Let's Talk About That Emma Watson Interview...

After a recent interview with British Vogue, actress Emma Watson found herself in the middle of a media frenzy over a phrase she used: self-partnered.

I went on Twitter the day the article dropped, and it didn’t take long to see Watson being ridiculed and trolled for her use of the phrase. Both ‘Emma Watson’ and ‘self-partnered’ were trending on Twitter, and there were news articles everywhere. It was overwhelming to see trolling on such a scale, with so many people jumping on one woman and a simple phrase she had invented for her own empowerment.

So, I decided to listen to the interview for myself to try and work out what was really going on. The interview – a thirty-minute video on British Vogue’s YouTube channel – was conducted by Paris Lees, and I was not at all surprised to find that Emma does not spend those thirty minutes talking exclusively about her dating life, as was suggested across social media.

In fact, what I found was an intellectual and in-depth conversation between two intelligent businesswomen about incredibly relevant and important topics. And it was bizarre to me to find that, out of everything Emma and Paris talked about, the topic people saw most importance in, or at least chose to focus on, was the final three minutes where they touched on the topic of dating. I say I found it bizarre, but in actuality, is anyone really that surprised?

So, what did Emma Watson actually talk about?

Once I’d watched the interview (which is great, btw) the first thing I did was go to the comments. They were full of people like me wondering why this woman’s words had been so misconstrued and taken out of the context of this fascinating debate.

People were even questioning whoever at British Vogue was in charge of writing the titles for their YouTube videos, with this one in particular titled: ‘Emma Watson Talks Turning 30, Working With Meryl Streep, And Being Happily Single.’ Emma talked about much more interesting things than her upcoming 30th birthday, I can assure you.

The Harry Potter actress actually discussed some extremely topical and intellectual debates, one of them being her take on the debate surrounding criticism of her and other white women beings ‘White Feminists.’ The term refers to feminists that lack the acknowledgment of their own privilege as white people, viewing feminism as an entirely separate issue to race, trans rights, and class systems.

She accounted for social media being a ‘really interesting space’ that allowed her to find this criticism and reflect on how she had been perceiving feminism, citing the popular book ‘Why I'm No Longer Talking to White People About Race’ by Reni Eddo-Lodge. To Emma, it was clear that this was something she had ‘to meaningfully engage with.’

The conversation naturally spun off into other topics, including the British education system and its habit of westernising history. She suggested British schools gloss over ‘how we have been involved in foreign affairs,’ as well as criticising the way schools teach (or don’t teach) Britain’s relationship with slavery.

Emma and Paris also raised the topics of mental health and how Emma’s early fame affected her own mental well-being, as well as discussing transgender rights (Paris herself being a trans woman).

It was once things turned to Emma’s new film, ‘Little Woman,’ that it became clear to me what she was trying to do with her term ‘self-partnered’. To her, the characters in ‘Little Woman’ represent the different options and identities women have, and the fact that they should have complete choice over them. For example, while for Emma’s character ‘Meg,’ getting married is part of her choice, it isn’t the same for character Jo (played by Saoirse Ronan), and that is perfectly ok.

Finally, in the last three minutes of the interview, comes the dating talk. Yes, Paris asks Emma if she’s dating and yes, Emma talks about being happy within herself and describes herself as ‘self-partnered.’ But in an interview where just moments before Watson was discussing the ‘influx of subliminal messages’ women receive regarding needing the ‘stability of a husband’ by the time they turn thirty, why did her innocent, self-empowering term receive the most media attention?

Emma Watson, a woman that grew up in the eyes of a public who literally counted down the days, minutes and seconds until she legally became an adult (i.e. could be legally sexualised), wanted to remind people that her dating and sex life do not define her. To remind people that there is an unhealthy fixation on women’s sex lives that is both obscure and uncomfortable. To remind people that she is a powerful activist, a UN Goodwill Ambassador, and a woman who adores literature.

And yet, this interview will forever be remembered as the time she used ‘self-partnered’.

She was mocked for not feeding into the fixation with the female body. She was trolled for saying that she is happy without a husband or partner because she can provide her own stability. And so what did these people do?

They proved her right.

Watch Emma’s British Vogue interview here: