Last night I was in the same room as Hermione Granger. This is going to be an intelligent blog post about feminism (I hope) but first I just need to “fan girl” a little. I breathed the same air as Emma frickin’ Watson! Completely surreal. And before you ask or assume, this wasn’t an opportunity I got because I’m a YouTuber – it was an open event to the public and I just bought a ticket.
I’m going to be honest, I didn’t know who Gloria Steinem was before I found out about this event but oh my has that woman done so many incredible things in her life. She has done a lot of living. There was a really great atmosphere at the event and even though I went on my own I made friends with a lovely woman, Nicole, from Austin who sat next to me. It was a pleasant evening and I think ‘pleasant’ is the right word to use here because even though it was a lovely experience it didn’t especially make me feel really angry and inspired to go out and change the world. And I think that’s due to the limitations of the feminism that Gloria and Emma were presenting.
First of all, Gloria Steinem is 81 years old – she fought through all of second wave feminism, broke off an engagement, had an abortion before it was legal, and she’s continued fighting. I am 24 years old and other than the sexism I’ve encountered because I’m a woman, life has been pretty great so far. I definitely felt that in a lot of her ideas and between her feminism and mine there was a generational gap, which is to be expected. I disagreed with her stance on porn, on the idea of being a “humanist” and there was not one mention of intersectionality.
If you don’t know, intersectionality is about how different parts of your identity interact which create a unique form of oppression. I experience oppression as a woman but I’m also white, straight, cis, middle class, Western, thin and able-bodied. A black transwoman will have entirely different experiences than me because of the other forms of oppression and intersectional feminism is about recognising that and including the voices of all women. Emma and Gloria did speak about the bigger picture of gender inequality such as the global economic impact and the effect it has on climate change which slightly touched on how the experiences of women around the world are different but there was no explicit talk about it or recognition of their own privilege. Not only as white women, but rich white women. Emma Watson recently announced that she is taking a break from acting to learn more about feminism and focus on her activism – I think this is awesome but if only we could all just quit our jobs to learn about feminism!
A lot of people give Emma Watson a hard time for being a “white feminist” and if we’re just using adjectives yes she’s white and yes she’s a feminist but from seeing her discuss feminism with Gloria last night I can really see that she is trying and learning. Being a feminist doesn’t mean you have all the answers, it’s a process and that definitely came across from Emma. Gloria, probably because of all her experience and age, seemed very stuck in her way about what feminism means to her but Emma seemed a lot more open to make mistakes, recognised that she didn’t know everything and was still learning because she’s only 25! That’s only a bit older than me and I saw a lot myself in her when she was stumbling over her words, losing her point half way through a sentence and asking questions when she didn’t understand something.
One thing that really irked me though was during the Q&A the only man who got hold of the mic started by saying “I think feminism would be solved if…” and started to mansplain to a room of feminists and turns out he wasn’t even asking a question – it was just a statement. Also, Emma and Gloria briefly talked about HeForShe and mentioned that there was a lot of men in the audience and then people started applauding. Not sure if they were applauding Emma and the HeForShe campaign or applauding the men. I really hope they weren’t applauding the men. Thank you very much to those men who showed up but it doesn’t deserve an applause.
Even though the event didn’t make me feel raring to go start a revolution, I’m definitely glad I went because I still learned a lot, Emma Watson was wonderful and Gloria Steinem signed my book.
I would love to hear your thoughts on intersectional feminism, generational differences between feminists and your own personal feminist journey – remembering that we don’t all have the answers now.