Emma Watson is on hiatus from her acting day-job in a bid to spend a year working on her “own personal development.” “I’m reading so much and exposing myself to so many new ideas. It almost feels like the chemistry and the structure of my brain is changing so rapidly sometimes,” Watson told author and feminist Bell Hooks, in Paper. “It feels as if sometimes I'm struggling to keep up with myself. It's a really cool period of time for me. My work that I do for the UN is all very clearly outlined, but my personal views and opinions are still being defined, really.” Yesterday, Watson interviewed feminist icon and activist legend Gloria Steinem in front of a sold-out crowd at Emmanuel Centre in London to discuss Steinem's new book My Life on the Road – her first in 20 years. So what did they discuss? What would these two figureheads of modern feminism debate? What do they care about? What did Gloria have to say about "After Black Power, Women's Liberation"? Sadly, a google search won't shed any light on the topics of conversation. The talk was 'covered', but several mainstream media outlets preferred to talk about Watson's newly dyed "ombre hair" and her "strong brows." The Daily Mail (naturally the top search) ran with the headline: '"I used to hate my strong eyebrows": Emma Watson talks embracing insecurities and accepting that she is "rather like Hermione" during interview with Gloria Steinem.' The second article google retrieves is titled: 'Emma Watson Hairstyles - Emma Watson New Hair Color.' The Independent did a round up of all the articles that chose to lead with comments on Watson's physical appearance over the contents of her discussion. Beyond holding tête-à-tête with brilliant brains, Watson is starring in the live-action adaptation of Beauty and the Beast and working tirelessly as the UN Women Goodwill Ambassador. The Ivy-League-educated Harry Potter alumnus has also been appointed as a fellow at Oxford University. What more does this woman have to do to be taken seriously? What have her highlights got to do with anything she was attempting to achieve yesterday? It seems another characteristically brazen curtailing of an opinionated female voice by the British press in the favour of articles that largely centre on what said woman is wearing, not wearing, eating, and not eating. Hollywood actresses have begun to push back on journalists who choose to focus on their physicality over their work in small but marked ways. Jennifer Aniston, Julianne Moore and Reese Witherspoon all refused to put their hands in E!'s famous mani-cam after Elisabeth Moss gave the mani-cam the finger. At 2014's SAG awards, Cate Blanchett called out an E! camera operator for panning up her body, asking if he does that to the guys. The hashtag #AskHerMore then trended last year at The Oscars.
And what about the women in the public arena who don't make a living landing magazine covers and winning BAFTAs? What does it mean when our Home Secretary, Theresa May, gets asked about her lipstick choices and footwear? Michelle Obama's toned biceps and J.Crew collection clock up more column inches than her extensive charity work, and feminist campaign trailing. Hillary Clinton still finds herself having to defend her pantsuit collection and discuss her decision to wear scrunchies. No, not all media outlets are Trojan horses for the women's movement, and no, not all publications choose to focus on shoe choices over policies, but when is this fixation with women's physical appearance going to end? The more frequently we reduce an empowered woman to her wardrobe, the more frequently we miss the point.