To the Daily Mail: Emma Watson is so much more than you see her

On 20th September 2014 Emma Watson delivered a speech on gender equality at the United Nations Headquarters in New York. It was a loaded speech that was as moving as it was inspirational. The Daily Mail’s response? A headline with no mention of the speech whatsoever, but, ironically, with the focus of the article on Watson’s appearance.

The headline? ‘She means business! Emma Watson is smart and sophisticated in belted white coat dress at UN event in role of Goodwill Ambassador For Women‘.

Aside from the extremely patronising beginning, it is evident that the focus is on Watson’s looks, not on her intellect. The omission of any mention of the speech from the headline sends a very sad message, one that conveys that a woman’s actions and voice are not heard, nor important, and all that matters is that she takes a pretty picture.

She is intelligent, talented and inspirational, yet The Daily Mail’s neglect to mention such attributes other than what she looks like expresses a toxic notion, particularly to young women

Emma Watson is no novice when it comes to having her aesthetic choices heavily analysed, especially as she has been scrutinised in the media from such a young age. She is a regular at fashion weeks and the red carpet and has spoken in interviews about how much she loves fashion. She has certainly gained the title of ‘style icon’ from both the press and the public, a title which, quite frankly, she deserves.

This is not the issue; everyone should have the freedom to wear what they choose to and enjoy it. No, the issue here is that Watson’s style is just one aspect of her, and certainly not the most important one. She is intelligent, talented and inspirational, yet The Daily Mail’s neglect to mention such attributes other than what she looks like expresses a toxic notion, particularly to young women.

Missing the point in spectacular fashion, the report focusing on her ‘look’ illustrates some of the struggles women face everyday in being taken seriously as leaders and/or ambassadors for change

The speech is hardly mentioned in the article at all and seems a mere afterthought compared to her ‘elegant oatmeal dress with blazer structuring on top and pleated skirt on the lower half’, as The Daily Mail puts it. In fact, a read through the article reveals that the speech is barely discussed in comparison with the detailed evaluation of her appearance: ‘Her brown locks were swept into a centre-parting and she kept her make-up understated and natural’.

University of Nottingham student, Emma Kendall tells Impact: The Daily Mail’s ironic coverage of Emma Watson’s speech is disappointing but in no way surprising. Missing the point in spectacular fashion, the report focusing on her ‘look’ illustrates some of the struggles women face everyday in being taken seriously as leaders and/or ambassadors for change. Ultimately, however, they probably haven’t harmed the campaign and instead played right into the hands of feminists by proving the need for our movement within the media and wider world!”

This is the United Nations. Her speech should have been – and most certainly was for those present – centre-stage

This is not a fashion piece. This is a ‘showbiz’ news piece. Emma is not on the red carpet, an environment where sartorial choices are the focus. This is the United Nations. Her speech should have been – and most certainly was for those present – center-stage. Overshadowing the empowering speech with Watson’s appearance in the article is not only ironic, but it is also problematic, as little reference to the speech creates the impression that this was not as important as her appearance on the day, a contrasting message to Watson’s speech entirely.

Natasha Gregson

Originally published in Impact Magazine.

Photo credit: UN Women.

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