But the full quote, from an interview Watson gave to Elle shortly after making her first speech as a UN Women's ambassador in 2014, reveals that her words have been taken somewhat out of context.
Feminism is not here to dictate to you. It's not prescriptive, it's not dogmatic. All we are here to do is give you a choice. If you want to run for prime minister, you can. If you don't, that's wonderful too. Shave your armpits, don't shave them, wear flats one day, heels the next. These things are so irrelevant and surface to what it is all really about, and I wish people wouldn't get caught up in that.
We want to empower women to do exactly what they want, to be true to themselves, to have the opportunities to develop. Women should feel free. There is no typical feminist, there is nothing anywhere that says you have to meet a certain criteria.
Watson herself acknowledged that shaving and wearing heels are "irrelevant and surface" aspects of feminism, and that it's really about empowering women and ensuring they can make their own choices.
Since playing Hermione in the Harry Potter films, Watson has dedicated much of her energy to feminist campaign work. Last year she helped to launch a legal advice line for women who have experienced sexual harassment at work, and recently she defied JK Rowling by speaking up about trans rights.
Watson also hosts an intersectional book club, through which she aims to uplift other women's voices by conducting interviews and promoting their work.
Some people did defend Watson in the face of the backlash she received.
I for one am not sure that taking part in an online pile-on targeting Emma Watson is the BEST way to demonstrate ho… https://t.co/WlIVjvd1N8
@NikiYAndDylan It's a 6 year old interview whose aim was clearly to try and show that feminism is for everyone, a good thing.
— David Pellow - People aren't things 🐢 (@David Pellow - People aren't things 🐢)
But the vast majority of responses to her quote were negative.
Watson, and her activism, aren't perfect. Earlier this year, for instance, she acknowledged that she needs to "work harder to tackle racism" after her attempt to support Black Lives Matter was called out for being performative.
But ultimately Watson's feminism isn't as superficial and vacuous as some have made it out to be. She has put her money where her mouth is when it comes to social justice causes, donating £1m to victims of sexual harassment in the wake of the Time's Up movement.
Although we can quibble over the definition and parameters of feminism, surely we all agree that it shouldn't be about tearing other women down?