It’s hard enough to be an active feminist, out there getting things done in the name of women’s rights. But when people are constantly evaluating your decision to do so — applauding you, criticizing you, whatever it is people feel like doing at any given moment — it gets old fast. In a new interview with Elle UK, Emma Watson spoke out about fighting the good fight — and what it’s like to be a celebrity and an activist at the same time.
Watson has given some incredible speeches for the U.N. Women’s program HeForShe, and she took a year off from acting to study feminist literature and start a feminist book club. In other words, she’s a badass. But even Watson feels tender after harsh words in the public eye.
“There is a level of criticism that comes with being an actress and a public figure, which I expect, but once you take a stance on something like feminism, that’s a completely different ball game,” she said. “There were a couple of days when I just didn’t want to come out from under the duvet. At first, I wasn’t sure if I should allow myself to be upset by it, but then I realized I needed to give myself 24 hours to sulk, and then move forward.”
Watson said she drew strength from fellow activists, who raised her up with actual sparkles. “I got a lot of support from other feminist voices, too,” she said. “Laura Bates [of Everyday Sexism] sent me a care package with sequins and glitter, notes of encouragement and chocolate, which more or less said, ‘Don’t let the bastards grind you down.’ I had to remind myself that the criticism wasn’t personal and it was par for the course.” That’s right, folks — celebs are human, just like us, and definitely have their own faults and flaws.
The worst part was when her peers got on her case and flung insults. “It’s difficult to hear criticism from people you consider your peers and who you believe are on the same side,” she said. “But, you know, I just carried on, and some of the stuff made me more thoughtful and questioning of my approach. But some of it you just have to not engage with, and you become more robust. And, of course, sometimes you just have to laugh at the absurdity of it all. Feminism can be humorous, and we all have a different way of approaching that. I often wonder what mischief I can make to spread the word in a playful way. You can’t take everything in life seriously, can you?”
We love to hear a celeb who can take herself a little less seriously and who is aware that everything worth doing requires a little strength. Today, Watson has developed a way tougher skin. “I’m not sure I care too much now what people think; it’s more I don’t live up to my own expectations,” Watson said. “This is exhausting. I certainly feel that, after this year off, I care much less about offending people or trying to make everyone around me comfortable all the time. You know, sometimes you have to do what you have to do, and you will live.”
The good news is that Watson knows her own limits and likes to stay thoroughly grounded through the process. And if you’re hoping to read a memoir about her experiences, think again. “I need to see and do a bit more first,” Watson said. “It’s not like I have been reading this material for years, and I don’t have an encyclopedic knowledge. It can be a lot of pressure sometimes, as people expect me to know so much. I’m no expert, and when people push me into a corner of ‘Here’s Emma Watson to lecture you on feminism,’ it’s uncomfortable because I am aware I have a long way to go. I am not sure I deserve all the respect I get yet, but I’m working on it.”
Emma Watson has a long way to go, just like everybody else. Always refreshing to hear a celeb speak so openly and honestly about a topic that matters to her — and to lots of us. Bravo, Watson! Keep fighting the good fight.