My Body by Emily Ratajkowski Review

Emily Ratajkowski's take on sexuality, female empowerment, body image and society's fixation with women's body.

I just finished reading the book ''My Body'' by Emily Ratajkowski, a well-known model, actress, and activist, and now a writer. Or for many people, ''the topless girl'' from the the music video for Robin Thicke's controversial 2013 song “Blurred Lines.” Later, in "My Body," Ratajkowski confesses to having been assaulted by Robin Thicke on the set of "Blurred Lines," recalls how she felt throughout the music video's filming and writes, “With that one gesture, Robin Thicke had reminded everyone on set that we women weren’t actually in charge. I didn’t have any real power as the naked girl dancing around in his music video. I was nothing more than the hired mannequin.” 

The book examines female empowerment, body image, and the importance of self-expression, as well as the fetishization of girls, society's fixation with women's sexuality, and the bizarre dynamics of the fashion and cinema industries. She examines such issues by reflecting on her personal, professional, and life experiences. 

It all began with her 2020 article, "Buying Myself Back," which she wrote for New York magazine. She asks herself, "When does a model own her own image?" after finding out that she was being sued for posting a paparazzi-taken photo of herself on Instagram. In the article, Emily talks about possession of her body image, how she felt about her Instagram pictures being sold without her permission in the photographic series "Instagram Paintings" by Richard Prince, and her unpleasant recollections of her ex-boyfriend exposing her personal images. She looks back at all of her memories in the essay and says ''All these men some of whom I knew intimately and others I'd never met, were debating who owned an image of me.'' 

Like in ''Buying Myself Back'', much of the essays discuss the ways her body has been violated, and the power dynamics that her body is subject to as a model from predatory photographers to billionaire princes paying for her company. In this book Ratajkowski attempts to gain ultimate control over the sale of her image; power; and money, and she says that she found some kind of empowerment in her sexuality. “All women are objectified and sexualized to some degree, I figured, so I might as well do it on my own terms. I thought that there was power in my ability to choose to do so.” Ratajkowksi writes. She is self-aware that she is part of a corrupt system and she writes ''anyone who participates is just as guilty as I am.’' She admits that by capitalizing on her body, she has the money, opportunities, and privilege that she has now. However, there is a dilemma, Emily criticizes the beauty and fashion industries in which women’s bodies are commodified under capitalism but later she says that she is just using all of these oppressive systems for her personal wealth and still an active participant in these systems. In one essay, she expresses ethical and moral concerns about a paid vacation at a five-star hotel resort in the Maldives, claiming that she is different from ‘those rich privileged people’ when really she is one of 'those rich privileged people', Therefore, one cannot help but feel that this is complete hypocrisy yet Emily rejects this criticism by claiming that she is just ''trying to succeed in a capitalist system, but that doesn’t mean I like the game,’' That is one of the central themes of the book, she argues that beauty can be powerful, but it is not a force that she is allowed to have control over. She writes that '‘Whatever influence and status I’ve gained were only granted to me because I appealed to men. My position brought me in close proximity to wealth and power and brought me some autonomy, but it hasn’t resulted in true empowerment.’' 

However, this is neither a book on feminism as it was advertised nor is it ''empowering for all women''. Ratajkowski does not unpack such complex issues as objectification and feminist ideology, and the book is exclusively empowering to her. Her career has been based on Eurocentric beauty standards, and her success promotes unattainable standards of beauty, yet she never seems to ponder how her impact may contribute to body image and self-esteem issues among women and girls. She never questions her significance in the industry. As such, it is best to evaluate this book only as Emily's memoir, in which she reveals some of the most intimate parts of her life sets out to figure out her worldview, and challenges the numerous contradictions she lives and profits from. There may be a lack of multidimensional thinking and the female gaze is rarely explored by her, it is important to note that Ratajkowski is an excellent and authentic writer. Some, if not all, of her experiences are relatable. Sexualization, commodification, and disrespect from countless men throughout her career are everyday occurrences for a modern woman. Emily Ratajowski, I believe, manages to reclaim control of her body's narrative and proves that she is more than merely "a body." Overall, it's a thought-provoking and well-read book that I wholeheartedly recommend.