Yesterday, British Vogue released an excerpt online of their interview with Emma Watson, who appears on the cover of the December issue. After briefly discussing her upcoming role as Margaret Meg March in the film adaptation of Little Women, Watson discusses her upcoming 30th birthday and reflects on her life. It was a pretty unremarkable excerpt, except for one phrase: “It took me a long time, but I’m very happy . I call it being self-partnered.” Emma Watson called “being single” “being self-partnered”, and people across the internet went for her immediately. The Vogue interview itself and every subsequent write-up about it ran with the “self-partnered” comment as the headline. The memes were swift and ruthless, with everyone making the same joke (me to my relatives at Thanksgiving when they ask about my relationship status—a solid joke, but still). And, obviously, I played into this too. Of course we at Betches covered the “self-partnered” ridiculousness. But when I saw everyone clowning Emma Watson over it, I really had to ask myself: is our collective reaction to her comment kind of sexist?
The context of Emma’s self-partnered quote is that she discusses the pressures people feel when they approach 30. She said, “…there is suddenly this bloody influx of subliminal messaging around. If you have not built a home, if you do not have a husband, if you do not have a baby, and you are turning 30, and you’re not in some incredibly secure, stable place in your career, or you’re still figuring things out… There’s just this incredible amount of anxiety.” That pressure extends to dating as well, as any person in their mid- to late-twenties would tell you. Emma is currently single, and apparently, worries about it sometimes. (Stars, they’re just like… well, you know.) She said, “I never believed the whole ‘I’m happy single’ spiel. I was like, ‘This is totally spiel.’ It took me a long time, but I’m very happy . I call it being self-partnered.”
That’s it. That’s the quote. It was a throwaway sentence in an interview that spanned 30 minutes, and you can watch the entire thing. Emma simply said that she calls being single “self-partnered”. She did not say we all should start calling it that. She did not call for a rebrand of singleness. She was just like, “this is the little term I’ve made up for myself in my head.” She might have even been saying it with a little bit of levity—to me, she appears to smirk a little bit after making that comment, but Vogue immediately cuts right after, so it’s hard to tell if she was being serious or not. I took a screen grab so you can judge for yourselves (the comment occurs around 28 minutes into the video).
In any case, it’s not like Emma Watson is out here campaigning for “self-partnered” to be a valid relationship status on Facebook (sorry, FACEBOOK), or like, your taxes. So should we really be trolling her this hard over one comment?
Not to mention, saying you’re “self-partnered” is really just a fancy way of saying you’re dating yourself, or focusing on yourself. The idea of “dating yourself” is one, a concept everyone understands is not to be taken literally, and two, very conventional dating advice! A Google search for “date yourself” produces a slew of results, including an article titled, “You Don’t Need A Boyfriend — Here’s How To Date Yourself”. So, is Emma even off the mark here with this comment? I’m going to argue no, she isn’t.
And, as other people point out, the self-partnering thing is one comment she makes in the context of a pretty long interview.
This was a 30-minute interview where Emma Watson talked about activism, Britain’s colonial history, and white feminism, among a host of other socially relevant topics, and you idiots chose this throw-away comment she made at the very end as the headline, devoid of any context??
— hwasa rights advocate (@hwasaqueendom) November 6, 2019
I mean, that tweet pretty much sums it all up right there. Vogue made a conscious choice to frame their interview this way, and make it seem like this self-partnership comment was the most interesting piece of commentary Emma had to offer. Even the title of the video purposefully dumbs the interview down: “Emma Watson Talks Turning 30, Working With Meryl Streep, And Being Happily Single”. I guess “Emma Watson Talks White Feminism, Education Reform, and The State Of The World” just wouldn’t have the same ring to it. On the one hand, this was a clickbait-y choice that was clearly successful, given how many people are talking about it. On the other hand, it’s kind of f*cked up.
I do understand the strategy, though. “Self-partnered,” as many were quick to point out, smacks of the famous “conscious uncoupling” comment Gwyneth Paltrow made in 2014 in a Goop newsletter when referring to her and Chris Martin’s decision to divorce.
Move over “conscious uncoupling,” a brand new term for something we already have a word for is taking center stage. https://t.co/yAWYdZDDqT
— Slate (@Slate) November 6, 2019
But what is even the appeal of calling back to Gwyneth’s words? On the surface, the instances appear the same: a rich Hollywood type acting pretentious, making up a term for something we already have a word for, in order to try to put a positive spin on it. Making fun of celebrities is a national—nay, international—pastime. And while I feel the impulse to draw comparisons, are these instances the same? One offhand comment is hardly an entire blog post. And Emma Watson is hardly Gwyneth Paltrow, someone who’s become known for her hilariously inaccessible gift guides and $200 moon dust breakfasts—in other words, for being out of touch. It doesn’t matter, though—the quickness with which people descended on Emma Watson shows how eager we are to come for a woman. We take delight in it, even. When was the last time we saw a reaction like this when a man said something boneheaded in an interview? That’s not a rhetorical question—I’m asking because I seriously can’t remember. Pete Davidson said in an interview that he used to jerk off to his then-fiancée, Ariana Grande, and outlets just said he was being “pretty explicit“. If you ask me, that’s a hell of a lot worse than what Emma said. I guess Charlie Sheen got massively trolled back in 2011 for his bi-winning comment (damn, that was 2011? I’m old), but this is hardly the same caliber of ridiculousness. We love to tear down celebrities, but we especially love to tear down female celebrities.
It’s also not lost on me that in both cases with Gwyneth and Emma, the offending comments both had to do with their relationship status—and, even more specifically, about being content with their relationship status even though that status did not include a male partner. God forbid Emma be content with being single, or Gwyneth be active in the choice to separate from her husband. And the crazy part? Emma says in the interview (that apparently nobody bothered to listen to) that she is, in fact, dating! She says, “I’m going on dates”, though she’s not dating one specific person. Again, this comment was blown way out of proportion.
I can’t really say for sure until a male celebrity makes a similarly silly remark, but I can’t help but wonder how much gender factors in here. And as much as I will be referring to myself as self-partnered from now on, I feel like ultimately Vogue and the rest of us did Emma Watson a disservice by distilling a half hour worth of insight and introspection into one made-up term. It’s the easy thing to do, for sure. And it’s fun. But was it right?
Images: Shutterstock; slate, hwasaqueendom / Twitter; British Vogue / Youtube
Time after time, we’ve seen ways that celebrities are just like us, and apparently that includes being on their bullsh*t about relationships. In a new interview with British Vogue, Emma Watson discussed how she’s feeling about life just a few months before her 30th birthday. Personally, I still think of Emma Watson as a 16-year-old Hogwarts student with frizzy hair, so it’s pretty jarring that she’s almost out of her 20s. Like, I feel very old right now. But anyway, back to her interview. She told the magazine that while she didn’t used to understand the big deal about turning 30, she started to feel it once she turned 29 earlier this year. She said, “If you have not built a home, if you do not have a husband, if you do not have a baby, and you are turning 30, and you’re not in some incredibly secure, stable place in your career, or you’re still figuring things out… There’s just this incredible amount of anxiety.”
Wow, so I feel like Emma Watson didn’t need to personally come for me like that, but I guess it’s comforting that even a huge celebrity like her feels the same societal pressure to have your sh*t together. But also, if Emma Watson does not consider herself at a stable place in her career, then what the f*ck am I doing? But from there, Emma Watson talked a bit more about her view on relationships, and that’s where she lost me. She said that it took her a long time to believe that anyone is really happy without a partner, but now said, “I’m very happy . I call it being self-partnered.”
Self-partnered? Really? I have a tendency to be kind of cynical when it comes to relationship talk, but this just made my eyes do a full 360-degree roll. I’m happy that Emma Watson is in a good place with herself, but this feels like some Goop “conscious uncoupling” type of bullsh*t. If there’s really nothing wrong with being single, just say you’re single! I can’t speak for everyone, but I’ve never thought of “single” as any kind of insult or negative concept, just a descriptive word to describe a relationship status (or lack thereof). So coming up with a fancier word that means the exact same thing doesn’t actually change the way you feel about your relationship status. If you’re sad about being single, you’re not going to feel any better about your self-partnership.
This need to rename and rebrand normal concepts like breakups and being single as fulfilling, spiritual journeys is a trend that’s popped up frequently in the social media era, when people are desperate to show that everything they do has substance. While I often just laugh at the pretentious language that influencers spout and keep scrolling, it’s not always so trivial. Just look at the whole idea of “wellness” and “self-care.” Sorry, but ordering $40 of food from Seamless for dinner isn’t some kind of radical statement about loving yourself, it just means you weren’t in the mood to cook dinner. Sometimes it’s just not that deep. These Instagram buzzwords originated as trendy ways to describe simple concepts around health and fitness, but they’ve contributed to a society that now spends trillions of dollars every year on wellness products, most of which don’t actually work (looking at you, Flat Tummy Tea).
The temptation to rebrand familiar concepts with Instagram-friendly terms isn’t limited to wellness. Earlier this year, Cosmopolitan declared that “zombie-ing” was the newest dating trend, supplanting ghosting as the behavior that sh*tty men could be expected to exhibit. As we pointed out, though, zombie-ing was quite similar to haunting, a term originated in 2016, and even then, the concept of a guy ghosting you then not leaving you alone wasn’t new. It can be fun to use new terms to describe a behavior, but there’s no reason to pretend that the behavior has not been done before.
Now, I’m not blaming Emma Watson for the toxic wellness culture in our society, or for Cosmo reinventing the wheel with their dating terms, and she didn’t even really do anything wrong here, but I still think the idea of self-partnership is dumb. Since her interview came out, she’s gotten unnecessary hate from plenty of sad white men on social media, who claim that she’s just too ugly or annoying to get a man. Yeah… I can objectively say: no. Emma Watson is gorgeous, her humanitarian work speaks for itself, and I’m sure she’s richer than any of us ever will be. I don’t think she’ll have any problem getting a man whenever she’s not feeling her self-partnership anymore.
Even if you are Emma Watson, telling people your partner is Emma Watson is pretty impressive. https://t.co/SJvNXcgpDo
— Michelle Milliken (@MichelleyM) November 5, 2019
But many more fans have taken to social media to applaud Emma’s attitude about relationships, saying that she’s helped them feel better about their own relationship situation, and that they too will refer to themselves as self-partnered from now on. Objectively, in the big picture, this is a good thing. So many people struggle with depression and mental health issues, and if Emma Watson’s words help them through a tough time, that’s great. But in general, we should focus more on how we’re feeling, rather than which empty buzzword we use to reframe those feelings. At the end of the day, single is single, and there’s nothing wrong with it.
Images: Jstone / Shutterstock.com; michelleym / Twitter