Emily Ratajkowski Reckons with Her Objectification

It was Robin Thicke’s 2013 video for “Blurred Lines” that brought Emily Ratajkowski to fame for the first time. Thicke repeated the lyrics,I know you want it ”, surrounded by three beautiful naked women, one of whom was Emily Ratajkowski. Almost a decade after the fact, a whole cultural eon later, he has revisited the moment in an essay that is part of his literary debut, My body.

The video was directed by a woman, Diane Martel, and the team was comprised primarily of women, an intentional decision by Martel to make the women involved feel safe. The creation of this space was meant to be something akin to empowering, allowing Ratajkowski and the other models to feel comfortable enough to really be themselves on set, away from the annoying male gaze. Instead, Ratajkowski writes, Thicke placed his hands on her breasts during the filming of the video, and her rape burst the security bubble that Martel created on set. reducing Ratajkowski to a beautiful body intended to serve as a wardrobe or decoration and nothing more. “He had no real power like the naked girl dancing in his music video,” he writes. “I was just the hired mannequin.”

It’s something he’s grappled with his entire life, and his book is an attempt to embrace it. The model and actress sets out to litigate her chosen vocation and feelings of discomfort around her work, but the framing is curious: she often presents her life’s work as her only option and not as a choice. Throughout the essays that make up this collection, Ratajkowski works through the pains of being beautiful in ways that occasionally feel refreshing. As Sarah Hagi wrote in her ressay view for Gawker, My body stands alone as a peek behind the curtain into the mind of a famous and beautiful woman, and attempts to elucidate how alienating the experience of being conventionally attractive can be.

My experience with the book was similar to Hagi’s. Like an ordinary woman unaccustomed to the privileges of beauty, Ratjakowski’s book offered insight into that particular experience; but true introspection requires distance, and Ratjakowski is still too close to the source material to complete the task at hand.

Like any individual’s process of solving a particularly troublesome personal problem, there is a lot of circular logic at play, as Ratajkowski faces the same conflicting concerns: Like everyone else, he needs to earn money to survive, but his method of doing it it becomes increasingly unsustainable as its fame grows. At the beginning, write, Ratajkowski acknowledged that money is the key to control. By making her own money by selling her image — and by extension, herself — as a product, she was in charge of the capital she acquired. But the cost of this sacrifice, which Ratajkowski describes as a particularly troublesome one, was her own growing understanding of the limitations of the “empowerment” promised by some strains of modern feminism. When Ratjakowski saw a video of Victoria’s Secret angels playing in the lobby of their headquarters while waiting to be seen for a casting, these women seemed to be in control. That kind of power, which he eventually acquired over time as his career took off, is what he craved: to be able to use what he was given to extract money from those who were willing to spend it.

But that kind of “empowerment” ultimately never worked in his favor. The music video for “Blurred Lines” launched her into the hot spot of celebrity, but Ratajkowski disagrees with whatever press leading this fact, writing that she “resented” the mention because, oh, they couldn’t see, she’s more than a pretty face? “I did not know how to marry the identity and the ego that I had kept as separate as possible from my work with the one the world now labeled as a sex symbol,” he writes. Despite this growing restlessness, Ratajkowski continued his work, treating his chosen vocation as very easy and also emotionally draining and difficult. Conceptually, this conflict is quite easy to understand, but it is not identifiable: very few people are so beautiful that their appearance is enough to enrich them.

The music video made her famous, but she’s smart enough to publicly question her own complicity. In one particularly memorable anecdote, Ratajkowski is on a sponsored vacation to the Maldives with her husband, Sebastian Bear-McClard. In exchange for your stay at the luxury resort, you have to snap some photos for Instagram, tag the appropriate brands, and otherwise you are free to enjoy the loot its beauty brings you. Sitting poolside with her husband, Ratajkowski indulges in a bit of critical thinking about her place at the resort amongst the other paying guests. When she realizes her place in the system that underpins everything, her husband interrupts his revelation with a fact: “Come on, baby,” he says, “You’re a capitalist too, admit it.”

Ratjakowski is infuriated by this claim and attempts to make a distinction that is perhaps the most identifiable of all: “I am trying to be successful in a capitalist system. But that doesn’t mean that I like the game. “This conflict is the thread that holds the book together, and it is identifiable because it is a shared sentiment commonly shared by many people trying to make a living in some way.. But most of the people who have internalized and processed this for themselves don’t struggle with it in the same way that Ratjakowski does for the duration of these trials. What drives your personal introspection and examination of your work is guilt – being a cog in a machine that ultimately doesn’t support you. This is also a fairly common feeling; the existing system that oppresses us is also what sustains us. Thinking about this daily, on a granular level, is paralyzing; for Ratjakowski, the burden is much heavier. She is literally a commodity, and although she understands her role, it seems that at times she wants to have both.

“I was tired of feeling guilty about the way I presented myself,” she says in the introduction, seemingly vaccinating herself against sexist criticism that could come from the book’s premise. Ratjakowski is keenly aware of what it looks like and is ready for anyone who might be surprised by the forcefulness and sometimes the brilliant twists of phrase featured within it. That criticism is, of course, sexist: it is rude to think that because a woman is conventionally attractive, she cannot also be intelligent. And Ratajkowski writes through his own feelings with this directive very present. Each trial in My body She struggles directly with her issue and finds Ratjakowski working out her place in the systems she condemns in real time.

“This is a book about capitalism,” Ratajkowski said in a recent interview with the New York Times, and that is very clear: she is very aware of her role in the system, but does little work to disentangle herself from it. Arguably the book’s thesis is to dismantle the notion that her experience in the modeling industry and the broader celebrity ecosystem was completely empowering, but the end result is a kind of toothless criticism that serves to open the curtain on what. that it feels like being very beautiful, in a world where that kind of beauty is definitely a bargaining chip.

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