The model, actress, celebrity influencer and entrepreneur has sparked both praise and furor with the provocative display of her body, which could be interpreted as unapologetic sign of feminist empowerment or a marketing ploy. Here she charts the evolution in her thinking about our culture's commodification of women, drawing on her own experiences.
What an impossible task Emily Ratajkowski gave herself—it’s admirable, really, her efforts to better understand the arcane, patriarchal, racist, capitalistic measurements of physical beauty that have allowed her to be famous and successful and rich ... Honestly, the whole book is pretty depressing, a constant push-pull between Ratajkowski’s self-awareness and the greater forces that commodified her ... Ratajkowski’s clean, clear writing does what you want it to do; it wrestles with what it means to be conventionally attractive ... Where Ratajkowski fails is in thinking more critically about her place in the world, in the continuum of women feeling bad about their bodies, being discriminated against for their bodies, being abused and assaulted for their bodies. There seems to be almost no recognition in her writing that her body is held up as a standard — not necessarily by her, but by other people intent on maintaining the beauty status quo — used to shame people who don’t look like her ... The thing that she’s trying to understand in a more holistic, intersectional way is the very thing that has given her a good, comfortable life. I don’t begrudge her those moments of low self-esteem or the individuals in her life who seem to think she’s nothing but a body, but when taken in the larger context of fat-shaming and body discrimination, hers is an unfulfilling tale ... My Body doesn’t give us any way to move forward, any idea what to do with our punishing self-hatred or the way men profit from women’s beauty ... People are entitled to look however they want, Ratajkowski included, even if her body sometimes makes me feel bad about my own. That’s not her fault, per se — but she is an active participant in a system that raises her up and makes me hate jean shopping. That dichotomy is missing from her reflections ... My Body doesn’t cut as deep as I want, but it cuts all the same
'Buying Myself Back'...is the strongest of the 11 collected here, which are serious, personal, repetitive and myopic ... ambiguity is present in these essays, often frustratingly so. Part of the problem is that Ratajkowski’s conception of herself is at odds with the reality she describes, which is a sincere but exasperating kind of celebrity dysmorphia ...There are moments of courageous self-disclosure in My Body, and passages that made me laugh ... The essay about 'Blurred Lines' is the one that most clearly captures the perplexing nature of Ratajkowski’s position. She’s thoughtful and skeptical, and has been treated wretchedly over the course of her career; she grapples intently with her sense of victimization at the hands of those who would use her body to sell their products. It seems strange, then, that her empowerment should arrive in the form of doing exactly that, albeit on her own terms and with her own products ... That, it seems to me, is the unsolvable moral question at the heart of this book.
... essays that shock and illuminate as they walk around the central themes of what it means to be a woman and a commodity, poking at them with a variety of sharpened tools ... At times the reader is a popcorn-eating audience; at other times her therapist ... It’s thrilling, often, to sit with Ratajkowski in the roiling surf of her life, in elegant stories written with uncomfortable honesty. It’s revelatory, too, to explore digital life and body politics through the eyes of a person whose body shapes a discourse, and unexpectedly moving to see the bruises left behind. The only problem with this being a smart and glittering collection of essays, rather than simply the glamorous celebrity memoir Ratajkowski could have sold, is that its quality reveals its limits ... Read as memoir, it’s extraordinary; read as activism, it’s unsatisfying. Her commentary on the industry she’s chosen is passionate and chilling, and yet at times rings hollow, in part because of her reluctance to subvert the male gaze she critiques. She returns to the concept that her power lies in her body, without interrogating the idea that her body could also walk away ... It’s fair, of course, for her to criticise the system she works within, but it’s unclear whether she cares enough to change it. To do so would mean (among other things) leaving social media, where images remain commodities to be exploited and crushed, often taking women’s identities down with them. Just because she can see the problems (capitalism, beauty standards, misogyny) are structural doesn’t mean she is not implicated in them. Or, indeed, is not perpetuating them daily ... But perhaps this project is a beginning. Perhaps it’s not Ratajkowski’s responsibility to overthrow the patriarchy, or redefine beauty, or destabilise capitalism. Perhaps it is enough for her to simply write a dazzling book considering the contradictions of living in a body like hers. To hold her stories up to the light, shards of glass, and see which ones draw blood.