December 31, 2017

Emma Watson picks 'Why I'm No Longer Talking to White People About Race' for Our Shared Shelf

Dear OSS,

Have you ever found that often at the moment when you feel ready to give up, throw it all in and walk when breakthroughs are made? Why I’m No Longer Talking to White People About Race, written by Reni Eddo-Lodge, was born of this precise moment…

There is so much racist history that is not acknowledged and accounted for. I know this to be the case from my own education, and I know there is so much more for me to learn. This is why I’m excited to announce that our first book of 2018 is Why I’m No Longer Talking to White People About Race by Reni Eddo-Lodge which talks about the history of racism in Britain. I am not supposed to have favourites, however this was the most important book for me this year.

When I gave my UN speech in 2015, so much of what I said was about the idea that “being a feminist is simple!” Easy! No problem! I have since learned that being a feminist is more than a single choice or decision. It’s an interrogation of self. Every time I think I’ve peeled all the layers, there’s another layer to peel. But, I also understand that the most difficult journeys are often the most worthwhile. And that this process cannot be done at anyone else’s pace or speed.

When I heard myself being called a “white feminist” I didn’t understand (I suppose I proved their case in point). What was the need to define me — or anyone else for that matter — as a feminist by race? What did this mean? Was I being called racist? Was the feminist movement more fractured than I had understood? I began...panicking.

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? There seemed to be a million types of feminist and feminism. But instead of seeing this as a splintering, I could have asked whether this defining was actually empowering and bringing about better understanding. But I didn’t know to ask these questions.

I met a woman this year named Happy who works for an organization called Mama Cash and she told me this about her long history working in the women’s sector: “Call me out. But if you’re going to call me out, walk alongside me as I do the work”. Working alongside women like Happy is a privilege. As human beings, as friends, as family members, as partners, we all have blind spots; we need people that love us to call us out and then walk with us while we do the work.

This has been an amazing two years for me, working on Our Shared Shelf. There were moments when I wondered whether the club should be an ongoing thing. Thank you for making me sure that it would be crazy not to keep going in 2018.

Thank you to everyone who has contributed, laid themselves bare, been patient and compassionate or shared useful information with other members of the community. Thanks to those who hid books and posted their photos to Instagram, or started a talking circle or smaller club and met up in different parts of the world.

Everyone has their own journey, and it may not always be easy, but what I can promise is that you’ll meet some extremely cool people that you will REALLY love and respect along the way that will walk this path with you. You’re not alone. And even if you are, in a particular moment...remember you come from a long line of feminists who did this work, in the outside world but also inside themselves. I hope this book, as we move into 2018, empowers and inspires you as much as it has me. I am looking forward to discussing the contents of Reni’s book in more detail with you soon.

Emma xx


Anonymous said...

All of her book choices are so interesting , thought-provoking, and educational. I think she's awesome! ♥

Rolinda said...

She's such a strong and introspective feminist. I admire her greatly!

PDXP said...

Well, good. Too bad it wasn't this from the start, though, and still it isn't quite intersectional. But a good step.

Levi said...

Thank you, Emma. You're the best. ❤❤❤

Anonymous said...

I never read from the shelf; I am more interested in possible films.

Anonymous said...

"Too bad it wasn't this from the start"
Do you actually remember the books she chose? Color Purple, Persepolis-Marjane Satrapi, Gloria Steinem's book that talked about her experience across the globe, bell hooks book About Love, Caitlin Moran, etc..

"It still isn't quite intersectional"
As if any of us know about the behind the scenes/ unpublicised work she's been doing all this time, as she mentions working with Mama Cash- in passing, which implies she's definitely collaborating and doing social work that we dont know of. I remember her also talking about the lack of statistics regarding important factors surrounding FGM and MGM (female & male genital mutilation), and she spoke of looking to collect or contribute to gathering the required statistics needed for a better idea of the situation. I think it was in some random B&B interview where they asked her about her feminist work.

I think a lot of feminists hold other feminists to very high standards without actually appreciating them enough for the work that they do.

Vrindha said...

I love how her choices are so varied. Love ya♥♥

Thaïs said...

Hi everyone.
I was not coming here for a while because let's say I chose not to follow Emma anymore. As a "fan" I was too desalinated, though I would have loved to be her friend and to casually talk with her about feminism around a cup of tea.

I'm glad to be back and to read her message. I feel sad for her, but also "proud" in a way...
For the first time she acknowledges her weakness, her white feminism, and she says how harsh it was to handle the criticism. She must have had so sad moments, filled with doubts and crushed hopes. She had found her way only to find that the general public didn't think her good enough, that must be tough.
To me this message shows that she sees the light, that she's ready to face the criticism (to address it would be more precise, I'm sure she has been aware of it all the way through).

PDXP said...

@Anon yikes. This is why I rarely comment here. I don't think anything I said was so controversial as to elicit such a response.

HfS and OSS have been pretty white and pretty mid-upper class since the beginning. Sorry, but it's true. Emma pretty much says as such here. I mean, look at her first HfS speech, which I think was a good speech, where a statement about 'African girls' was tacked on at the end, almost as an afterthought. It is absolutely necessary to actively address race in respect to feminism and women around the globe, but also close to home. It's not enough to include works on a reading list written by people from different backgrounds, it has to be actively addressed and brought to people's attention. You'd think this would be understood, given that's the exact reasoning behind the HfS campaign - bringing feminism and women's rights to the forefront, and extending the subject to people it doesn't directly address - men in that case, WoC in this case.

I say it's not quite intersectional because I haven't seen all dimensions addressed yet. And, being that these campaigns are very much about visibility and spreading ideas, what you say about 'behind the scenes' is just apologetic.

I don't hold feminists to impossibly high standards. I could give less than zero cups whether or not Emma partially shows her breasts in a photo shoot. My only standard is intersectionality.

PDXP said...

Meant to say *white women* at the end of the second paragraph, not WoC.

Anonymous said...

While I agree with some of your points, I don't think that HfS is primarily about visibility, for if you read up on the work and talks they do/are doing/ hv done mist of it is not publicised but it is quite far reaching. Emma is the global ambassador, so her very first HfS speech is nit the only ine to be taken into account, madam phumzile mlambo-ngucka's speech was also to be taken into account. The thing about Emma's speech, i felt, was that it addressed a few of the basic concerns of feminism that could be applicable to different scenarios- in a 12 minute speech-and also while addressing her own "sheer privilege" as she puts it.
So, i think as part of UNWomen and HfS, Emma has been taking part in a lot of work that isnt publicised, just as majority of HfS's/UNWomen's work isnt as publicised as Emma's speech became.
Intersectionality is something all of us develop over time. You cant start off being completely intersectional, for there will always be more layers to consider, depending on your background and where u come from. Sexuality, genders, race, class, caste, religion, socioeconomic factors, etc.... It goes on and on. So i think its a little unfair to say, " oh why werent u as intersectional, as u are now, from the beginning?" We develop over time and it takes a lot of effort. We can only move forward and include more and more people than we did before, hence being more intersectional.