Lady Problems is a weekly column that looks at how the entertainment industry — and its corresponding culture and constituents — is treating women in a given week. (Hint: It will almost always be “poorly.”) Every Thursday we’ll review the week's most significant woman-centric conflicts, then provide a brilliant solution to each problem that nobody in Hollywood will ever listen to or enforce.
The Lady Problem: The ouroboros that is Celebrity Feminism continues to grow longer and longer, its own tail stuffed deeper down its own throat, muffling the sounds of its unholy screams. This week's Celebrity Feminist Whose Feminism Is Currently Being Questioned But Who Has Also Questioned Other Women's Feminism In The Past, Help, is Emma Watson. Let's review the tapes.
This both important and totally meaningless controversy began when Emma showed some very impressive underboob in Vanity Fair this week. Some (journalist Julia Hartley-Brewer, Twitter eggs, Kellyanne Conway posing as a Twitter egg from the Oval Office couch) criticized Watson as a "hypocrite" for both speaking out against the gender wage gap and displaying underboob. Are you exhausted already? Same. Please have an electrolyte beverage.
It should go without saying (again and again and again) that displaying underboob and being a feminist are not mutually exclusive, and that there is not One Way to be a feminist. Sure, there are some very basic ground rules — believe in equality for all humans, don't shit on intersectionality (I'm looking at you, Salma), feel comfortable performing a garden-variety exorcism. And intellectual debate is important, as is constantly questioning long-held belief systems. But to police and restrict what makes a woman a Real Feminist is not only stupid and reductive, not to mention wildly helpful to the opposition (... you know who you are), it is also a massive and embarrassing waste of everyone's time. Time is a finite resource. You will die one day. Do you really want to have spent your life staring at Emma Watson's underboob (... keep reading) and wondering whether it disqualifies her to be a vocal proponent of women's rights?
As Gloria Steinem put it pithily to TMZ (I hate our world for making me write that sentence), "Feminists can wear anything they fucking want." Emma echoed the sentiment to the BBC: "It just always reveals to me how many misconceptions and what a misunderstanding there is about what feminism is. Feminism is about giving women choice," she said. "Feminism is not a stick with which to beat other women with. It’s about freedom, it's about liberation, it's about equality. I really don’t know what my tits have to do with it. It's very confusing."
Yes. I think we can all agree that we are very confused. Including, um, Emma.
You see, my Gatorade-chugging friends, the plot both thickens and thins, in that it gets more complex and more boring. A few years ago, back when she was but a sprouting li'l wheat germ of a feminist, Emma went ahead and policed somebody ELSE'S feminism. I know. Please stay with me. This will all be very important to you when you're lying on your deathbed, and your progeny asks you, "Mom, what did you think about the Great Underboob Reckoning of 2017?"
Anyway. Emma did not just police any somebody. Emma. White Feminism'ed. Beyoncé. Is what I am trying to tell you. In a 2014 Wonderland interview, Emma said she "was really conflicted [watching Beyoncé's videos] ... On the one hand she is putting herself in a category of a feminist, this very strong woman ... but then the camera, it felt very male, such a male voyeuristic experience of her."
In this particular sense, Emma was indeed being a hypocrite. Getting angry when somebody calls your politics into question because of the way you present physically, when also having recently called another woman's politics into question for the way she presented physically: This is unchill. Also unchill: the undercurrent of white privilege that makes these situations not entirely comparable. The bottom (underboob) line is that Emma can show the bottom of her tits until the sun blazes out, and so can Beyoncé, and so can we all. Underboobs for all!!!! Underboobs for president. At the same time, we can get the fuck off of each other's backs, and at the SAME same time, we can engage in a thoughtful discourse about the emotional and physical labor women provide to a society that would strip them of their reproductive rights.
Because we live in hell, Emma Watson has already responded to the people who have responded to her initial response to the response from her own photos by posting a larger transcript of the interview, in which she explains, "I still haven't really formulated my own ideas" about Beyoncé/feminism/wheat germ/underboob. Naturally, there's already been a response to this response to this response to this response, including this essay over at cosmopolitan.com, which does a good job explaining why all of this is both extremely stupid and also matters a fair bit.
If you are still here, I commend you.
The Solution: I hereby decree that this is the last conversation any Celebrity Feminist will have about their own Celebrity Feminism or the Celebrity Feminism of another Celebrity Feminist. Instead of spending our days worrying about the underboob of our sisters, we must worry about our own underboob, and the collective underboob of society — that is, women — and how it can finally get its proper due. Failing this, we will all be forced to wear underboob-exposing crocheted vest things for the duration of our lives, including during winter, in cold movie theaters, while biking to work and doing yoga and on roller coasters, at dinner with our grandfathers, during anti-gravity exercises and the apocalypse, etc.
The Lady Problem: I just want to take the space here to tally this week's Men Who Were Accused of Sexual Violence And Then Defended Themselves Or Each Other In An Abhorrent Manner.
Kenneth Lonergan, the director of Manchester by the Sea and a man who seems otherwise delightful, took the time out of writing preternaturally wise dialogue for teens to defend Casey Affleck in, of all places, the Wesleyan Argus. Lonergan took issue with an op-ed by student Connor Aberle that had previously run in the paper, suggesting that Wesleyan should question whether its support of Lonergan could be conflated with support for Affleck (who, as you'll recall, has been accused of sexually harassing two of his female employees).
First, Lonergan defended Affleck himself: "In fact, it was alleged 7 years ago, in a civil lawsuit for breach of contract, that Casey sexually harrased [sic] two women formerly in his employ. Casey denounced the allegations as being totally fabricated. Like most civil suits, this one was settled out of court by mutual consent on undisclosed terms." Then he issued a stunning and perhaps unnecessary smackdown to Aberle, suggesting that he shut the fuck up, perhaps forever: "Somebody as interested in actual as opposed to merely vocalized social justice as Mr Aberle presumably is, should unwind his tangled, immoral chain of reasoning and start over at the fundamental precept that an allegation is not an indictment. But I do hope that Mr Aberle is capable of taking a much harder look at the merits of his own arguments before he decides to air his views in public again."
Elsewhere, journalist Tony Ortega published a lengthy piece on his website claiming he'd obtained documents that prove the LAPD is investigating actor Danny Masterson (That '70s Show, that hair) in "at least three alleged cases of rape or sodomy of women who were also Scientologists and who claim they were pressured by the Church of Scientology not to contact police or go public with their accusations." The entire piece is worth a read, and full of incredibly disturbing details about the specific acts Masterson is being accused of. According to Ortega, the women involved were encouraged by ex-Scientologist Leah Remini to come forward; one of the victims claims that the LAPD told her to "walk away" from the allegations when she reported them, and that Scientology officials told her if she reported the rape, she'd be deemed a "suppressive person."
The investigation has since been confirmed by the LAPD. Masterson has also issued a statement via his rep, ID'ing one of the victims (which is, in a word, demonic), denying all claims, and suggesting that the whole thing is a publicity stunt for Remini.
First: Believe women. Believe women, believe women, believe women, believe women, believe women, believe women … hmmm, do you think if I type it 619 more times somebody will start believing women? It's hard to say.
Second: Kenneth Lonergan needs to get a life!!!!!! You just won an Oscar, my man! Why are you writing scathing screeds to your college paper? As my brilliant coworker Ira Madison III put it,
More significantly, Kenneth, were you or any of your appendages in the room when Casey Affleck allegedly "curled up next to [his employee] in the bed wearing only his underwear and a T-shirt. He had his arm around her, was caressing her back, his face was within inches of hers and his breath reeked of alcohol," and then refused to leave? Or nah?
Third: There are no jokes to be made about Masterson, who, if the allegations are true (and again ... let's try to believe women, shall we?), has been a monster masquerading as a benevolent shaggy pothead all along. Can somebody recut That '70s Show to exclusively focus on Donna and Jackie?