What I Wish Emma Watson Said

A fictional interview with Emma Watson on the subject of her boobs and saying the wrong things

As I’m sure everyone already knows and is sick of hearing: Emma Watson has breasts.

And the fact that she has breasts and we’re now all aware of them calls into question everything that’s in her brain and comes out of her mouth.

But thankfully someone has asked Emma Watson about what people are saying about her breasts and she had the best-est response ever!

Except, it wasn’t the best response ever.

A friend and I were talking about this the other night and she said that the only conversation that should be happening — and really it should be happening with Emma Watson — is about her comments regarding Beyoncé. Because then she could’ve just apologized and we all could’ve moved on. But without her being part of that conversation we’re all just speculating and stirring the pot. But that conversation is awkward when we’re the people involved, it’s much easier for us to judge someone else’s behaviours and use them as a way of creating some distance from the event.

Is it just easier for all of us to call out Emma Watson than to deal with our own feelings around being called out? Of all the pillars that hold up white feminism, how load-bearing is denial?

These are things that many people struggle with: finding the right words, admitting when you’re wrong, apologizing, reformulating your opinions, keeping track of what you’ve said and allowing your position to change, verbally acknowledging that change, committing to learning more about another person’s perspective. We’re not really taught to do most of those things, not publicly.

So, in the hopes of giving some people a few tips on how to say those words I’ve written this entirely fictional interview with Emma Watson — who I’ve never met. So really it’s a fictional interview with the mini version of Emma Watson that exists in my head. So really really, it’s an interview where I’m both interviewer and interviewee, but I’m pretending that I look like Emma Watson when I write her answers.

I repeat: this is not a real interview with Emma Watson.

Mental-me: Hey Emma how’s it going?

Mental-Emma-Watson: It’s great, Erynn, I’m so excited to be doing this press tour for the Beauty and the Beast mov-

MM: Yeah, that’s cool. I’m still jealous that you got to be Hermione in real life and I’m not really processing that you also get to be Belle so I don’t wanna talk about that. I want to talk about the booby pics.

MEW: Ugh, fine. I have tits, I know that’s a surprise to everyone but feminism is ab-

MM: Yeah, I’m cool with you having tits, I have some myself. I’m also familiar with feminism. I want to talk about the whole hypocrisy thing.

MEW: Oh that, I already tweeted a link to the full comments I made in that interv-

MM: Yeah, I’m cool with your interview about Beyoncé from 3 years ago. I’m sure you didn’t know that you were struggling with some internalized racism, maybe some residual imperialist beliefs and general obliviousness to the colonialist misogynoir your comments were rooted in.

MEW: Exactly.

MM: So my question is… why can’t you just say that?

MEW: Oh! Did I completely skip an apology?

MM: Yes. In fact you just highlighted some words and then posted them.

MEW: That’s rather defensive of me.

MM: Yes.

MEW: I think my white fragility is showing.

MM: A bit.

MEW: Well in that case, I’m so glad you brought up the Vanity Fair shoot and the subsequent commentary. You know, three years ago I was in an interview where I danced around the subject, and rather clumsily failed to admit what was going on. I criticized Beyoncé’s video, because I was confused by her blackness, her sexuality, it was so raw I had no idea how to interpret it. Ultimately I was struggling with seeing Beyoncé doing something far more involved, intricate and powerful than a simple photograph, and I think my personal struggle in that was rooted in white privilege. I’m still learning, but I wanted to take this opportunity to apologize for those statements. I plan to commit myself to re-examining my feminist lens. I’ve been applying theory to myself and my view of the world but I can certainly improve in seeing the intersections that affect women who don’t look like me and using my position to amplify the voices of those who are far more systemically marginalized than I am. Especially given the recent commentary that was flying around over Beyoncé’s pregnancy photos. So, I’m very sorry for what I said. It was misguided and uninformed and a reflection of my own white privilege.

We’re going to end there because the interviewer in my head can’t think of a decent follow-up question. I think that’s the soundbite there.

I know it feels awkward, but we’re going to say the wrong things, and we’re going to say them all the time. Apologizing, admitting our blind spots and moving on has to be a part of the process. No one comes into learning already knowing everything.

Hopefully this fictional interview gave you a bit of an idea of how to apologize, but just in case, here’s an actual blueprint for when you get called-out on your white privilege:

  • Wait until it’s your turn to speak. If you’re being called out, there’s a reason, and you need to hear it. Don’t immediately start talking over someone to prove them wrong. Wait, listen, and when you’re given a turn to speak, go for it.
  • Acknowledge the other person’s feelings. Often we want to tell people our feelings, to let them know we have feelings too. Don’t. Give them the space their feelings deserve. Tell them that you see their pain, that you hear their words, ask questions, listen.
  • Own your words. You said something, you meant it. Don’t jump in with “Well what I was trying to say was…” Just own what you said. It’s very easy to say. “Yes, those were the wrong words, I’m sorry.” or “
  • Actually apologize. Sometimes we get so caught up in trying to make it better that we skip over the apology. We go for the ‘misunderstanding’ and once we’ve made our positions clear we move on. Meanwhile, the person you’re speaking with is actually feeling more and more erased because you couldn’t get your mouth around the words ‘I’m sorry’.
  • “I’m sorry” is a complete sentence. That’s all you need to say. Cut the “I’m sorry if I offended you,” or the “I’m sorry you feel that way”, or any of that. Just “I’m sorry”, that’s all you need.
  • Thank them. Especially if they’ve taken the time to educate you on something. If someone is giving you this information, it’s a privilege to have that conversation with them. If they thought you were a lost cause they wouldn’t have said anything to you. So thank them for their time and energy.
  • On your own time, process your feelings — then do something. Try not to put the burden of your feelings on the person who just called you out. You will benefit a lot more from processing them on your own, or even with other white folks. White folks are not used to talking about race, so bringing up an instant where you were called out and talking about your feelings with a friend or a family member could be a really important step in opening them up to their own privilege.
  • You’re going to mess up, don’t be afraid to check back in. There are times where your feelings will get the best of you and you’ll check out of a situation. If you later realize that you were in the wrong, own up to it. Be visible. Reach out to that person and apologize. We need to stop pretending that we’ve all got our lives together.

We need to stop defending each other’s ignorance. Emma Watson messed up, and the solution was for her to listen to the criticism and find the truth in it. The apology and healing comes with understanding. It will for you too. But you have to listen first.