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Lithium An ode to the bimbos Emily Ratajkowski left behind

Dec. 28, 2020
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Emily Ratajkowski, certified Girl Boss, has positioned herself to be a walking modern feminist statement. In an interview with Paper, she coined her Instagram account a “sexy, feminist magazine.” Painfully oblivious, she continued to clarify that her Instagram is not comprehensively representative of herself. “I am not going to shout from the rooftops that I am smart on a visual platform,” she said. But what about being sexy would inherently mean you’re not smart? 

Granted, I think Ratajkowski is really talented, and this interpretation of her words may be a small reach. Her recent essay in The Cut was beautiful and provoking, and really highlighted her feminist affairs of choice: the right to choose and sexual empowerment. I just find that the critical fault of her feminist identity is that her public activism ends with those concerns. 

Now, the leader of any sort of revolution will most definitely not be a celebrity. We don’t necessarily needRatajkowski to acknowledge any social justice causes. However, if she’s going to position herself as one of the feminist figures of the 21st century, she’s probably going to have to stop harping about how groundbreaking it is when she does…anything, really. 

Everything Ratajkowski does is fashion. She’s on the Forbes 30 Under 30 list for Art & Style, she’s a poster child of the industry, and she has 24 million Instagram followers looking to her for trend forecasting. And everything Ratajkowski does, according to her, is also feminism. 

But she’s rich, she’s white, and she’s formally educated. When you’re the Western beauty standard, the daughter of two professors, and your net worth is in the millions, you can call yourself whatever you want. Branding yourself as a feminist icon because you believe women shouldn’t be scrutinized for being hot, knowing they’re hot, and not wanting to be judged for it misses the mark, frankly. 

Emphasizing how smart she is, as if being immodest means that you need to prove you have brains, is a pretty backward notion. She seems hyperfixated on the conviction that sexiness and intelligence are not allowed to coexist in our society, and that that’s why she gets the criticism she does. Ratajkowski’s academic history doesn’t give her a leg up over feminists across the globe who don’t have access to privatized education. It doesn’t validate her right to be sexual online any more than sex workers who didn’t go to college. 

Fundamentally, she does make the case for all women to be treated with respect regardless of their appearance or actions. When a public figure stands for anything, whether we like it or not, it makes some sort of impact. Her vocal stances on reproductive justice and embracing sexuality combined with her following are bound to start at least one conversation somewhere. That’s why I feel that her dialogue on choice is valuable in a sense; it’s just diluted. My question is whether she really understands what “all women” look like and endure. 

On the topic of the “Blurred Lines” music video, accompanying the widely controversial song throwing the idea of consent to the wind, Ratajkowski claims for her role in that video to be—you guessed it—a feminist statement. Emphasizing that the director was a woman, she argued that the actresses in the video “were depicted as not taking themselves too seriously, not taking these men at all seriously.” The video, to her, was an exercise and promotion of choice, but what impact did it really make on the patriarchy for the video stars of some white guy’s creepy music video to be predominantly skinny white girls?

Feminism doesn’t begin and end with #freethenipple, pink pussy hats, not wearing white to your wedding, or identity politics. The thing is, the way the patriarchy (and systemic racism and the state of poverty) is set up today, it is very easy for Ratajkowski to be a feminist. She is the feminist people want to see. Bralessness and grown-out armpit hair are much easier to digest when a self-employed and conventionally attractive white lady does it. For Black women, fat women, poor and working-class women, bimbos, OnlyFans femmes, butches, and transgender women, taking up a feminist stance is nowhere near as palatable. Ratajkowski-feminism and what it consists of at its core—presenting and doing with your body whatever you please––serves the women that look like Ratajkowski, and that leaves too many people out of the picture.