What Emma Watson Really Means When She Says She’s “Self-Partnered”
Emma Watson caught the world’s attention when she used the term “self-partnered” to describe her relationship status, but the fervor around her phrasing obscures the real value of what she was saying.
Compared by many to Gwyneth Paltrow’s reframing of her divorce as “conscious uncoupling,” Watson is known for her willingness to engage more deeply than most celebs with the social issues and activism she encounters, particularly around gender.
As strange as it may sound, self-partnering is simply about trying to focus on being happy and complete as an individual— ultimately investing time in getting to know oneself without bowing to pressures to seek fulfillment in a partner. It doesn’t mean you’re not open to it. It just means you’re with yourself first.
Emma Watson is all grown up now
What is “self-partnered”?
Watson recently told British Vogue that as her 30th birthday approaches, she’s finally happy with being single.
“It took me a long time, but I’m very happy. I call it being self-partnered,” she said.
Let’s face it, the reality is, 2019 though it may be, the pressures facing single women on the precipice of 30 (or older) are still quite real.
Personally, I found myself dealing with the breakup of a longterm relationship at the age of 29, and all I saw was my same-age ex-boyfriend getting hit on by women both “age-appropriate” and far younger. At the time, I was suffering a lack of confidence—out of character—which allowed mainstream notions of “aging women” and where we should be in life (with a man and kids—before it’s too “late”) enter my sphere.
Close to a decade later, I now feel these prescribed pressures far less, having seen their true potential to block happiness—whether they’ve been fulfilled or not.
It’s about having choices
Watson’s role in the upcoming remake of Little Women is seemingly an extension of the way she approaches real-life feminism. To that end, she says that she’s dedicated to learning about and expanding on what being a feminist truly means.
Although the story’s eldest March sister, Meg (who Watson plays) isn’t traditionally understood as a feminist—especially compared to the rebellious, free-spirited Jo– Watson wants the world to understand, once and for all, that for her, feminism is about the right to choose, regardless of what it is that one chooses.
“Her choice is that she wants to be a full-time mother and wife,” says Watson. “To Jo, being married is really some sort of prison sentence. But Meg says, ‘You know, I love him and I’m really happy and this is what I want.”
Just because my dreams are different from yours, it doesn’t mean they’re unimportant.
The importance of intersectionality in all things
While Emma Watson has indeed been stealing headlines with her coining of the term “self-partnered,” it’s important to point out that while the new label works to reframe singledom, it also happens to derail more complex, less snappy conversations Watson has had about her experiences learning intersectionality (aka intersectional feminism).
What is intersectionality, you may ask?
Why, the inherently interconnected nature of social categories like race, class, and gender, of course, and how they overlap to create systems of discrimination or disadvantage.
As Lola Okolosie writes for The Guardian, Watson has done the work necessary to understand criticism she’s received in the past.
“When I heard myself being called a ‘white feminist’ I didn’t understand (I suppose I proved their case in point). What was the need to define me — or anyone else for that matter — as a feminist by race? What did this mean? Was I being called racist? Was the feminist movement more fractured than I had understood? I began… panicking,” said Watson.
“It would have been more useful to spend the time asking myself questions like: What are the ways I have benefited from being white? In what ways do I support and uphold a system that is structurally racist? How do my race, class and gender affect my [feminist] perspective?”
She went on to thank other feminists for calling her out.
Should we all be self-partnered?
If the collective “we” should find ourselves willing to draw valuable lessons from the work and life (thus far) of Emma Watson, let it be the following: the importance of remaining open— always open— to new ways of framing experiences, new definitions of well-worn terms, and even altogether new ways of understanding the ways of the world at large. You do that, and you’ll be your own best partner.
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