Emma Watson, Taylor Swift, and Starbucks Feminism

Last week, Emma Watson, known for her iconic role as Hermione Granger in the Harry Potter films, delivered a feminist speech at the United Nations. Announcing the launch of the HeForShe campaign, she detailed how men and women together must combat gender inequality. The speech, though moving and deeply personal, unsurprisingly evoked the sentiments of certain white feminists. Vanity Fair heralded her words as “game-changing,” and other white women high in feminist ranks, applauded her speech.

Although her speech offered a solid perspective in the global feminist struggle, I am bothered by the response of certain white feminists and the outlets they sponsor. For example, the Vanity Fair piece is rife for criticism, but such criticism will go unnoticed or unappreciated by the smaller, richer, whiter feminist base.

Same goes for Emma Watson’s speech itself; although it’s important to include men in the feminist fight, there was no mention or dissection of race within feminist dynamics. And what little recognition there was of class and privilege was easily overshadowed by other more provocative pronouncements.

The speech was a step in the right direction, but it didn’t cross the finish line.

And instead of allowing room for analysis and constructive critique, white-geared media outlets are silencing critics by way of other white-facing celebrities. For instance, Elizabeth Plank of Policy Mic published this shallow piece on Taylor Swift’s defense of Emma Watson.

There’s a pattern of white feminists who give uneven and unnecessary credit to celebrities who enter into the feminist space. They take their words at face value, and do not inspect those actions which blatantly go against the feminist frame these celebrities place themselves in. They do not hesitate and think of motive behind very profitable feminist declarations, nor do they invite reasoned debate on feminism as a construct or politic.

They take the word feminism at face value. They aim to make feminism trendy and popular. They do not care to muddle the hipster feminist dialogue with racial understanding or cultural sensitivity. They involve race in feminism when talking about girls in the *country* of Africa… that’s it.

I call them the Starbucks feminist, named after Beautiful Existence, a white women who believes she is “fearless” because she ate nothing but Starbucks for a year. Seriously.

Beautiful’s mindset is one that Starbucks feminists find themselves in. They believe they’re being bold, fearless, and courageous when they fork over their paychecks to advance those celebrities that call themselves feminists, without any analytical reasoning. They do not see the larger context of their actions; that they’re inadvertently fueling the same patriarchal institutions meant to subjugate them.

Starbucks feminists blindly follow the glitterati, and do nothing but propel feminism as a trendy and hip politic (which it isn’t). They try to perpetuate the colorblind feminist myth by not mentioning the unique hardships that women of color face. They do not invite us into our discussions. They do not take us seriously. We are subjects for their gaze.

They’re cousins with corporate feminists. They applaud each other for placing feminism within the capitalist framework. A prime example of this uncomfortable relationship is Sheryl’s Sandberg’s Ban Bossy campaign. They went ape shit when it was announced, got distracted by the star-studded videos, and pretty colors, and did not consider the obvious flaws.

Consider this the first part of my exploration into Starbucks feminism, because there’s a lot to say. But for now, I’ll leave you with this brief outline: the Starbucks feminist commodifies the poor, ignores Black Americans, and fetishizes African women. They are inundated in their white privilege and remain fiercely ignorant of the Black and Brown bodies around them. They do not accept or understand that struggles are not glitzy or cute. A struggle is not an option or a buy-in, its a necessity for survival.

photo 1Arielle Newton, Editor-in-Chief. Get at me @BlackMusings. Get at us @BlkMillennials.


8 responses to “Emma Watson, Taylor Swift, and Starbucks Feminism

    • Read the article again. I did say that Emma Watson’s speech was solid, and was definitely a step in the right direction.

      My issue is with the Starbucks feminists who blindly follow the glitterati, ignore the dynamics of women of color, and fuel patriarchal machinery.

      It’s not “hating” to disagree with the status quo. It’s called critical analysis.


  1. Intersectionality is such a huge piece of feminism that so many people blatantly miss. One of my queer friends of color said to me once, “white women are obsessed with gender.” And it’s true! What she meant is that white women fixate on gender but do not engage in dialogue about race, class, sexual preferences, etc. Skipping over these intersecting identities and demographics is like fighting to save all endangered species and only discussing polar bears. There is so much at play here if only we could pay closer attention to it.


  2. Hmmm…
    Well, I think you know by now that I’m not a corporate or celebrity defender. And I’m not really trying to defend Howard, the owner of Starbucks… but Howard adores Oprah. He’ll get on board any one of her projects. She sells her new tea thru them for example. I’m not sure what you think of Oprah… but as charity fundraisers and business people they are empire bedfellows. My brother produces the musical CDs for starbucks. He produced the Every Mother Counts CD’s (2 albums released on 2 mother’s days) that super model Christy Turlington is the face of. They raised thousands of dollars for maternal health world wide. Nobody knows how much my brother worked on this or how it was his idea… he doesn’t get the credit. He’s a father and a husband, son, brother. He cares about women’s health.
    The modeling and acting industry is hard core. It’s TRULY good they are learning about feminism. I recently reblogged the Stillness of Heart blog by Fernando Ortiz Jr. where one of his recommended articles is about what John Cusack has to say about the decline and degradation of hollywood. He speaks to the mysogeny and how young actors are whored and not nurtured, mentored or protected anymore. How women actors are being only given sexualized roles and then are tossed out at early ages. How this is causing addiction and mental illness.
    Emma’s speech was young. But it’s a good start for her and it matters in her arena. Will it change feminism? No. It adds to it. It doesn’t detract. It shouldn’t even undermine you, if you allow her the context of hollywood slavery. The history is grisly. The hollywood women who are white and look “glamorous” or “set a standard of beauty” that perpetuate their own problems via the work they accept is true and yet the institution of entertainment is rigged. Male directors, movie companies, and the whole franchise industry set women up. Like how Hitchcock would ruin an actress if she didn’t sleep with him. We suffer from the stereotypes, sure… but work is work when you’re an actor. And when you see acting as your art… you might die for it. And when you realize you’ve been whored the whole time, you might start to talk about feminism. Emma was mentored and cared for… but she still experiences bullying and always has.
    I do think your points are valid as is your representation being sorely lacking in her speech. And there was/is no mistaking the white privileges. I don’t want hollywood, corporations including starbucks, or Oprah to take over the world as a big chain store. And on a related issue I don’t think George Clooney can save Dar Four and marry a humanitarian woman looking decent as they tote lavishly around in italian boats. But…
    the empire feeds us bread and circus. Gladiators in the NFL on every channel… hour after hour, high-school, college and national… broadcasts and a new show coming to the networks called Freak Show… where women have two heads, three breasts and there are many dwarves. Miley Cyrus must have inspired this diversity that will be entirely bastardized, capitalized on and eaten by the masses nevertheless. So much for the department store campaign of JCPenny’s and Nordstrom promoting fashions for all shapes and sizes, because they want to be sensitive to diversity and redefine the concept of beauty…
    The common ground of feminism, is equal rights for both genders. All the rest gets personal.


  3. I’m sorry, but this isn’t about gay rights or race, her speech is about women’s rights. Sure, those things all intersect, since you’re never just a woman or just black or just straight, you’re all those things at the same time. That doesn’t mean she’s obliged to address all those things. We need to work on multiple things in the civil rights movement, but bashing a woman because she’s white and doesn’t address LGBT issues does nothing to help the feminist movement.


    • Hi Rose, I can’t speak for Arielle and she’s more than capable of speaking for herself… and I’m not trying to challenge you in this comment. I’m hoping to dig for some nuance… and bridge a gap or two… if possible. The thing about being in a group that is traditionally dismissed or assigned a place/role is that it becomes easier to tune that voice out, by people who have had more voice for longer… It’s important to sometimes separate to hear clearly the problems and feelings so that we can unite as women. If we say being black isn’t an issue for feminists because that’s about race, we are falling short of inclusion… because we won’t understand that (those) experience(s). We will only believe we are inclusive. I know we need a broader canopy of shelter as well as more solid common ground for a “feminist” movement to be understood or safe, but there are wounds to mend, stories to hear, and new ways of looking. Arielle is one of the voices willing to say how it stings. She’s also doesn’t censor other people. She gets up and is active and not just talk. I hope you don’t think she’s a “basher” and let that block the conversation…
      The LGBT community is one of the best things that ever happened to the feminist movement. It blows the concept of gender roles out of the water. As many stereotypes that attempt to trap human… seem to inspire as many liberators.
      Thanks for allowing my thoughts on this… it all matters to me. Feminism, civil rights, LGBT rights… I want us to make this work. Peace. 🙂


  4. I seem to be filling up your comment page… so there’s a documentary in several parts… The Makers (Women who make America) PBS.ORG/makers and in the first part it definitively depicts that the black feminists and feminists of color did not feel represented or included by the white women as most of them were coming from a vastly different set of experiences and economic factors. Race is to be considered by feminists therefore and is not a separate issue. Also it highlights how lesbians were a true source of energy and numbers in the feminist movement but that many older white feminists didn’t want to be mistaken for lesbians… and so they then divided the group and essentially weakened it exhibiting similar if not the same prejudices as the men they had been criticizing for sexism or discrimination. So LGBT communities not only contributed to and forwarded the advancement of women but have also had to endure homophobia and exclusion by those they assisted in empowerment. Anyhow… I’d seen the documentary a long time ago, and they’ve recently been broadcasting it again. I think it supports some of your arguments, although not extensively enough… perhaps. It’s a good refresher course or introduction to facts for women and men about feminism, as documentaries go. I hope this helps some of the white folks who don’t get it.
    I think I’m done wording up your post now… 🙂 Peace


  5. As a latina woman, my honest opinion is that this kind of feminism is gay (oh no, saying this made just me a terrible person, even though gays are supposed to be cool now!), hypocritical, and I wonder if they’re going to come out. Taylor Swift in particular seems to love the whole “let’s live in la la land” mentality where THEY are perfect, everyone else is wrong, and everything is unicorns and rainbows, where women shallowly and ditzily just praise upon each other… Makes me miss the more edgy feminism of the 90’s.


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