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Emma Watson’s response to the “self-partnering” debate exposes a huge problem

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Hollie Richardson
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Emma Watson has responded to the reaction her “self-partnered” comments made earlier this year, and her words expose a more worrying trend.

Last month, “self-partnering” became the dating buzzword that everyone had an opinion on.

“What does self-partnered mean?” quickly became a much-googled question. Dictionary.com then included “self-partnered” as part of its slang language, defining it as “an alternative for the word single as a relationship status”. And the Guardian went on to report that it defined a movement that celebrates single people “throwing off outdated stigmas and embracing a happy life”.

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Just to recap why it even became a thing in the first place: Emma Watson sparked the debate by using the term “self-partnered” to redefine her relationship status as a single woman. And the internet could not cope with this.

Some people thought it was refreshing to rewrite the words used to tell her own life’s narrative, whereas others questioned why there’s still stigma around “being single” in 2019.

Emma Watson has responded to the "self-partnering" reaction while promoting

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One writer called it “the death of female liberation” and another said she was “cheering on Emma” for “admitting out loud” that she was happily single.

It begs the question: why did people care so much?

Watson has spoken out about many crucial women’s issues in her role as a UN Women Goodwill Ambassador – on sexual harassment, confronting the patriarchy, acknowledging white privilege – but it’s these two words about her relationship status that made headlines around the world.

Sure, it can be reassuring to hear that high profile women like Watson go through the same motions as us mere mortals when it comes to relationships. Trust me, I get that.

But Watson was just saying the kind of thing that my girlfriends do every other week over Friday night cocktails. She wasn’t making a statement or pushing a new idea. She mentioned “self-partnering” as part of a much bigger interview. It wasn’t exactly ground-breaking stuff, so what was with the relentless scrutiny? 

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With this in mind, it’s understandable that Watson was confused by the massive reaction to something she has described as a “throwaway comment”.

“I literally said it as a throwaway comment, thinking it would go no further,” she told E! News.

“And then I woke up the next morning and my phone’s blowing up and I don’t know why. It’s all my friends messaging me being like, ‘Self-partnered, this thing’s gone crazy.’”

She then joked: “I’m so happy people feel empowered by my stressful moment. It’s great.”

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Watson is right to call out the ridiculousness of it all. Because we only need to refer to the “lonely Jen Aniston” and “poor Kylie Minogue” tropes to prove that the media really will reduce a successful woman’s life to her relationship status, whether she dares to openly utter one word about it or not.

Of course we’re interested when celebrities say relatable things about real life during interviews. But those same fans know that Watson, Aniston and Minogue all have a lot more to say than “yeah, I’m happy being single”. Because, regardless of how she phrased it, that’s literally all Watson said.  

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Images: Getty

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Hollie Richardson

Hollie is a digital writer at Stylist.co.uk, mainly covering the daily news on women’s issues, politics, celebrities and entertainment. She also keeps an ear out for the best podcast episodes to share with readers. Oh, and don’t even get her started on Outlander…