People called Emma Watson a 'white feminist.' Now, she admits, they weren't wrong.

Emma Watson has long prided herself on being a feminist.

And it's not just lip service. The 27-year-old actress served as a United Nations Women Goodwill Ambassador and spoke to the assembly in 2014 about the importance of gender equality. She continues to speak out about women's rights at almost every opportunity, even while promoting her films or walking the red carpet.

Watson is all-in, right?


Watson speaks during International Women's Day at The Empire State Building. Photo by Astrid Stawiarz/Getty Images.

But there's one big problem: Watson's brand of feminism has been really, really white.

White womanhood come with certain privileges and often positive assumptions. Since whiteness is often the default and traditionally ignored when it comes to race and ethnicity, white women are often turned off by the idea of being called 'white feminists.'

In an open letter to her feminist book club, Our Shared Self, Watson admits this was her first reaction:

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.

Emma Watson speaks during a press conference to launch of the campaign 'HeForShe' at the United Nations Headquarters. Photo by Kena Betancur/AFP/Getty Images.

Why is Watson referred to as a white feminist?

Because like so many others, whenever she'd publicly advocated for women, Watson had largely ignored the unique challenges of women of color, who must navigate the twin burdens of racism and sexism. She'd also failed to recognize and acknowledge her own privilege and the role it played not only in her personal success, but in the upholding of white supremacist and patriarchal institutions the United Kingdom and the United States are based on.

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? How do my race, class and gender affect my perspective?

Because if feminism doesn't take racism, ableism, anti-LGBTQ aggression, poverty, and body negativity into account, then who exactly will it help? Who will get a seat at the table?

Demonstrators take part in 'A Day Without a Woman' rally. Photo by Mandel Ngan/AFP/Getty Images.

But this year, after fully acknowledging her own shortcomings and missteps, Watson made a point to do better — and she's inviting all of us to join her.

Emma Watson is not the only person, celebrity or otherwise, largely ignoring the unique needs of women of color, poor women, queer and trans women, working women, and disabled women. Calling herself out as part of the problem is significant. Making a point to improve and bringing others along is vital.

That's why the next book in Watson's book club is "Why I’m No Longer Talking to White People About Race" by Reni Eddo-Lodge. The books discusses the role of racism in historic and contemporary Britain and offers ways everyone can confront and challenge it.

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.

Watson is encouraging fellow feminists to start listening to other voices in the movement, particularly those who are marginalized. This is a big step in the right direction.  

A women chants as people march in south London to protest against police brutality in the U.S.. Photo by Daniel Leal-Olivas/AFP/Getty Images.

Watson also thanked other women working in the movement for calling her out on her initially narrow view of feminism and allowing her to put in the effort to make it right. She's already started connecting with other women of color to better understand their challenges and how she can use her privilege and status to signal-boost their work.

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.

Activist Marai Larasi was Emma Watson's guest at the 2018 Golden Globe Awards. Photo by Frederick M. Brown/Getty Images.

Because there's more to being a feminist than carrying a witty sign or wearing a pin on your jacket.

It's doing the challenging ambitious work in your community and within yourself. It's recognizing your own privileges and using them to uplift and support women who don't get a fair shake.

It's knowing that all of us have work to do when it comes to creating the world we deserve — but always believing it's possible.

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On an old episode of "The Oprah Winfrey Show" in July 1992, Oprah put her audience through a social experiment that puts racism in a new light. Despite being nearly two decades old, it's as relevant today as ever.

She split the audience members into two groups based on their eye color. Those with brown eyes were given preferential treatment by getting to cut the line and given refreshments while they waited to be seated. Those with blue eyes were made to put on a green collar and wait in a crowd for two hours.

Staff were instructed to be extra polite to brown-eyed people and to discriminate against blue-eyed people. Her guest for that day's show was diversity expert Jane Elliott, who helped set up the experiment and played along, explaining that brown-eyed people were smarter than blue-eyed people.

Watch the video to see how this experiment plays out.

Oprah's Social Experiment on Her Audience www.youtube.com

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On September 4, Cadbury released the limited-edition candy bars in supermarkets and for every one sold, the candy giant will donate 30p (37 cents) to Age UK, an organization dedicated to improving the quality of life for the elderly.

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Young people today are facing what seems to be greater exposure to complex issues like mental health, bullying, and youth violence. As a result, teachers are required to be well-versed in far more than school curriculum to ensure students are prepared to face the world inside and outside of the classroom. Acting as more than teachers, but also mentors, counselors, and cheerleaders, they must be equipped with practical and relevant resources to help their students navigate some of the more complicated social issues – though access to such tools isn't always guaranteed.

Take Dr. Jackie Sanderlin, for example, who's worked in the education system for over 25 years, and as a teacher for seven. Entering the profession, she didn't anticipate how much influence a student's home life could affect her classroom, including "students who lived in foster homes" and "lacked parental support."

Dr. Jackie Sanderlin, who's worked in the education system for over 25 years.

Valerie Anglemyer, a middle school teacher with more than 13 years of experience, says it can be difficult to create engaging course work that's applicable to the challenges students face. "I think that sometimes, teachers don't know where to begin. Teachers are always looking for ways to make learning in their classrooms more relevant."

So what resources do teachers turn to in an increasingly fractured world? "Joining a professional learning network that supports and challenges thinking is one of the most impactful things that a teacher can do to support their own learning," Anglemyer says.

Valerie Anglemyer, a middle school teacher with more than 13 years of experience.

A new program for teachers that offers this network along with other resources is the WE Teachers Program, an initiative developed by Walgreens in partnership with ME to WE and Mental Health America. WE Teachers provides tools and resources, at no cost to teachers, looking for guidance around the social issues related to poverty, youth violence, mental health, bullying, and diversity and inclusion. Through online modules and trainings as well as a digital community, these resources help them address the critical issues their students face.

Jessica Mauritzen, a high school Spanish teacher, credits a network of support for providing her with new opportunities to enrich the learning experience for her students. "This past year was a year of awakening for me and through support… I realized that I was able to teach in a way that built up our community, our school, and our students, and supported them to become young leaders," she says.

With the new WE Teachers program, teachers can learn to identify the tough issues affecting their students, secure the tools needed to address them in a supportive manner, and help students become more socially-conscious, compassionate, and engaged citizens.

It's a potentially life-saving experience for students, and in turn, "a great gift for teachers," says Dr. Sanderlin.

"I wish I had the WE Teachers program when I was a teacher because it provides the online training and resources teachers need to begin to grapple with these critical social issues that plague our students every day," she adds.

In addition to the WE Teachers curriculum, the program features a WE Teachers Award to honor educators who go above and beyond in their classrooms. At least 500 teachers will be recognized and each will receive a $500 Walgreens gift card, which is the average amount teachers spend out-of-pocket on supplies annually. Teachers can be nominated or apply themselves. To learn more about the awards and how to nominate an amazing teacher, or sign up for access to the teacher resources available through WE Teachers, visit walgreens.com/metowe.

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"Men as well as women tend to establish the worth of individual women primarily by the way their body looks, research shows. We do not do this when we evaluate men," Naomi Ellemers Ph.D. wrote in Psychology Today.

Dr. Ellers believes that this tendency to judge a woman solely on her looks causes them to be seen as an object rather than a person.

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