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How she came to identify as a feminist: “In school, I was really taught that gender inequality was something that had already been solved, that equality was a reality in the world around me, and so I really believed that. Once I went through puberty and started having adult relationships, and moving through the outside world, it very quickly became clear to me that that was a complete fallacy. I realized that feminism was just such an incredibly important idea — and more than just an important idea, it was what would keep me sane in difficult situations.”
On…being political: “I feel like women internalize an awful lot, which has nothing to do with them. The personal is made very political for women. Women have experiences with certain things, and instead of internalizing them, they’re starting to realize that there’s a much larger pattern and a much bigger issue and problem, which [in turn] is personal for them.”
On enjoying fashion and being a feminist: “Naomi Klein wrote an amazing book called The Beauty Myth, and she articulates how adornment is something that women and men have done throughout time, throughout different cultures. It’s a form of celebration. It’s not so much the adornment that’s the problem. For me, when fashion gets negative, it’s to do with the sense of not having a choice or feeling forced into doing something that makes you uncomfortable or makes you feel less than, or whatever. If fashion is something that you derive pleasure from, and it gives you joy and a creative outlet, then that is absolutely in line with feminism. If it’s a way to celebrate yourself and it really feels that way, then that’s incredibly empowering.”
On making feminist choices on the red carpet: “I’m thrilled to support and work with Dior, because there’s a female at the head of the house, which is amazing. There should be more of that. [LVMH] also signed the Women’s Empowerment Principle, so as a brand, not only are they talking about empowering their customers, but they also empower the women that make the clothes for them. It’s all very well in marketing for a company to say, ‘We want to empower women,’ but do they empower the women that do their work for them? I think that dual approach is really important. I think Gabriela Hearst is absolutely amazing, very sustainable, really smart. As I put together my press looks for Beauty and the Beast, I really had in mind, ‘How can I support up-and-coming female-owned businesses?’”
The feminist theorist that should be on your reading list: “Bell hooks does a very good, almost pamphlet-length book, Feminism Is for Everybody. It’s really great because it’s not overwhelming, but it does a really good job of contextualizing [feminism].”
On activist burnout and self-care: “The really cool thing about so much of our movement at the moment is that we have some incredibly funny, witty, and intelligent women working. It’s very easy for people that become politically engaged to become overwhelmed and really burn out. It’s important to realize that joy, self-care and love are radical. They are acts of resistance, and it doesn’t have to be incredibly somber and serious all the time.”
On dealing with the news cycle: “I try to stay informed. I have people that I tell, ‘If you read something really good, send it to me.’ I think that reading too much media can be very negative and bad for the soul. You just forget there are good things happening in the world and good people who are doing good things. It’s important sometimes to tune out and take a break from the daily digest of doom and gloom. The last year I’ve been focused on reading books and reading less media; it’s been good and helpful [laughs].”
Why she urges everyone to become politically active: “Something that my dad was always very cognizant of was the idea that when you stand up for yourself, you’re also standing up for other women. And it’s true. You don’t just stand up for yourself, you stand up for everyone else that’s in your position, and I think it’s super important to do that.”
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Emma Watson…is scattering hardcover copies of Maya Angelou’s book Mom & Me & Mom throughout the station — tucking them between pipes, placing them on benches, atop the emergency call box — in hopes that New York commuters will pick them up and put down their smartphones. This display of civil disobedience was conceived by Books on the Underground, a London-based organization that plants books on public transportation for travelers to discover. “We’re being ninjas,” she says with a conspiratorial grin as she digs in a big black rucksack of books. “If there were anyone to be a ninja for, it’d be Maya Angelou.”
…Today she’s makeup-free, her hair shoved into a bun, and she’s wearing a nondescript dark wool coat over a baggy black sweater, completely blending in with New York’s distracted mass-transit masses.
“It’s good that we’re spreading a little bit of love,” she says. As she removes the last book, a train pulls into the station. She hops in, places it on a seat, hops out, and watches from the platform as the doors close and a young man inquisitively picks it up.
Aboveground, over coffee at a nearby café, Watson explains why she thinks reading is “sacred.” There’s the obvious, professional reason: Harry Potter was a literary sensation before becoming the blockbuster franchise that made her famous and a millionaire many times over. But books are also rooted in her deepest personal experiences. “Books gave me a way to connect with my father,” she says. “Some of my most precious and treasured moments . . .” She trails off and, unexpectedly for someone who is known for her composure, tears up. Her parents divorced when she was young. “I just remember him reading to me before bed and how he used to do all the different voices. I grew up on film sets, and books were my connection to the outside world. They were my connection to my friends back at school because if I was reading what they were reading we’d have something in common. Later in life, they became an escape, a means of empowerment, a friend I could rely on.”
…“She’s way more like a real person than a movie star,” according to Gloria Steinem, who became a friend when Watson reached out to discuss the changing face of feminist activism. …Hamilton creator Lin-Manuel Miranda, who met Watson backstage at a performance of the musical, sums it up: “She played this very smart, conscious, noble wizard — and then somehow we had the good fortune that she became a smart, conscious, noble woman.” (They did a video together — Miranda freestyling, Watson beatboxing — to raise awareness for International Women’s Day. It got more than six million views.)
Excerpts from the article:
Emma Watson tells In the Gloss about her make-up routine: “There’s something about looking into someone else’s makeup bag — it’s such an intimate glimpse into their personality somehow. When I was a kid and working on Harry Potter, I would always ask the makeup artists, or just anyone, ‘Can I see your makeup bag?’ I loved exploring that way. And my other favorite thing was, while I was having my hair and makeup done, to clean and organize people’s makeup bags. So I would sit there and clean every product and put it all back together again. Anyway, it’s been a passion of mine for a long time. Recently I’ve become super interested in sustainability and transparency and understanding what I’m putting on my face and on my body. It’s been a fun little mission to see how far I can go with it… Can I create a completely sustainable wardrobe? Can I dress sustainably on the red carpet? Can I put together a hair and makeup look with completely organic products? I needed to figure out if it was achievable or not. You can’t talk the talk if you don’t walk the walk. So that’s what I’ve been discovering over the past couple of years.
At first, I didn’t really know the answer. I was doing all this research and came across Content, a cute little shop on the Marylebone High Street. Every week, I would go back and try something different, until one of the girls who works there asked if I wanted to meet Imelda Burke, who runs the store. So I went for lunch with Imelda and we became really close friends. Now I’m lucky enough to be able to text her and ask about any product I find — if she knows if it’s organic or natural or clean and all that. She actually just came out with her own book, which is amazing because she’s just done an insane amount of research. The other way I find out about a lot of my products is on Instagram. I just keep a beady eye out really… Most of my routine keeps to an 80/20 philosophy because it’s very difficult to be a complete purist, especially when working in the film industry. You can end up driving yourself a bit mad and make it more stressful than it should be…
The object for me when applying makeup is you should be able to see as much skin as possible. As I’ve gotten older, I’ve embraced my freckles much more and I want to be able to see them. When we were filming Beauty and the Beast, I insisted on keeping my freckles as a part of the movie. There are so many young girls who are going through puberty who really hate having them, so I felt the need to say that I have them and that I think the look of natural skin is beautiful. I didn’t want to get blanked out!
Thanks to growing implementation of a law passed last year, child marriage may soon be a relic of Malawi’s past, and on the eve of the International Day of the Girl Child, UN Women Goodwill Ambassador Emma Watson visited the country to celebrate the achievements of UN Women, the Malawian Government, local chiefs and girls who have returned to school after having their marriages annulled.
“Meeting with young girls, who like many in their country, are struggling with poverty and were pressured into early marriage, depriving them of their education in the process, made me realize just how important it is for women to be able to make their own choices,” said Watson. “It’s so encouraging to see how such a harmful practice can be stopped when communities work together to pass laws, and then turn those laws into reality.”
In 2015, Malawi passed the Marriage, Divorce and Family Relations Act, raising the minimum age of marriage to 18. Since then, UN Women has worked with partners and tribal chiefs to ensure that the law is implemented at a local level. Malawi’s President, Professor Arthur Peter Mutharika, who is an Impact Champion of the HeForShe Campaign, has appointed a special task force to see that the law is fully implemented within five years.
According to UN Women, Malawi has one of the highest rates of child marriage in the world: half of girls are married before the age of 18, usually because families are too poor to continue to support them. Moreover, teen pregnancies account for 20 to 30 per cent of maternal deaths, and a mere 45 per cent of girls continue their education beyond the 8th grade.
Excluding China, one-third of girls from developing countries are married before the age of 18, ending their childhood and right to education. Early marriage practices also expose girls to physical and sexual abuse as well as early pregnancies before they are emotionally or physically ready to care for a child.
Malawi’s law is the result of 12 years of effort, including cooperation between UN Women and local community chiefs. Around the world, UN Women advocates for the adoption and implementation of laws that prohibit and prevent child marriage. It empowers girls and women to know their rights, and rallies communities to help bring an end to the practice.
Ms. Watson’s visit brings to light the work of these communities and their international partners. In Dedza, a district in Central Malawi, she met with Chief Kachindamoto, a prominent leader in the fight to end child marriage whose efforts have earned her the nickname ‘The Terminator,’ thanks to her tireless efforts.
Ms. Watson praised Chief Kachindamoto, who “has implemented the annulment of so many child marriages and restored the future of these girls. With the help and collaboration of her local chiefs, mothers’ group and religious leaders, she has managed to annul almost 1,500 child marriages, sending the girls back to school. Because of bold and brave leadership like this, things may start to change. It was amazing to be on the ground with UN Women to witness their work!”
This work is essential to achieving the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). As UN Country Representative Clara Anyangwe explains, “progress is not possible without investing in women and girls. They are our future and constitute half of any society’s promise and resources.” UN Women’s Planet 50-50 by 2030 calls upon governments to empower women and girls to reach their full potential by making national commitments such as the one in Malawi that Ms. Anyangwe calls “a top priority for change.”
The UN marks the International Day of the Girl Child annually on 11 October. This year’s theme is ‘Girls’ Progress = Goals’ Progress: What Counts for Girls,’ and urges stakeholders to take the opportunity provided by the 2030 Agenda and the SDGs to harness the data required to ensure programmes, policies and services effectively respond to the specific needs of girls.
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Here is the complete interview:
bell hooks: “Ms. Emma Watson, you are my latest girl crush.”
Emma Watson: “Aww, bell. Well, you’ve been my girl crush for a little while now.”
bh: “Oh, yeah? How did I come to be your girl crush?”
EW: “I came to you through my friend Lilah. The minute that I got the UN position, the first thing Lilah did was to send me one of your books. And then as I was doing my own research, I found the videos of you speaking at The New School. And I was like, “Who is this woman? She’s so funny.” I loved your attitude so much. Everything you said just seemed to be coming from such an honest place. It was a pleasure to listen to you speak. I got hooked. I started watching video after video after video after video. Then I met with Laverne Cox, and we talked about you. I had watched you in conversation with her. It was Laverne who said, “Listen, you have to meet her in person. She’s wonderful.” So I read your work and then we met. That’s been my journey, really.”
bh: “That’s so funny because I came to you through your work as well, watching you as an actress in the Harry Potter movies. As a cultural critic who writes about women and representation, I was fascinated by the character of Hermione. It was both exciting and at times infuriating to watch the way the character of Hermione developed and to see this vibrant image of a girl who was just so intelligent, who is such a thinker, then to also witness that that intelligence was placed in the service of boy power. Even so, it remains an important representation for girls.”
EW: “I think it is. She’s important because she – well, certainly when I was reading Harry Potter, I started reading Harry Potter when I was eight – I just really identified with her. I was the girl in school whose hand shot up to answer the questions. I was really eager to learn in an uncool way. In a super uncool way, actually. And then the character of Hermione gave me permission to be who I was.” Continue reading
Benedict Cumberbatch and Emma Watson have been appointed as visiting fellows at Oxford University.
“They are people drawn from a variety of backgrounds, callings and professions and we want them to form a bridge between our own academic community and the worlds they inhabit and represent,” Alan Rusbridger, the principal of Oxford University, said in a press release.
The positions are part-time and are intended to add to the cultural life of the college, according to Rusbridger.
“At a minimum we’d like them to drop in occasionally at college, eat with us and meet informally with a variety of the LMH community,” Rusbridger said. “We’d like them to do one thing a bit more structured. It could be a conversation or debate, a performance, a lecture or seminar, a form of outreach – or something we haven’t thought of. We can imagine fascinating interactions or collaborations between them. They are welcome to come and stay in college if they’d like a place temporarily to think or work. And some have already suggested other ways in which they might engage with a body of 700 incredibly smart students and tutors in order to stimulate their own thinking or work in progress.”
A list of possible visiting fellows was drawn up by the college’s governing body, and then narrowed down by a committee. Ultimately only one person approached by the college turned it down.
“Some of the names we announce today did not go to university,” Rusbridger said. “One left school at 16. We think we can learn much from them – and we hope they treasure their time with us.”
Cumberbatch studied for a BA in drama at Manchester University and has an MA in classical acting, and Watson has a degree from Brown University.
“Some of those dinners were eclectic affairs,” Rusbridger said of his time meeting with fellows as a student. “Alongside the students and tutors there would be bishops, bankers, spies, journalists and economists. Lord Nuffield, it seemed to me, was on to something: this was a way of enriching the life of a college and its students, and of blowing oxygen through the corridors.”
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Emma Watson has recommended many books in her interviews through the years, and Hello Giggles compiled the full list:
Emma Watson covers the Winter issue of Porter.
On launching the HeForShe campaign: “I was encouraged not to use the word ‘feminism’ because people felt that it was alienating and separating and the whole idea of the speech was to include as many people as possible. But I thought long and hard and ultimately felt that it was just the right thing to do. If women are terrified to use the word, how on earth are men supposed to start using it?”
On becoming more vocal about her career: “[I’ve] spent more than half of my life pretending to be someone else. While my contemporaries were dying their hair and figuring out who they were, I was figuring out who Hermione was and how best to portray her. Now at 25, for the first time in my life I feel like I have a sense of self that I’m comfortable with. I actually do have things that I want to say and I want to be my most authentic self. I don’t want there to be a big separation between the public and the private person. It’s definitely the harder road to tread, but without a doubt, ultimately the most rewarding. It sounds like a ridiculous thing to say, but I’m very interested in truth, in finding ways to be messy and unsure and flawed and incredible and great and my fullest self, all wrapped into one. When you watch the work of someone like actress Emma Thompson, you feel like you’re seeing something true, and I aspire to that.”
On fashion: “When I was younger I remember being told ‘no pain no gain’, but recently my willingness to wear something that makes me freezing cold or that I can’t walk in has changed. I want to feel fabulous and comfortable and sexy and strong and beautiful. And if it’s making you uncomfortable, don’t do it. It’s so sad if you need to go home just because you need to sit down! Moving forward, I’m prioritizing just feeling awesome.”
On fair trade fashion: “I think using fashion as a means of expression is brilliant. One of the ways I became a UN Women Goodwill Ambassador was through my interest in fair-trade fashion. Because so many women design and make the clothes we wear, it’s primarily the working conditions of women that are affected by the decisions we make, so fashion is a feminist issue.”
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