Does Emma Watson’s activism help anyone?

3 min readFeb 3

The Our Shelved Shelf community has grown to become the largest group on Goodreads since its inception in January 2016. The group has an international, intergenerational membership but is particularly influential in attracting a younger generation of readers.

Although OSS introduces feminism to a wider audience, there is a risk that cultural hegemony can be endorsed and extended through Watson’s role as leader, and her particular type of celebrity feminism. Moreover, while the Goodreads community, particularly the OSS group, may seem like a global village, power relationships are still in existence through the dominance of the English language within the threads, and via the focus of the book selections on Anglo-American culture.

Although there are clear thoughts articulated by Watson about how to diversify the monthly/bi-monthly book choices, there is a preference towards English-language books written by cisgendered, middle-class, able-bodied, white women. Therefore, the reading list does not represent the international and intersectional nature of the group membership — something several group members voiced their concern about. There is, therefore, the potential to include books by authors that can give different perspectives of feminism that are more inclusive for OSS members.

Watson begins OSS as one of the group; however, later she assumes the position as book club leader as OSS grows in size. While Watson provides some direction for discussion –such as guiding questions for the later books — her interventions can also influence the discussions and the interpretations of the book. In this instance, Watson’s discourse reflects her power as an authority figure because Watson’s contribution to the discussion defines the language being used by the group to engage with and represent the topic. Watson is already in an elevated position as a result of her celebrity status, and her opinion may be ranked above that of others. Many users joined the group because they were fans of Watson’s, often since they were children, so they place confidence in her opinions (on the books and on feminism). This can be exclusionary if the feminism being promoted is not intersectional.

To some extent, Our Shared Shelf endorses the individualist feminist narrative over a collective or pluralist…


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