Feminist Emma Watson worked her magic on my daughter
And there was me thinking the most controversial thing about Emma Watson's UN speech would be her padded shoulder power-suit. An odd choice for a slip of a girl, I thought. The hard sharp square outline overwhelms the willowy, likeably vulnerable girl inside it.
But when I watched the whole speech, and heard the tremor in her voice, which she failed to shake off during her 12-minute stint on the spotlit podium, I forgave her the uncharacteristic dip into hardball Dynasty fashion. I could see that for her, that big boxy grown-up suit was a life jacket. Observing the trembling hands, I wondered why she was so nervous. What she was saying – gender stereotypes muzzle both sexes; sexualising young teenagers is wrong; women should be recognised and fairly rewarded when their achievements match those of men; femaleness and maleness are on a spectrum and not rooted in opposition – it seemed so innocuous, so obvious and uncontroversially sensible, that I figured the Joan Collins vibe would attract more interest than the message.
Maybe she was anticipating those who would write her off as "the girl from Harry Potter" exploiting her celebrity, and what the hell does she know about gender politics anyway? But it was clear she believed she could do some good by saying what she was, so it was worth the risk.
And, of course, many did ask why they should take lectures on global politics from Hermione Granger. But the objection to famous folk talking about important things is a moribund protest, basking in the smug luxury of intellectual principle, unconcerned about the practical realities of actually making things better.
Some arguments against Watson were pretty easy to fend off. One (female) commentator claimed she had renounced her right to speak about equality when she punched Draco Malfoy. (It was at this point, as I remembered how much Harry Potter's sorcery had offended not very bright right-wing American religionists, that alarm bells began to ring regarding my relaxed "What's not to like?" view of Watson.)
What came next was a vicious misogynistic onslaught. Apart from a well-publicised "countdown" to exposing nude photos of Watson – which, unsurprisingly, turned out to be a grotty little PR-driven hoax – the internet backlash was stunning. There were those who thought Watson was telling them men were puny and must submit. There were men who demanded women "shut up and man up" and stated that asking for men's support in battling for equality was an admission of female weakness. Then there were the ones who actually said things like "women should stay at home so they don't get raped". And meant it.
But there are always idiots, and what can you do. What was lost this week among the brouhaha was the impact this speech made upon the Harry Potter generation around the world, just beginning to articulate and understand their own view of feminism. The day after it took place, I awoke to a ferociously worded email from my 11-year-old daughter, a newly-empassioned feminist who had watched the speech and begun trawling the internet for facts and opinions on its subject.
"We need to prove that women are not just things to pick up the kids from school and make the dinners, that they are not sex objects but intelligent, useful people," she raged in a long, intense outpouring which concluded "What we need is not men or women being on top, but both at the same level. We need gender EQUALITY". I'm sure she was just one of many young people stirred. And for that, brave Emma, swotty Hermione, I can't thank you enough.
Why there’s no place like Paddy’s home
What a brilliant Grand Designs on Channel 4 this week. Derry farmer and architect Paddy Bradley started off with four ugly steel shipping containers and transformed them into what Kevin McCloud called “the most daring and beautiful agricultural dwelling on the planet”.
Bradley was up against it, with a tiny budget, locals who “thought I was crazy”, and a mum who hated the idea.
In the end, the uplifting, magical home with heart-stopping views of the Sperrins, a floating garden and a bunch of cows nosing at the windows, was a fitting testament to a man with a brave, poetic vision, whose mum was so proud she couldn't speak.
All things being equal, what a cliche, Denzel
Denzel Washington gave some inspiring interviews last week about eschewing film franchises because of their lazy reliance on cliches. I wonder if he's seen the final cut of his latest movie The Equalizer?
After a brief preamble in which he plays substitute father to a young prostitute, repeatedly folds and unfolds a napkin, and is wise and gentle, he spends two hours avenging wrongs done to good American folks by cold-blooded tattooed Russians through acts of incredible and often brilliantly imaginative violence. Ernest Hemingway is mentioned at one point.
Despite his love of masculine display, I don't think Ern would be too impressed. I wonder if Denzel is.