Not all women can empower themselves to be Prime Minister...
Emma Watson has form when it comes to making stupid comments about feminism. Founder of the #heforshe hashtag in which she implored men to support women in our quest for liberation, the campaign fell as flat as my lockdown sourdough, and made about as much difference as did David Cameron wearing a ‘This is what A feminist looks like’ t shirt.
But Watson has now excelled herself. In true wishy-washy liberal style, she has decided that the real face of feminism is ‘choice’. That’s right, the privileged young woman who sailed through life being able to choose a top-notch education and acting school has come up with a brilliant idea for women’s emancipation: we can choose our way out of our oppression.
Empowerment. That’s right girls, come on! Forget that you live with your three under-fives on the 11th floor of a tower block and no working lift. Don’t worry that you are claiming benefits because you have no childcare. If you want to, just go and run for prime minister. You can, remember!
And if the idea of public office feels too cumbersome, turn your attention to your armpits. To shave or not to shave? Your choice, ladies. Get those high heels out and trot up and down your council estate in them, but carry your flats in case you meet a rapist and need to run away. You can do exactly what you want, and never let anyone tell you otherwise.
Those with power never talk about ’empowerment’ in relation to themselves. They don’t need to. It’s only ever applied to those without it. Watson showed her true colours when betraying the most disenfranchised women, such as those in prison, domestic violence refuges or hospital wards which she declared that ‘trans-women are women’ in response to JK Rowling critiquing extreme transgender ideology.
The kind of choice feminism Watson spouts has its roots in the most privileged ideology imaginable. It is not dissimilar to Margaret Thatcher’s ‘pull yourself up by your bootstraps’ attitude, and shows absolutely zero awareness of the constraints of so many women’s lives. In the same way that she thinks men can identify themselves into being women, she somehow thinks that women with nothing can ’empower’ themselves to become world leaders.
That might have been how it worked for Watson, but that’s not feminism. It’s neoliberal nonsense which would have us believe that the individual and his/her rights are paramount. In order to achieve liberation, women need to fight for the rights of those from the bottom of the pile first, way before we tell girls the lie that anyone can end up Prime Minister. Our society is built on inequality, and no amount of ‘empowerment’ talk can change that.