In My Body, Emily Ratajkowski asks difficult questions about beauty and capitalism. Does she have any answers?

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It is difficult to think of something that in our society is valued higher than complete personal honesty. On social media, on television, and in magazines, people are rewarded for disclosing personal trauma, confessing and self-flagelling guilt. The best people are “self-aware.” Writers, celebrities, and influencers have tried to capitalize on this trend, justifying their value by their willingness to tell the world facts and stories about themselves that others might find it difficult to admit. But is recognition in itself deep and beneficial to others? And is it possible to achieve personal absolution only in confession?

Emily Ratajkowski tries to figure out in her debut collection of essays, My body… V American supermodel first became famous in 2013 after dancing nearly nude in the infamous Blurred Lines music video and has turned to politics in the past few years, backing Bernie Sanders’ 2020 presidential campaign and becoming a vocal advocate for women’s sexual rights. Known as “Emrata” by her fans, she has 28.5 million followers on Instagram, as well as the fashion and swimwear brand Inamorata. Book follows (and includes) viral essay written by Ratajkowski for Slice in September 2020, Buy Myself Back, which has become the most read article of the year. It tells the story of Ratajkowski trying to buy a piece of art created using an image from her Instagram, as well as a heartbreaking account of sexual abuse by photographer Jonathan Leder while filming in the Catskills at age 20, and then watching Leder sell his collection. … a book of photographs that he took Ratajkowski at night. (Leder vehemently denied her assault charges.)

The essay was met with mostly praise, but few critics noted it. blind spots in Ratajkowski’s understanding of his cultural position. They pointed to Ratajkowski’s tendency to formulate his situation. as a millionaire and a celebrity as impotence (“I didn’t make enough money to comfortably spend $ 80,000 on art,” she wrote, seeking relativity) and her inability to see her role in conveying her “image.” “I learned that my image, my reflection, is not mine”: the strange epiphany when you exchange views for money is a fundamental modeling transaction.

[See also: Can anyone “steal” your life from social media?]

The problems that have plagued Buying Myself Back, which is undoubtedly the strongest essay in the collection, are even more pronounced in My body, the result is a text that asks many poignant questions – what power does beauty really have? What is the sex appeal policy? How wide are the opportunities for women under capitalism? – but does not answer any of them. Instead, the book functions as a (admittedly thoughtful) brand exercise that tries to do little other than create sympathy for Ratajkowski herself.

A lack of self-awareness drives every story, despite explicit attempts to prove that it understands its position. In one essay, “Bc Hello Halle Berry”, named after the actress was quoted as saying that her appearance was “not spared” [her] any hardships, ”Ratajkowski and her producer husband, Sean McLard-Bear, sit on the beach during a sponsored trip to the Maldives and complain about“ rich people ”(they are of course not included in this category). Ratajkowski later describes herself as “caught” by capitalism, which forces her to capitalize on her good looks. Although Ratajkowski struggles with her wealth, she ends up hinting that she agrees with Halle Berry (hints – this is all that ever happens in My body – real conclusions are rarely drawn). As the American writer Hayley Nachman wrote in response to “Redeem myself back”Ratajkowski alludes to “class awareness, but with a dull tone insists on positioning himself as a failure in its context.”

Despite being the most famous subject in the book, modeling is not seriously investigated in any of the My bodyessays. Ratajkowski deliberately writes about misogyny that is fundamental to the industry – such as being judged by middle-aged men, forced to watch porn with a potential client, and being assaulted, for example – but rather than revealing ways in which it is bad for women and models, she views modeling as a means of empowerment. “I’ve really gotten a lot of attention from famous powerful men,” she writes in Men Like You, an open letter to a sloppy, older male colleague. “This gave me the opportunity to work, earn money, and build a career.” In Transactions, she stresses that she believes she has little choice: “There was no way to completely avoid the game.”

[See also: “Toxic” relationships, “burnout”, “productivity dysmorphia” – why do we medicalise societal problems?]

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This is the main problem My body… Ratajkowski claims to be against capitalism and the patriarchal norms that oppress women, but does little to subvert them. In fact, she sets trends for new iterations of unrealistic body standards (when you google “ab crack,” the belly look is in vogue, her photo is the first result). To think meaningfully about how to change those standards, Ratajkowski would need to change almost everything that underlies her celebrity. You cannot help but feel that she knows it; tiptoe around this conclusion, but always shy away from admitting it at the last minute.

Apart from problems with My bodyIdeas, the book is also hamely. Many of his brooding lines are full of obvious connotations and overloaded metaphors. In one essay, “K Spa,” Ratajkowski goes to an anonymous women’s spa, where her body is treated just like everyone else. But when she walks away without makeup, she is called a cat and, you guessed it, she remembers (and enjoys) the look of a man. “I think he thought I was beautiful, I think. I involuntarily grin. When I go home, I go into my bag and put on some lipstick … ”This is imitation. smart writing.

None of this stops My body from being interesting in many ways. Gossip is scattered all over the place, such as the pitch document for the videotape Blurred Lines (select quotes include DEEP SHIT IN A VERY SMART MODERN WAY and THIS IS A FAR FROM A MAZOGINIST), her relationships with other celebrities, what was she paid $ 25,000 to attend the Super Bowl with renowned businessman Joe Lowe and acknowledge her Instagram obsession. While these details are often self-critical, they seem to be revealed in the hope of arousing the sympathy of readers and removing any responsibility from Ratajkowski.

[See also: The pain and shame of girlhood]

My body is part of a trend of political, ostensibly anti-capitalist literature. While the distance between Ratajkowski’s underestimation of her own strength and the sheer amount she actually possesses is unique, similar misconceptions abound in other works as well. Many contemporary essayists such as Jia Tolentino or Anne Helen Petersen – recognize that the systems are involved, but not think about any actions that may affect or counteract them. This approach is almost always very personal and often ends up with the writer actively continuing to participate in capitalist systems. In “Bc Hello Halle Berry,” Ratajkowski shows her husband a screenshot of her phone that says, “Fuck capitalism, but until it’s messed up, keep getting this bag.”

There is no doubt that Ratajkowski has become a victim of blatant misogyny and has been objectified countless times since she first came to the public eye eight years ago. But when she deals with Ratajkowski, when she asks to be treated – not as a supermodel, but as a writer and thinker – her ideas turn out to be self-centered and fragile. She strives to understand how the average woman struggles with her body, but enjoys how beneficial her body is, and is unaware of her own influence on how most women see themselves.

Modifying her body has undoubtedly helped Emily Ratajkowski a lot. But no amount of self-reflection can make it meaningful to us.

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