Emma Watson: ‘Evolutionary theorists believe that patriarchy is not inevitable’

Emma Watson at arrivals for LITTLE WOMEN...

Emma Watson conducted an interview/conversation with Professor Valerie Hudson, author of Sex and World Peace, a data-driven examination of what happens when governments are male-dominated and toxic, and when women are driven out of any political power. I came into this transcript of their conversation simply hoping to grab a few juicy quotes from Watson, but the entire piece is GREAT. Emma is very well-read and well-versed on every subject they discuss and I really hope a lot of people take the time to read this, because the subject matter is so interesting. Some highlights (just from Emma’s quotes):

The unpaid labor of women: “The data you collected is heart-stopping. Like the fact that “the largest risk for poverty in old age is determined by whether or not one has ever given birth to a child.” When you hear that if women’s caring labor were valued even at minimum wage, it would account for 40% of world production, it’s hard to hear that and remain unmoved.”

Silence & microaggression: “I love that you say “silence is the sturdy ally of gendered microaggression.” I love the word microaggression. I’ve been doing therapy for years and think it’s the best thing ever, and we talk about “telling the microscopic truth.”

Figuring out a new language, as a woman, to describe your experience: “I did an interview with Vogue magazine a couple of months ago, and I talked about how, in the run-up to my 30s, [I felt] this incredible, sudden anxiety and pressure that I had to be married or have a baby or [be] moving into a house. And there was no word for this kind of subliminal messaging and anxiety and pressure that I felt building up but couldn’t really name, so I used the word self-partnered. For me it wasn’t so much about coining a word; it was more that I needed to create a definition for something that I didn’t feel there was language for. And it was interesting because it really riled some people up! It was less for me about the word but more about what it meant — just this idea that we need to reclaim language and space in order to express ourselves, because sometimes it’s really not there….”

On patriarchal societies: “So, out of 4,000 mammals and 10 million or more other animal species, only chimps and humans live in patrilineal male-bonded communities. I found that fascinating, the fact that evolutionary theorists believe that patriarchy is not inevitable; I found that oddly hopeful. And there was a documentary… Amanda Foreman, a British historian, did a television series called The Ascent of Women, which looked at other societies and cultures that were not organized in a patriarchal way, and there is something really hopeful about realizing [that] — because I think that’s so much the answer isn’t it? [To] that, “Well, there must be a reason why we do things this way,” or “This is always the way that things have been done,” or “We’ve clearly discovered the best way to do things, and that is why we continue to do them this way.”

Kink culture: “I feel that relationships that don’t necessarily follow traditional models do require more communication and consent. It requires an actual conversation and agreement about the delegation of tasks and labor and responsibilities that maybe you don’t feel you need to have or should have if you follow those traditional stereotypes.… The idea that relationships are supposed to be easy and it’s all supposed to be implicitly understood, and you’re just meant to get each other, it’s bullsh*t! It’s impossible! A lot of the healthiest relationships I’ve seen have been between same-sex couples because, I think, they have to sit down and agree [on] things. They agree [on] things between them as opposed to [accepting] certain sets of assumptions and expectations that are made. I’ve also kind of become slightly fascinated by kink culture because they are the best communicators ever. They know all about consent.

Feminism & environmentalism: “My friend said something devastating the other day — she said, “Do you think if we started describing Earth as male, if we gave Earth a male pronoun, do you think that people would treat Earth better?”…If we give Earth a male pronoun, maybe we’ll stop pillaging and destroying and killing it.

[From Teen Vogue]

As I said, the conversation was fascinating and the back-and-forth was great. I came out of it really impressed by Emma. I really enjoy this aspect of Emma, and I hope she leans into it more, the bookish feminist thinker, the amplifier of women writers and women’s issues. If we started calling it Father Earth… would there really be a change? And would it even be possible to pay women for all of the unpaid labor – childcare, caring for senior parents – they do? I don’t know.

Emma Watson at the world premiere of Little Women at the Museum of Modern Art on December 7, 2019 in New York city.

Photos courtesy of WENN.

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22 Responses to “Emma Watson: ‘Evolutionary theorists believe that patriarchy is not inevitable’”

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  1. Eleonor says:

    I like everything she says.
    The pressure in her ’30s, it’s the same I feel now I am approaching to my ’40s as a single woman, there is this kind of “when you are going to find a man and settle down”?
    Truth is: I have spent nearly 20 years of my life in long relationship, I have a job, I like my life, I am not sad or depressed, or panicking because I am alone, I like my life, apparently it’s difficult to accept this way of life, and I don’t understand why.

    • Darla says:

      In my experience, once I hit 50, that all stopped. If I called up someone now and told them I was getting married, they would probably keel over. Eventually, they stop.

  2. Diana says:

    I hope a German reader can weigh in, because I’ve heard that the German government pays superannuation for mothers during their child-caring years. I’d love to know more about it!

    • Trillian says:

      German here but not very versed in taxes. But yes, we do get a certain amount in “tax points” for child raising. But you have to actively register your child-rearing time with the pension fund office.

    • emmy says:

      German here also but I’m not sure what you mean? There’s the “Mütterrente” which was introduced about 1.5 years ago. Mothers who had their kids before 1992 get an additional amount per month and child for I think up to 2.5 years they raised that child and didn’t work. My mom gets it for 2 kids. She says it’s the most ridiculous thing because she doesn’t need the money (it’s like 15€ per month and child on top of her pension) and for those who do, this is insulting. It sounds nice but they flubbed the execution. We once calculated what my mom’s pension would be if she hadn’t had 2 kids and then worked part-time for years. I nearly cried. It would have made so much sense for my dad to stay home instead (she was a teacher and well paid) but that wasn’t a thing in the 80s. Plus, she wanted to do it.

  3. lemonylips says:

    I feel like I’d want to have a long conversation with her. I like everything she says. It is strange though how we, as humans started with matriarchy and by associating womb and life Earth is considered a nurturer, a giver of life and everything life needs to develop yet we fail to see those virtues as strong and feel the need to control them – therefore patriarchy. In such a cruel way on so many levels – one of them, that I still have a huge issue is treatment of female bodies. The fact that many women can’t afford pads or tampons, that so many female lifes are controlled with political and religous pows. Has anyone watched Unorthodox? I cried like a child. My bf got emotional too. Just knowing that we live in this centrury and somehow a lot of freedoms we feel we have are not actually true.

    • Otaku fairy says:

      Agreed. At the end of last month female genital mutilation was criminalized in Sudan. There are still concerns within women’s rights groups about mentalities toward women that lead to FGM in the first place and that some who still approve of it (including people in high places) will turn a blind eye if they know about it happening, but making the procedure illegal is a start.

      • lemonylips says:

        It is a start. It will be hard to monitor it, as the tribes will probably pay no attention to it, but yes at least something has been said about it. That is such a horrible tradition. I remember reading Desert Flower and that scene, describing it – I felt sick. Literally, I had to go to the bathroom and y’know… sorry, just trying to say how horrible that was just by reading about it, let alone have it happen to any woman anywhere in the world.

  4. Bella says:

    @ Diana
    Non-German here, weighing in anyway! I believe there are tax allowances and benefits for SAH mothers, but not SAH fathers, here.

  5. Elizabeth says:

    Matrilineal societies are FASCINATING. I would definitely recommend looking into them if you want a glimpse of what a non-patriarchal society could be. I lived in Micronesia for six years and many societies there were traditionally matrilineal.

    There are several documentaries on the Mosuo people of China which I’d also recommend. Idk if egalitarian is the proper word for them, since it’s not my culture, but it might come close.

    She’s absolutely right, but she should probably acknowledge that non patriarchal societies do exist and have existed among humans.

    • Aang says:

      The Seneca Nation in western NY are traditionally matrilineal and matrilocal. The nation is part of the Iroquois Confederacy.

  6. Case says:

    I like Emma so much. She seems like a great person to sit down and have deep talks with. She’s so intelligent and really took early criticisms of not being intersectional in her feminism to heart snd learned from it.

  7. Mabs A'Mabbin says:

    We need more women like this to turn tides. Men can’t collectively handle this kind of pointed and poignant discourse, because it goes beyond listening. It requires active listening and willingness to properly digest first and foremost. Then, THEN, it requires complete and thorough regurgitation in a way that will reach men in power and trickle down through words and actions. It’ll never happen. Not the way things are right now, because men will never stand up. They won’t change their comfort levels for inclusion; they’re not the least bit interested in spreading parity.

    It makes me chuckle when I imagine a room full of aging men behaving with care, concern and with a commitment to change. That’s actually disgusting, because it shouldn’t make me laugh. But by and large, these old white men aren’t going to experience watershed moments. That might indicate prior weaknesses. It’ll be a cold day in hell before these animals forego their sports analogies and adopt multi-dimensional language. The only way to move forward in an effort to at least approach the same road these women are on is incrementally, and sadly, the dying off of debilitating and lazy thought processes that have endured and shaped society. Their ‘game’ is going to have to end.

  8. TyrantDestroyed says:

    Very interesting. I’m watching my finances right now so I cannot order the book but I will check it out at my digital library 😄

  9. frenchtoast says:

    What about male violence? Is it evitable?? Because as far as I can tell it’s the most pressing issue nowadays.

  10. adastraperaspera says:

    Thank you, Emma, for bringing this level of feminist discourse to light! We need more women and men talking about how to create a non-patriarchal future. The issue is not so much that women have to rise up to become better leaders, but that men have to, as Sarah Grimké so aptly said, “…take their feet off our necks.”

    • Maples says:

      I don’t believe that women should wait for men or other women who perpetuate patriarchy to do anything. In situations like these you have to take your power. You have to become empowered and make the change you want to see. There is no other realistic and applicable way to go about claiming your worth, value and power.

  11. Maples says:

    This is not generally addressed but in spiritual and esoteric belief systems, such as astrology, patriarchy is alive and kicking. Most people address their god or most omnipotent or powerful deity as male such as ‘Father’, ‘God’, ‘Him’, etc., totally excluding the female from such powerful, omnipotent and divinely sacred energy.

    In astrology (I am an astrologist) I am so sick and tired of hearing the sun, the most powerful and life giving luminary in our solar system, being described as male and the passive, receptive and diminutive moon as being female (if anything I have always felt the sun as being a strong, extremely powerful, assertive female energy). I practice non gendered, non patriarchal astrology (no planets or luminaries have a gender) as that type of thinking is not needed at all, including in astrology.

    I have to finally add that the general social and esoteric constructs of the ‘feminine’ and ‘masculine’ need to be erased. It serves no positive purpose. It only limits people to a one dimensional construct, continues to stereotype female and male behaviour and perpetuates certain misogynistic beliefs about females. In addition, there are more gendered as well as non gendered identifications that is totally ignored and excluded in this ‘feminine and masculine’ understanding of genders.

  12. L says:

    I think she would be better suited to a career as a writer or professor. Of course she could do all three, professors are writers anyway, but acting could be her side gig. I just feel like her brain might be under utilised as an actress.

  13. Punkprincessphd says:

    For those interested in the value of women’s unpaid labour (or caring labour in general) I highly recommend the work of Marilyn Waring.

  14. Cherryl says:

    In tribal settings patriarchy is not completely unavoidable from an evolutionary standpoint. In modern knowledge-based societies it hinders progress and is just idiotic.