Emma Watson and bell hooks Talk Feminism in Paper Magazine
February 19, 2016 8:02 PM   Subscribe

Engaging with feminism, there is this kind of bubble now that goes off in my head where these really negative thoughts about myself hit where I'm able to combat them in a very rational and quick way. I can see it now in a way that's different. I guess if I could give women anything through feminism -- or you're asking about power -- it would just be, to be able to move away, to move through all of that. I see so many women struggling with issues of self-esteem. They know and they hear it and they read it in magazines and books all the time that self-love is really important, but it's really hard to actually do -- [via boingboing]
posted by cgc373 (13 comments total) 42 users marked this as a favorite
 
Watson seems to have such a good head on her shoulders, and to read these two interacting--about the power of reading, among other things--well, squee.
posted by sandettie light vessel automatic at 9:03 PM on February 19, 2016 [4 favorites]


but it's really hard to actually do

I still can't. I am the shoutiest, armpit-hairiest, bra-burningest... I am being silly here but really I have heard the word "feminazi" directed at me a good deal and can't even take it as an insult. I am a Feminist with a capital F, fully aware of radical self love and where all my low self-esteem bits come from and why they're all stupid and I should ignore them and get down with my bad self.

And yet, I still.

hate.

myself.

I still hate it. I can't stop. I can't let go. I can't stop policing my calorie intake. I can't stop putting on makeup just to go to the store. I can't stop worrying about what's "flattering." I can't stop the barrage, the torrent, the hurricane of thoughts when I look in the mirror

Why are you so huge and wide, how could you eat that thing, you have no control, what's with that hair, it's so frizzy and it doesn't sit right because you're not good enough to make it look good, nice pimple you got there, everybody else stopped getting those in high school but you're gross enough to still get those AND the little lines showing up around your mouth. Who gets pimples AND wrinkles? What's with the short nails? Why can't you grow them out without breaking them? Maybe because you're so clumsy? And how about that fight the other day? Or when you took a mental health day from work? Who are you to assert your needs anyway? You don't deserve any of that. Put your head down and take your licks and be feminine, or no one will like you. He's not gonna love you anymore pretty soon anyway, he's going to realize you're getting old and fat and he's going to leave you for someone younger and thinner and prettier, and your clients [I am paid on commission, there's no pretending that appearance has no impact] will start going to the younger, prettier coworkers, and you'll go broke and get bad reviews and die alone because you are not good enough. Not good enough. Not good enough. Not good enough.

Like a drumbeat that never ever stops.

I want to make it clear, I do not think these things about anyone else who has ever lived or ever will live. I have never judged another soul this way, honestly. But I just can't let up on me, even though I know it's one of the most powerfully feminist and radical things I NEED to do. And easily 90% of the criticisms that that inner voice is always whispering/speaking/yelling at me are ways I fail to perform femininity. If I could let go of that... It would be like walking around dragging a thousand pound weight from my neck, and then getting to take it off.

It's even worse knowing that I am white, able-bodied, and I appear to most people to be straight (I'm not, but I'm married to a man so I get a chunk of the same privilege). I'm not thin, but I'm no more than average and I carry the weight such that I can pass for thin if I dress a certain way. In terms of conventional beauty standards, I'm really not half bad. So if it's like this for me, then how much worse must it be for someone who doesn't have the unfair built-in advantages I do?

I reel at the idea, and it makes me want to work harder to beat that self-hate monster.

But then I fail and keep hating myself.

Then I feel even worse about myself because I just can't seem to do it.
posted by gloriouslyincandescent at 9:22 PM on February 19, 2016 [57 favorites]


You know what's amazing about that article?

Neither woman ever apologizes for her success.

I realized half way thru I kept waiting for one or the other to downplay their success and achievements and dreams, because that's what women do.

They didn't.

And that is making me have to hold back some serious tears. Gives me a lot to think about.
posted by sio42 at 4:21 AM on February 20, 2016 [21 favorites]


No. Women don't need more self love. We need more respect and affirmation from our peers, both men and women who are socialized to treat us badly. Who ignore us if we're unattractive or we hit those qualities stigmatized in women, who fail to give a jobs or equal pay, who fail to see as potential lovers because our body fat does not match air brushed models.

The self love is a bootstraps ideology. We need each other. We need love coming in and health research affirms this. Self love is not enough. Self esteem is not enough to combat that it hurts if your peers treat you badly, think of you as an inferior, see your body as bad and flawed, or think that even though you're one of the most intelligent people, you aren't as intelligent as the men in the room-- or you're not really that intelligent at all.

However, this article is really really awesome and loved it. I read it fast and need to reread without the whole "ba humbug self love" thing running through my head.
posted by xarnop at 5:43 AM on February 20, 2016 [32 favorites]


I genuinely discovered self affirmation and all that stuff in a fundamental inner way in the last 3 years since menopause. I hear what xarnop is saying but I'll add taht more testosterone surely must be acting as an invisible shield against the micro aggressions that are now way too much effort to respond to all. Ants.

moving on, thank you for the article. What an elegant choice of conversation partners to showcase.
posted by infini at 6:01 AM on February 20, 2016 [6 favorites]


Women don't need more self love. We need more respect and affirmation from our peers, both men and women who are socialized to treat us badly. Who ignore us if we're unattractive or we hit those qualities stigmatized in women, who fail to give a jobs or equal pay, who fail to see as potential lovers because our body fat does not match air brushed models.

Women just need to allow themselves to have confidence and not care what society expects of them.

I am a proud Feminist. You could even call me a feminista. I do watch my weight because I do not want health problems, but I don't starve myself to attract some man who wants me to be uncomfortable or unhealthy just to stroke his fragile ego. I can like nice things like designer outfits, but I am not obsessed with trying to show off.

What counts is that I do not have to engage in waste of life activities, such as having to fight for equal pay, opportunity, and respect. I have talents and skills that are much better suited elsewhere. Sexism is sanctioned insanity and why hold back skills and ideas because I am female? It is absolute wasteful lunacy.

Thank you for the link.
posted by Alexandra Kitty at 6:16 AM on February 20, 2016 [1 favorite]


"Women just need to allow themselves to have confidence and not care what society expects of them." Respectfully this has been touted as a solution to the mistreatment of marginalized people but as we see from a lot of research it's simply not true. Being mistreated especially without social buffers, causes real injury.

Some people have enough support to withstand these injuries so they make light of them, but others don't and they are crushing. I have been "not caring what society expects of me" but that hasn't helped with the rape, the pregnancies that happened from abuse, the onslaught of sexually charged interactions everywhere I don't want them, the struggle to think in class when guys are shoving their legs into my back through the seats, when the bosses is pressing him arm up against you like it's nothing to "explain these papers" and you can't think about anything else. It doesn't help when people ignore me as a potential friend when I don't have money because I'm raising this child, when I am an older student in school and teachers say to me in front of the whole class, because they don't like my questions "Shouldn't you have already taken a government class by now?"

We NEED social connections, and some of us more than others. Being a woman makes it more likely you might be one of those people hanging by a string to what you can get LITERALLY to survive and saying "just don't care what people think" is utterly ridiculous when you need a job to eat, you need government aid to feed your kid and your society hates women who have concived children from sexual abuse and need resources to parent well.

IT MATTERS what other people think, for our very survival. It is a privilege to not have to care. And plenty of women and marginalized don't have that, and prejudice just for being women and poor treatment because our bodies don't look like a stereotype or we are too aggressive because we stand up for ourselves, or we are too passive and shamed for being exactly what everyone wants.

Sometimes you just can't win, and you can't shake it off because you can't get enough to eat because of it or you have no friends because of the trauma and difficulty you're facing as a woman and just "not caring what people think" is a total non-solution.
posted by xarnop at 6:27 AM on February 20, 2016 [31 favorites]


xarnop, that's all so shitty. I know one single mom in my graduate class this year, and while we mostly talk about school I get the sense she's struggling to balance it against all the things this spring. I know other people and their bullshit opinions may be the more common view, but when I look at single parents in grad school I think: that person is fucking superhuman! How the hell do they do all this stuff I'm swamped with and also raise another human being? I should invite them to do stuff but they're probably unspeakably busy, god damn I wish I were ever that on top of my shit.
posted by deludingmyself at 7:37 AM on February 20, 2016 [1 favorite]


i don't necessarily think this article is in the same vein as the other "love yourself" crap.

i was watching a video of bell hooks earlier and she talks about this, about growing up in a culture that constantly tells you "no", that you end up internalizing that. and that we need to work both in ourselves and in our cultures to change that. "no you can't do that, no you can't feel that, no you don't deserve that good thing you want". you end up believing it.

i don't get from reading this and having read other stuff that watson and hooks have said that they in any way are of the "eat pray love" ilk.

yes there a lot of issues out there surrounding women and our place in society.

i think what they're getting at is that sometimes we have to be ok with being a woman as we already are. that doesn't mean accepting that all shit with rape and unwanted touching is just la de da ok.

i think that being able to say that it is wrong and women don't deserve to deal with it day in and day out just by dint of being a women is part of the self love. if we don't think we're good enough, why should anyone else?
posted by sio42 at 9:12 AM on February 20, 2016 [3 favorites]


"Self love is not enough. Self esteem is not enough to combat that it hurts if your peers treat you badly, think of you as an inferior, see your body as bad and flawed, or think that even though you're one of the most intelligent people, you aren't as intelligent as the men in the room-- or you're not really that intelligent at all. "
"IT MATTERS what other people think, for our very survival."


Damn right. Our society hates weirdos who don't fit in, women, anyone who isn't standard white male, just by default. To be "unlikable" and not caring what others think on top of that? Very risky for your survival. It took me a long time to get to the point of not caring what people think, but I got moved into a job where I'd better by god appeal to people and hoo boy have I relearned that lesson. If someone doesn't like you and they decide to go after you (Zoe Quinn, for example), consequences are horrific and frequently life-ruining.

I can't just shrug off the haters and love myself. The haters OUTNUMBER ME.
posted by jenfullmoon at 9:47 AM on February 20, 2016 [3 favorites]


There's a difference between considering what other people think of you when you are looking for a job or talking to your kid's teacher and believing that they are right if they think you are less than, worthless, not good enough, not as important as. Internalizing that bullshit is corrosive and destructive, and that is where the self-love and -respect and -esteem can come in to help counteract those messages.

Even if it makes others uncomfortable
I will love who I am


- Janelle MonĂ¡e
posted by rtha at 9:55 AM on February 20, 2016 [3 favorites]


that's why I like being a dog on the internet
posted by infini at 10:09 AM on February 20, 2016


Two of my favorite women! What a great conversation. I have so much respect for both of them. I remember seeing a bell hooks lecture many years ago. I had read 3 or 4 of her books by then. I was really expecting a fiery, badass, ball breaking, rage-a-holic! She was charming, funny, wise and delightful. Extremely intelligent, insightful and inspiring. If Emma Watson can get more young people reading bell hooks, our future might be a little bit brighter.
posted by pjsky at 1:35 PM on February 20, 2016 [5 favorites]


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