In 2014, Emma Watson gave a career changing speech in front of the United Nations, asserting her position as a feminist. Somehow, that came into question this week in a controversy about a photo of Watson in Vanity Fair. On Saturday, Watson addressed the Vanity Fair photo's backlash in an interview with Reuters. The magazine published a photo of the Beauty and the Beast star wearing a cape, an outfit that exposed parts of her breasts, publications and people on social media raced to criticize her for it, questioning her feminist views because of it.
In the interview, Watson explained the ordeal to reporter and costar Dan Stevens, joking how critics “were saying that I couldn’t be a feminist and have boobs." Watson was rightfully shocked by the reaction to the photo shoot, but used the opportunity to shed a light on how often feminism is misunderstood. "It just always reveals to me how many misconceptions there is about what feminism is," she said in the 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 know what my t*ts have to do with it.”
The Vanity Fair photo shoot and cover story was published ahead of the Beauty and the Beast release. "The shot itself — I was honestly slightly taken aback by [the criticism] because we'd been doing so many crazy things on that shoot but it felt incredibly artistic, Watson said in the interview with Reuters, "and I've been so creatively involved and engaged with Tim and I'm so thrilled about how interesting and beautiful the photographs were."
Vanity Fair posted the shot to Instagram, which was taken by Tim Walker and captioned, "Maturing from Hermione to Belle in @beautyandthebeast is a true coming-of-age story for @EmmaWatson: 'I couldn't care less if I won an Oscar or not if the movie didn’t say something that I felt was important for people to hear.'' Watson also spoke out about her role as Belle in the full interview, and how she hopes young women will be inspired by the strong and rebellious character. Watson was not alone in her surprise that the photo caused such a stir, and many fans on Twitter defended the star.
This wouldn't be the first time that Watson has openly discussed the widespread misconception of feminism. In an interview with EW in February, she said, “I think the word is really difficult because it seems to inherently address a preferential treatment of the feminine over the masculine because it has the feminine in the word, and I think that’s a real oversight and misunderstanding. This isn’t just girls are better than boys, boys are better than girls. This is just everyone deserves a fair chance."
Watson is well-versed on the importance of feminism and education; she is a proponent of the HeForShe foundation, which brings the public in on women's issues. Much of her advocacy work has been dedicated to encouraging people to take part in the movement. Her response to the photo's backlash is perfect - by offering a definition of feminism, emphasizing body autonomy, the criticism is totally invalidated.