‘In what ways do we support and uphold a system that is structurally racist?’

Emma Watson poses powerful questions on 'white privilege' in this open letter...

Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie

Emma Watson poses powerful questions on 'white privilege' in this open letter...

We all remember Emma Watson's famous UN speech in 2015, with the actress taking to the stage to call out gender inequality and invite both men and women to join the HeForShe movement.

While her speech was met by a positive response, even going viral, there were some who weren't impressed, criticising her for advocating 'white feminism'.

This is something that the now 27-year-old actress has recently addressed in a candid open letter - and it is very powerful.

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‘When I gave my UN speech in 2015, so much of what I said was about the idea that “being a feminist is simple!” Easy! No problem!' the actress explained. 'I have since learned that being a feminist is more than a single choice or decision. It’s an interrogation of self. Every time I think I’ve peeled all the layers, there’s another layer to peel. But, I also understand that the most difficult journeys are often the most worthwhile. And that this process cannot be done at anyone else’s pace or speed.

'When I heard myself being called a “white feminist” I didn’t understand (I suppose I proved their case in point). What was the need to define me — or anyone else for that matter — as a feminist by race? What did this mean? Was I being called racist? Was the feminist movement more fractured than I had understood? I began…panicking.

Emma Watson meets Justin Trudeau

Emma Watson meets Justin Trudeau

She continued: ‘It would have been more useful to spend the time asking myself questions like: What are the ways I have benefited from being white? In what ways do I support and uphold a system that is structurally racist? How do my race, class and gender affect my perspective? There seemed to be many types of feminists and feminism. But instead of seeing these differences as divisive, I could have asked whether defining them was actually empowering and bringing about better understanding. But I didn’t know to ask these questions.

Emma concluded her letter: ‘I met a woman this year named Happy who works for an organisation called Mama Cash and she told me this about her long history working in the women’s sector: “Call me out. But if you’re going to call me out, walk alongside me as I do the work”. Working alongside women like Happy is a privilege. As human beings, as friends, as family members, as partners, we all have blind spots; we need people that love us to call us out and then walk with us while we do the work.’

This is incredibly powerful.

Jenny Proudfoot
Features Editor

Jenny Proudfoot is an award-winning journalist, specialising in lifestyle, culture, entertainment, international development and politics. She has worked at Marie Claire UK for seven years, rising from intern to Features Editor and is now the most published Marie Claire writer of all time. She was made a 30 under 30 award-winner last year and named a rising star in journalism by the Professional Publishers Association.