The Feminist Media Reader: Emma Watson, Loose Women and 4chan

by - Wednesday, September 24, 2014

Everybody in the western world with an internet connection needs no introduction to Emma Watson and her incredibly astute take on feminism issues at the recent UN Summit. Her eloquent speech introducing the (admittedly fairly rubbishly named) #heforshe seems to have inspired many on my Facebook have received almost universal support from my Twitter and Facebook feeds, but not so much from the usual media suspects. Before we get into the nitty, gritty, let us first address the highlights of Miss Watson's speech:

“I was appointed six months ago and the more I have spoken about feminism the more I have realised that fighting for women’s rights has too often become synonymous with man-hating. If there is one thing I know for certain, it is that this has to stop. For the record, feminism by definition is: ‘The belief that men and women should have equal rights and opportunities. It is the theory of the political, economic and social equality of the sexes. Men - I would like to take this opportunity to extend your formal invitation. Gender equality is your issue too. Because to date, I’ve seen my father’s role as a parent being valued less by society despite my needing his presence as a child as much as my mother’s. I’ve seen young men suffering from mental illness unable to ask for help        for fear it would make them look less ‘macho’ — in fact in the UK suicide is the biggest killer of men between 20-49; eclipsing road accidents, cancer and coronary heart disease. I’ve seen men made fragile and insecure by a distorted sense of what constitutes male success. Men don’t have the benefits of equality either.”

As someone who believes feminism should be far less about 'equalism' that the separation from the male form in it's very title (fem-inism), this speech felt like everything I've been wanting to say but haven't had the platform to do so. In my own personal fight for womens rights I'm exceptionally tired of men being branded with the enemy stick. I am surrounded in my life by good, great men who want nothing more than to see women on the same platform, and having down some research into paternity laws, I think there are definitely some areas in which men definitely get the rawer end of the deal, so often overlooked by militant feminists. 

Seeing this young, intelligent woman speak so strongly about an issue which, however wrongly, had the potential to greatly alienate her fanbase  felt incredibly powerful and I have been overjoyed at how much respect she has received for it. A recent poll by YouGov shows that there is definite need for more men to feel comfortable identifying with the cause, as exemplified below:

 Although, as is so often the case with feminism or equality issues, it hasn't been a complete win. As always, the tabloid press can be relied on to oppress a woman down to her most basic form. I give you the sort of introduction you could only expect from the Daily Mail - 

 Yup, the make-up is definitely the focal point of her appearance. Sure. Let's also look at their 'suggested reading' for Emma Watson. Now tell me, which is more interesting - her UN Speech, or her 'slinky bralet'? I give up.

But okay, I hear you cry at your laptop screen, The Daily Mail's less-than-equal representation of the sexes is hardly anything new. Why are you bringing it up now? I agree. So lets instead turn to a show, that by definition, should be a place of respect for women, a place that encourages women to be the best they can be and speak out on issues that matter to them. Ladies and Gentlemen, I give you ITV's Loose Women. 

The premise is pretty simple - four women of 30 plus gather round a table to discuss the week's events, talk about their own lives and generally have a bit of a bicker, in an attempt to recreate the average woman's coffee morning with her friends. Sounds fine and even somewhat liberating on paper, but the truth of this show is that it has got to be one of the most regressive programmes I have ever had the misfortune of witnessing. 

I'm well aware that at 21, I should be either in Uni or work, and this daytime show is hardly aimed at my age group. I've hated this show for a long, long time and have boycotted it as such, but with it on in the background as I prepare to start my new job next week, I couldn't help but be staggered at how comfortably the panel were with labelling young women at large as being entirely naive, worthless of opinion, and in Emma's case particularly, too privileged to be able to speak about gender equality with integrity. 

That the section of yesterday's show which discussed Emma Watson was sandwiched between inane conversations about the price of fame, the ideal age for a partner and the worries of feeling unattractive to men because they're feeling past it at *gasp* 33, is loaded with irony. These are exactly the people who NEED, DESPERATELY NEED, feminism and equality. These are the people who should be championing the conversation, applauding a young woman for speaking out and encouraging more to do the same. The ability to call out sexism shouldn't stop at 30, and seeing women such as Jamelia and Janet Street Porter diminish the efforts of the next generation feels totally shocking and depressing.

Whilst it is true that these things take time, and that Emma Watson's speech is unlikely to permeate the darkest corners of the world where equality is matter of life or death, it's no reason to stop trying. Yes, she may be stunningly beautiful, rich and in possession of a comfortable lifestyle, but does that really mean that we should turn our backs on something with the platform to fight for something that will benefit us all?  

The fact that under the surface of her triumph, a 4chan threat to release Emma's nude photos, in an attempt to suppress the female form once more, speaks volumes. Like every other woman who has been targeted, fame and riches haven't counted for anything when it comes to exploitation. No amount of money will protect her from the prying eyes of men and women alike - those who choose to leer or, quite frankly, the large majority of women who seek these pictures even though we know it is wrong, because that is how the media has conditioned us, to want to compare ourselves to other women, to see them in their 'real' form. The amount of issues at play here are too many to count in one blogpost, but one thing is for certain: one young girl making waves is far more likely to spark debate and change that four older women sat around a table claiming that everything is okay. Equality is a long way off, but if Emma Watson can find the time to fight for it, I think we all can. 

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