People often ask me what my definition of the word "feminism" is, as though it could have more than one. The definition of feminism, according to the Merriam-Webster Dictionary, is the theory of political, economic and social equality of the sexes.
Emma Watson is an actress, a U.N. Women Goodwill Ambassador and a feminist. Her feminist beliefs have come into question after Watson took part in a photo shoot for Vanity Fair to promote her film, “Beauty and the Beast."
One of the photos from the shoot was rather provocative and Watson’s chest was displayed. She was heavily criticized by the media and her feminist ideology soon came under fire. Piers Morgan, a British journalist, even went so far as to comment that feminism has parameters -- that feminists cannot be both sexual and fight for women’s rights.
Watson responded in an interview: “Feminism is about giving women choice. 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 understand what my [chest] has to do with it.”
Watson’s chest has nothing to do with her fight for gender equality. Her actions and words display her belief in gender equality, not a photo in a fashion magazine. From a young age Watson was sexualized in the media against her will, so why is it suddenly a problem when she chooses to be sexual?
I applaud Watson for taking ownership of her own body and sexuality, especially when women are so often categorized as either a prude or a whore. Society does not allow women to exist in more than one sphere of femininity.
We cannot allow society to dictate what women can or cannot do with their own bodies, and through this photo Watson uses her influence to spread that message, regardless of anyone’s opinions.
Furthermore, people seem to think that only women benefit from feminism, but men benefit, too.
Society places unrealistic expectations on men, just as it does on women.
Men are often subject to disapproval if they express their feelings, because emotions are somehow synonymous with femininity.
In her speech for her HeForShe campaign, Watson said, “Both men and women should feel free to be sensitive. Both men and women should feel free to be strong… It is time that we all perceive gender on a spectrum not as two opposing sets of ideals.”
I have a little brother whom I would give the world to, but it was hard to watch him grow up. It was hard for me to see him cry and then be told not to. It was hard for me to see him so jealous of me when I would get my nails painted. It was hard for me to see him be told “no” simply because he is a boy.
We have to stop placing our gender expectations on one another. Everyone in this world is different and does not need to fit into a perpetuated stereotype.
Growing up I did not think I was a feminist — it was a word that I had associated with hating men. I’m not sure where this stereotype came from, but it has to end.
If we’re going by the true definition — the definition that society needs today — the time has come for us to promote and accept the political, economic and social equality of the sexes. If you believe in this, then you are — by definition — a feminist.
Not by my definition, not by Emma Watson’s definition, but by the actual definition.
Regardless of your discomfort for the word.
Contact opinions writer Caroline McNamara at firstname.lastname@example.org.