happen when women mobilized to take on a more prominent and powerful role in society, that’s all. These women fought for us to have that modern-day choice of career versus SAHM, but it took lots of women making brave and personal sacrifices to get there.

        FTR, my mother was a SAHM, and a proud feminist, and somehow is not offended by the statements of some radical feminists about SAHMs, nor should she be. I think she just recognizes that it took that kind of radicalism to get us here.

  4. shunty says:

    I like Emma’s feminism messages. And I love that she’s accepted. But for some reasons Beyoncé as a feminist remains controversial

    • Duckie says:


    • Pepsi Presents...Coke says:

      I know. I hate that I keep standing up for Beyonce on this point because… I kind of hate her but the hypocrisy and lack of self-awarness is stunning.

      Beyonce releases a statement about why she’s a feminist and brings up equal pay for equal work and the response was that her message was pat and we she too stupid to have written it herself. Emma Watson stumbles through a statement written for her and now she’s a feminist hero.

      Her lyrics, which, yes, veer into the offensive in my opinion, have nothing on the stuff on the stuff that L7 said or did and people were nearly peeing themselves to toss plaudits at their fearless and paradigm-smashing feminism. Because throwing your used tampon into the audience is sooooo intellectual. Yeah, okay.

      Beyonce dances in a champagne glass and she’s a bad example and objectifying herself and setting back the movement–you know, the one so embraces choice and body confidence. Cameron Diaz does it and it’s hot. Well, hey what was eating on that movie? PG-13, or something. And don’t even get started on how the world wants to marry Dita von Teese when she dances in the glass because it’s tongue in cheek, liberating, reviving a lost art (because no one was stripping during the interim), and she’s classy because her hair is pretty. I mean, do what I do when I see Beyonce, turn the flipping channel, don’t put the fear and anxiety of billions of women on ANYONE’S shoulders.

      And don’t give me the ‘Won’t someone please think of the children’ line because the older generation has been pulling the same act since the beginning of time. I do think that oversexualisation of kids is a huge problem, but again, when in the history of the teenager phenonenon was that not a concern? Do what I do and change the channel, then get rid of YouTube because I’ll bet that somewhere on the internet you can see a Dita performance. Teen pregnancy has been consistently lower than the high-water mark set in 1992 so whose fault was that, Amy Grant?

      Beyonce has an all-female band and started up two initiatives that support immersed city Black girls. Is there really a reason that her feminism is more mercenary than that of other women, or are we letting personal dislike cloud our perception? What celebrity isn’t?

      I did, but then thought that even though I don’t like her, who am I to tell any woman who she is, what she’s allowed to do, what to wear, or what kind of relationship she should have with her husband. For the love of Pete, people are saying that she’s a bad feminist because she took on her married name for a tour, and last week I read that she’s not a feminist because she wears wigs. Okay, there’s a whole DEAL about Black women and hair, so there is a larger conversation about that, but if you don’t have that history, that belief is asinine.

      The cribbing of other people’s work without permission and acknowledgement SUCKS HARD and I’m not even to try to defend it, but guys: Madonna.

      I think that I can dislike her but still respect some of the things she has done. Yeah, she wears slinky stuff while her husband is in a full suit, what do you want me to do about it? I hate it, but it’s not unique. Which doesn’t sound like a ringing endorsement but if we want to talk about equal pay talk about it. I can dislike her without seeing her as the Great Satan. The ‘Eat the cake’ thing was a freaking travesty but Nirvana had a song ‘Rape Me’, Silverchair had a song called ‘Abuse me’, so where’s the line. Not trying to excuse it, just saying that we’re inconsistent in our criticism and if that Stranglers song ‘Peaches’ came out today, I think it would cause as much of a stir as it did in the seventies. We were always oversexed.

      Blech, stop making me defend her! 😨

  5. katenotkatie says:

    I agree that Emma’s vision/statements aren’t the most groundbreaking—making feminism more palatable and mainstream isn’t enough to effect substantive changes to systemic inequalities. Still, she’s trying to use her platform for good and I hope her beliefs continue to evolve.

    That said…those brows. The finest eyebrows I have ever seen.

  6. Chris says:

    Seeing people as more than just a number between one and ten on the fu-kability scale would be a step in the right direction.

  7. Luciana says:

    I wish other starlets and it girls would follow her path. She’s very articulated and mature.

  8. laci says:

    Feminism is becoming personally insulting. As a woman, the fact that the men in my life who have encouraged me, raised me, loved me, and shaped me into a strong individual are some how guilty until proven innocent for being “misogynists” or “rapists.” I’ve had enough. We’re being brainwashed into fighting a non existing war with men. Enough.

    • Kitten says:

      Not taking the troll bait.

    • GByeGirl says:

      That’s not what feminism is. It’s just saying that we deserve equal rights and opportunities. It doesn’t mean that men are automatically misogynists or rapists.

    • Dani2 says:

      You’re missing the point in such a painfully obvious way.

    • Eleonor says:

      Have you seen the video of the girl walking in NY who is catcalled 100 times in ten hours ???
      Have you heard what Microsoft CEO said lately ?
      It’ s not men VS women, is about respect education and equal opportunities.

    • L'etranger says:

      Where on earth did this come from? Emma’s feminist platform is one of inclusiveness – of drawing men INTO the movement – which is wonderful. No one in the comments has referred to men as automatically being misogynists and/or rapists. The issues that Kaiser brought up at the end of the article (equal pay, reproductive rights, and ending violence against women) are both valid and have absolutely nothing to do with any sort of nonexistent “war on men.”

      • InvaderTak says:

        See comment #2. I’m not defending this person’s position, but on this board someone already has automatically assumed men are misogynists and demanded they prove they’re not before they can get womens’ approval before joining the discussion. Comments 2 and 8 are making me see red right now. Both represent opposite sides of extremist views to me and are not part of feminst views IMO.

      • L'etranger says:

        @InvaderTak – thank you for pointing #2 out! Apparently I skimmed over that comment. -_-
        However, I completely agree with you and, having gone back to read that comment/thread, everyone who replied to #2 as well.

    • tifzlan says:

      NOT ALL MEN!!!!11111!!1!1!1111!!

  9. Allie says:

    No one has called her speech or her stance groundbreaking, but it went viral because for once a celebrity sounded intelligent. In a sea of actors that have no idea what feminism really means, it was refreshing.

  10. laci says:

    Kitten…im not a troll. I’m actually a woman with an opinion. Way to dismiss anyone who disagrees with you. Wow.

    Gbygirl. Thank you. This is what feminism should be, plain and simple. I am thankful every morning that im able to go to work, vote in elections, be treated with respect for what I’ve worked for as an individual, etc…what I am upset about is the fact that there is a new wave of feminism that is becoming dangerous and offensive. Rape culture/rape “stare”/misogyny/patriarchy bullshit is a made up war against men for some kind of agenda that that social media is pushing and its doing more harm than good. Like I said, I am a woman and this new wave of feminists are, honestly, bullies more than anything else. And im getting personally offended by it

    • Kitten says:

      “a new wave of feminism that is becoming dangerous and offensive. Rape culture/rape “stare”/misogyny/patriarchy bullshit is a made up war against men for some kind of agenda that that social media is pushing and its doing more harm than good.”

      Yeah you’re right, there’s a war on men!!!! Poor men and the terrible atrocities they face in modern society!!!! What about men’s rights????

      Anytime someone describes feminism as “dangerous” and “harmful” you get the GIRL, BYE from me. Dismissive? Yeah I guess. Bullying? If you feel secure about your stance then you should be able to deal with people who will disagree with you in a passionate manner.

      It’s interesting to me that in say, politics and other topical issues that we feel passionately about, people are rarely accused of being “bullies” yet somehow when it’s about feminism and women’s rights, women who are outspoken are automatically labeled “bullies” or “mean” or “aggressive”. Very vey interesting to note that double standard.

    • tifzlan says:

      Rape culture, misogyny and patriarchy are not bullshit, nor are they a “made up war” against men. These are very prevalent attitudes in our society and even the most ~chivalrous~ of men are susceptible to patriarchy. That means that a man does not have to be a rapist to be influenced by patriarchy. Patriarchy shapes gender roles for both men AND women. That’s why today’s wave of feminism is very important – it’s not just fighting for equal rights anymore. We demand equal respect.

    • Merritt says:

      “Rape culture/rape “stare”/misogyny/patriarchy bullshit is a made up war against men for some kind of agenda that that social media is pushing and its doing more harm than good. ”

      That is not even remotely true. People who take issue with the rape culture awareness are often rape apologists. That is the truth. Otherwise they would have no issue with women calling out what is going on at college campuses, the normalization of victim blaming, street harassment, rape threats, etc. No woman should be receiving rape threats, because people don’t like her critiques of video games. Yet that is something that is happening. It is not a war on men, it is a war on dangerous and criminal behavior.

      • AustenGirl says:

        “People who take issue with the rape culture awareness are often rape apologists. That is the truth.”

        This is so true for both men and women who are willing to question a rape victim’s “motives” for being raped, such as her actions, clothing, socio-economic status, etc. And, I’ve found that people who can’t find intentional agency on the victim’s part will then revert to the old “she deserved it for her stupidity for putting herself in that situation.”

        Rape culture is pervasive and undeniable, and the pathetic women who deny it or engage in victim blaming are truly dangerous because they promote the notion that gendered violence against women is okay. And before laci bashes me as another angry feminist, I’ll proudly own to that. I am a rape survivor, and my mother is still married to my rapist.

    • Emily says:

      I wonder if a lot of that is generational.

      I have no problem with the “angry” feminists of yesteryear because they actually had reason to be angry and we owe a lot to them.

      The Gen-Y “social justice warriors” on the other hand… A lot of the stuff that pops up on my newsfeed just seems like they’re inventing reasons to be offended.

      • tifzlan says:

        Genuinely curious as to what these “invented reasons” are that you think feminists use to purposely be offended.

    • ML says:

      Your the same damn MRA troll that’s been coming here for months, the language and arguments make it so bloody obvious, oh and also the fact you keep stating ‘I’m a woman’ which you always do. I’m going to keep on reporting you and I encourage everyone to do the same, take your poison somewhere else.

  11. D says:

    OK, cool.

    Does this mean that we can stop caring about the fact that men vastly outnumber women in the fields of science, technology, engineering, and math? Women aren’t legally banned from studying & pursuing a career in these fields – they are choosing not to. Therefore, shouldn’t we just respect the choices they’ve made for their own lives, stop acting like it’s a problem that men dominate these fields, and stop trying to change it ?

    • jammypants says:

      It’s choice not to pursue these careers, but I feel women feel intimidated in STEM fields. I work in this field. It’s a very “bro” culture. I’m just lucky at my particular company, they treat women quite well.

    • tifzlan says:

      Part of the reason women choose not to pursue careers in STEM fields is because we’ve been conditioned to from childhood. I’m not saying that there aren’t women who genuinely don’t want to go into STEM fields (i’m one of them, hi!!!) but you can’t deny that young girls aren’t encouraged to see math and science as cool and fun like young boys are.

      I saw a picture once of a Boy Scout/Girl Scout calendar for Science and Math week or something like that and the boys had activities like making robots, chemistry experiments and exciting things of that sort. The girls? “Science with Glitter” and that was it. ONE activity that had to be “dumbed down” for young girls to be interested in as if we wouldn’t want to build our own robots and watch chemicals change colors.

      Again, patriarchy is very pervasive in our society. This example is just one of the very many ways in which patriarchy conditions us and our choices.

      • Kitten says:

        This 100%

      • D says:

        Yes, exactly – it’s almost like women’s choices are heavily influenced by the historical, cultural, and social context in which they’re made, and social conditioning and sexist expectations have a huge effect on their decisions.

        It’s almost like this brand of feminism that worships “choice” as the be–all and end–all (while simultaneously reducing the meaning of “choice” to “I was not legally or physically forced to do X) is incredibly superficial, devoid of historical/socio-political analysis, and more concerned with making sure everyone feels good about their choices than about actually discussing what it will take for women to ever achieve social, political, and financial parity with men.

    • LadySlippers says:


      I’ve attended two all women’s colleges (graduated from the second) and women attending all-women’s college enter AND succeed in traditionally male dominated fields. Including the STEM fields. What others have said has been proven in studies — when a minority (women in this case) is supported, they typically excel. No one likes being a minority as it’s very intimidating.

      And when I attended the first women’s college (20 years ago) we had a sobering stat that might still be relevant today. At one time, women accounted for only 3% of CEOs in the US. But of those 3% *over half* went to an all women’s college.

      FYI, my first college’s view on feminism was very, very inclusive and didn’t feature the anger that earlier feminism warranted. I’m extremely proud that my daughter’s first choice for college is the inclusive women’s college I attended so many years ago.


      • D says:

        We’re on the same page. I was being facetious in my original comment to illustrate how limited and shallow this “feminism is just about having choices” rhetoric is.

        The under-representation of women in STEM fields is a “safe” topic in feminism – it’s uncontroversial to state that it would be preferable if more women’s choices in this context were different and people are unlikely to feel defensive or personally attacked when you bring up how much those choices are influenced by social conditioning. Which makes it easier to see that the issue here is more complex than just a lack of choices. That “feminism is about having choices, so respect their (…my) choices!” can’t be the end of the conversation when the choices we’re talking about are disproportionately made by women and have real social & financial consequences. And so on.

  12. bettyrose says:

    I feel like a point that gets missed so much with feminism is that all women benefit from having women who speak on our behalf in medicine, politics, education, etc. It’s not just about individual choices, it’s about having a health care industry that doesn’t perceive “female” as a health condition to be mitigated with quaaludes. In politics, we still have entire committees of all men in congress debating the role of women’s bodies in our society. The moment in Mad Men when Peggy Olson’s doctor lectured her on “not being a slut” or he would take away her birth control pills. . . any woman who has a problem with that scenario is a feminist.

    • LadySlippers says:



      And if so many hard fought issues on women’s rights weren’t being eroded, many honestly ‘wouldn’t need’ to be feminists. It’s sad to think how being anatomically different makes us, somehow, scary. And less important.

  13. theoscandal says:

    i think she looks like k stew here…anyone else?

  14. sarah says:

    White girl states simple & most basic feminist outlook, the whole world praises her & makes her “THE FACE OF FEMINISM”. Color me shocked.

  15. Jessiebes says:

    This feminism movement, if you want to call it that, seems to have passed me by.

    I come from generations of strong women who activelely fought and strived for equality between sexes. The result of that is me. And i fully expect and get, complete equality in my realtionships and working life.

    It seems absurd that women only got the right to vote a 100 years ago in my country.