Emma Watson has launched a new hotline for women in England and Wales—which is, according to the actress-activist, the first hotline in the area to offer free specialized legal advice for women with questions about workplace harassment.
The goal of the hotline, which is also backed by Time’s Up United Kingdom, is to help women hold their employers accountable, by making legal advice more accessible to women, regardless of their ability to pay for it. It is also a good reminder that employees who are experiencing sexual harassment in the workplace may not feel comfortable going straight to human resources. (Can you blame them? There are so many horror stories.)
Watson said in a statement, according to the Guardian, that she hopes the hotline will go a long way in helping women “[understand] what your rights are, how you can assert them and the choices you have.”
Like many celebrities who make feminism a huge part of their brand, Emma Watson has been critiqued over and over again, largely for appearing to espouse a brand of activism that seems directed at affluent white women. In 2017, hopeless rubes got up in arms when she posed topless for Vanity Fair, a toothless critique. But her politics have been primarily concerned with “first-world feminism,” offering basic critiques of social structures catering to privileged women. (Take, for instance, her feminist book club, which Watson started in 2016, writing that her “head was about to explode” from reading “as many books and essays about equality” as she could; presumably, her feminist readings had been spotty beforehand.)
Making legal expertise more readily available to women of all backgrounds is undeniably a good thing, just like offering a tool for people who want to know more about basic gender studies. But Watson’s well-intentioned humanitarian work has its limits. It’s unclear whether the hotline will benefit more white-collar workers or blue-collar ones, who may already be involved in their own workplace lawsuits and still failing to find justice? Free legal advice is a useful tool to hold employers accountable, but the work of implementing a structure that will ultimately prevent harassment remains. Watson herself seems to know this: “With global standards such as the recent International Labour Organization treaty on harassment at work we’ll start to see a new climate of prevention and accountability on this issue domestically.”
While we wait for that to happen, this hotline is a nice thing that could dealing with sexual harassment in the workplace just a tiny bit easier. The hotline number is 020 7490 0152.
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