A common complaint I see from feminists is that they hate it when people who preach about feminism are actually white feminists. The issue they have with it is completely understandable because no feminist should solely focus on issues affecting white women. If that person that says they are a feminist is a white woman, they should not disregard the fact that they also have some privileges. However, when a former white feminist addresses their mistakes and works to change, it should be welcomed.
One person who has been called a white feminist dozens of times over the past few years is Emma Watson. When she first decided to be a feminist, one of the main topics of her activism was the gender wage gap.
The problem was that Watson never included the wage gap between women of different races in those discussions. In general, she would rarely speak about issues affecting women of color, and it upset the feminist community since she could have been making better use of her fame.
I am a huge fan of Watson and her 2015 UN speech was actually what inspired me to start learning about feminism, but I was disappointed to see that she was a white feminist. A part of me always hoped that she would recognize that she was not being intersectional, and a few days ago it actually happened.
Watson wrote a letter to her book club about how their first book of 2018 was 'Why I’m No Longer Talking To White People About Race' by Reni Eddo-Lodge. In her letter, she brought up how the public had labeled her as a white feminist. She explained how she was confused by it because she thought they were calling her that because she is white, and she wondered if it also meant that they were calling her racist. Watson then explained,
“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?”
I was relieved when I saw her post because I had always been hoping she would recognize her faults. Watson even thanked the people in her life that have called her out for being a white feminist because it caused her to grow as a human being.
The responses to her letter have been mixed. There are people that continue to call Watson a white feminist despite how much her activism has changed over the years, and there are others who have congratulated her for educating herself.
It is important to understand that even though it was the criticism that Watson received that caused her to change, it does not mean that she should not be praised for actually reflecting on her brand of feminism and working to make it inclusive.
Watson was a white feminist for a long time, but I do not believe that she is still one. She is making an effort to be the best feminist she can possibly be and I think that is admirable.
Feminists should not stay stuck on the fact that Watson needed to be corrected. Yes, she has made mistakes, but how do you expect the feminist community to grow if you refuse to give people the chance to better themselves?
No feminist has ever been or will ever be perfect, but those of us who truly care about social justice will continue to adapt our ways of thinking as we learn more about feminism.