Emma Watson on Feminism and Becoming a Woman

Vanity Fair cover by Tim Walker

Mar 01, 2017

Posted by: Ashley Kurtz | Comments

Actor Interviews, Interviews, Media, Watson, Watson Interviews

Emma Watson’s recent interview with Vanity Fair discusses just about everything you can imagine including her upcoming movie, Beauty and the Beast, as well as her transformation from our cherished Hermione Granger to a U.N. ambassador and feminist activist.

Photo by Tim Walker for Vanity Fair.

Photo by Tim Walker for Vanity Fair.

Interviewing everyone from Gloria Steinem to Lin Manual Miranda and a few others; it’s a long in-depth look at the woman Emma has become, what’s important to her, and why.

Unlike other child stars, Emma avoids the limelight; and one could say that she is very unlike a lot of young celebrities. According to interviewer Derek Blasberg:

“She was a shy teenager, but friendly, intelligent, and down to earth. Watson is described as much the same today: ‘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. (More on that later.) 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.’”

Dealing with growing up in the Harry Potter films, fame had become something of a burden for her. Like all teenagers, she had conflicts about her identity as a woman and how that fits in with the world outside of Potter.

Despite this, she does, of course appreciate the opportunity of playing the smartest witch at Hogwarts. She calls it “winning the lottery”, but even so, it comes with unprecedented challenges.

“For mostly better and occasionally worse, the Potter books and films not only captured the imagination of millions of people but, for many of them, changed their lives. It’s something Watson is deeply aware of. ‘I have met fans that have my face tattooed on their body. I’ve met people who used the Harry Potter books to get through cancer. I don’t know how to explain it, but the Harry Potter phenomenon steps into a different zone. It crosses into obsession. A big part of me coming to terms with it was accepting that this is not your average circumstances.’”

Dealing with paparazzi, stalkers, and rabid fans from a young age could affect anyone negatively, but for Watson it’s affected how she interacts with fans. She won’t take selfies with fans because of the possibility of the photo being tracked, but will instead offer up conversation about Potter or anything else for that matter.

Photo by Tim Walker for Vanity Fair.

Photo by Tim Walker for Vanity Fair.

Reading, though, is something that she’s still very passionate about. Like Hermione, it provides her comfort, but is also a resource for her; and, in association, her fans. She started a GoodReads book club, called Our Shared Shelf, where she invites participants to read books along with her. Her first choice was My Life on the Road by feminist author and activist Gloria Steinem. Together, her and Blasberg scatter books on public transport – to share the joy of reading with strangers. Reading plays an important role in her life, which she described saying:

“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.”

Emma has matured into something akin to what we could see Hermione being as an adult; a well spoken, beautiful, smart, noble activist – who isn’t afraid to say her mind and speak up for others. She’s become an official meditation coach, but most importantly as speaker for woman as a U.N. ambassador. Three years ago she realized that she could use her fame to try to create a better world and to shift focus from her onto causes that she cares about. HeforShe, is just one example. It strives to bring men to care about feminist issues; and that feminism isn’t just a cause for women, it’s a cause that affects everyone.

Hermione is definitely a feminist, who speaks her mind, strives to be equal and works hard for things she cares about – and would definitely be someone Watson could be proud of.  Emma fully embraces words like “feminism” and “patriarchy” and it could be safe to say that even in a world like the Wizarding one, feminism is an important issue. In 2014, she spoke at HeforShe, ending her speech with “I am inviting you to step forward, to be seen, and to ask yourself, If not me, who? If not now, when?”.

Photo by Tim Walker.

Photo by Tim Walker.

Now it’s a few years later, and she adds another feminist character to her list by playing Belle in the upcoming Beauty and the Beast. While some argue that she’s not a feminist character, it’s evident that Emma disagrees. She even helped change the character to a woman that Steinem even approves of, one that isn’t an assistant to her father; but one that creates inventions herself. To a woman that doesn’t wear slippers; but wears boots and bloomers so that she can ride horses and other practical things.

“The original sketches had her in her ballet shoes,” Watson says, “which are lovely—don’t get me wrong—but she’s not going to be able to do anything terribly useful in ballet shoes in the middle of a French provincial village.”

Photo by Tim Walker for Vanity Fair.

Photo by Tim Walker for Vanity Fair.

“When I finished the film, it kind of felt like I had made that transition into being a woman on-screen,” she says. Belle is “absolutely a Disney princess, but she’s not a passive character—she’s in charge of her own destiny.”

She used the role of Belle to really push her activism, making sure that even the press tour wardrobe was activism friendly. She sought out answers to where her clothes were made, their impact on the environment and why exactly she should wear it on the red carpet. She is even advertising all of her eco-friendly outfits and their origin on a new Instagram account titled The Press Tour.

But most of all, she shows all of us that one can be a feminist; and her on-screen father Kevin Kline said:

“When someone has a feminist point of view, we tend to think she’s no fun at all. But a feminist can be feminine, delicate, vulnerable, sweet—and still demand to be taken seriously. Emma fits the bill perfectly.”

We at Leaky think that Hermione, and J.K. Rowling would be proud to see the woman Emma Watson has become.





The Leaky Cauldron is not associated with J.K. Rowling, Warner Bros., or any of the individuals or companies associated with producing and publishing Harry Potter books and films.