The "Beauty and the Beast" star, 26, addressed the controversy in an interview with Reuters, saying it "reveals to me how many misconceptions and what a misunderstanding there is about what feminism is."
Still, the actress, who in 2014 launched the Un's HeForShe campaign that aims to enlist a billion men and boys in the movement for gender equality, acknowledged that many are confused by what it means to be a feminist.
"I’m confused. Most people are confused," she said.
British radio host Julia Hartley-Brewer was critical of the image and addressed it on her talk show.
"Emma Watson: 'Feminism, feminism... gender wage gap... why oh why am I not taken seriously," she wrote on Twitter.
"When you have children you become hyper-aware of every instance of every sexualized image of women and it becomes harder to teach them about feminism and treating people equally. So this instance more about objectification, but that ultimately holds back feminism," she wrote.
But Watson, who acknowledged that she was "slightly taken aback" by the shot itself, said overall she was pleased with how the photo shoot turned out.
"We’d been doing so many crazy things on that shoot but it felt incredibly artistic and I’ve been so creatively involved and engaged with Tim," she said. "I’m so thrilled about how interesting and beautiful the photographs were."
"Beauty and the Beast" is produced by Disney, the parent company of ABC News.