Emma Watson's 'topless' Vanity Fair shoot prompts feminism debate

Images of actor prompt widely positive reaction on social media

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Emma Watson has stoked controversy after posing for a provocative photo shoot.

The actor, who rose to fame playing Hermione in the Harry Potter movie series, is Vanity Fair’s March cover star. One image shows Watson posing in nothing but a cut-out crochet open top by Burberry and white lace skirt for British fashion photographer Tim Walker.

The image of Watson, who is also a feminist campaigner and UN ambassador, prompted a mainly positive reaction on Twitter, with many arguing it was a bravely feminist shoot. A small number, however, suggested the image was “hypocritical” given Watson positions herself as a feminist.

Julia Hartley-Brewer, a talkRadio presenter and Telegraph columnist, criticised the image.

Known for her deliberately controversial opinions, Hartley-Brewer shared the photo of Watson, which also featured on page three of The Sun.

She questioned why posing topless for a “posh magazine” like Vanity Fair was “empowering” yet doing it page three constituted “exploitation”.

The commentator’s accusation angered many, with people rushing to condemn the assertion and argue feminism and nudity were in no way “mutually exclusive”.

“Ah, I hadn't realised that feminism had a strict dress code,” quipped James Holt.

“Yes we are still having the f*****g convo that if you are feminist you have to desexualize yourself,” said another.

“Apparently you can't be a feminist and love your body - the two are mutually exclusive,” said Federica Cocco.

But other critics took aim at Watson for the shoot. “Feminist: Page three girls? Topless? Ban them! Emma Watson topless? Brave and Stunning! #doublethink #hypocrisy,” said Brett Caton.

“The First Rule of Feminist Club - burn your bra if you want to. Some poor loves seem a bit confused,” chipped in another.

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Watson, who appeared in the magazine to promote her upcoming film Beauty and the Beast, graduated from Brown University in 2014 and then became a Global Ambassador for the United Nations in July 2014. She helped to launch the UN Women campaign HeForShe which calls on men to advocate gender equality.