Emily Ratajkowski: ‘Women must feel liberated, not constrained, by feminism’

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Emily Ratajkowski was arrested as part of the large demonstrations and protests around Brett Kavanaugh’s nomination (and confirmation) to the Supreme Court. It’s just a reminder that Emily might not be the most intellectual feminist out there, but she really does care and she really is trying. Emily has long discussed feminism in the narrow view of “feminism is not judging me for my scantily clad selfies.” Well, Emily has a new interview in Grazia where she says much of the same. It’s not that I truly disagree with her about most of this stuff, I just wish her take on feminism existed beyond the end of her nose. Some highlights from Grazia:

Whether selfies are art: ‘Yes! I think selfies have more to do with talking about gaze, especially for women. I don’t know if that is always art but they definitely engage in a conversation about the gaze – a new level of self-portrait.’ She hates art elitism, though. ‘The thing that made me not like the art world is snobbery and the bullsh-t. Art in every form should be about a visceral response.’

She likes French feminists. She admires how Frenchwomen embrace their sexuality in a way that’s ‘never vulgar’ or ‘obvious’ because they always ‘have ownership of their bodies’.

Good lord, did you know she had developed her bust at the age of 13? ‘I had quite a figure at that point, curvy with really big breasts’ – when she wore a cute dress to a dance and was turned away for looking too sexy. ‘It was so embarrassing. I wasn’t having sex and didn’t know what being sexy was so it was very strange to get that kind of reaction. I felt like it was my fault although it wasn’t.’

On feminism & sexuality: ‘For me, feminism is all about choice: socially, sexually, in the workplace, in any capacity. It is about women having the freedom to choose.’
 Are there limits to that? ‘I don’t think so. Once you start drawing lines you’re missing the point, because everyone has different things they want for themselves… and there are no limitations for men in that way.’ What’s essential, she thinks, is that ‘Women must feel liberated, not constrained, by feminism.’

She doesn’t want to be a mom or a role model yet: ‘I don’t want to be vanilla! I think having haters is a good sign! I want to inspire people to get mad.’ When I ask what she’s afraid of, she says ‘mediocrity’. ‘I would rather have 300,000 trolls than nobody saying anything.’

Marrying Sebastian Bear-McClard: They married after they dated for just four weeks because she ‘felt if I’m not going to get married when I’m this in love with someone then I don’t ever want to get married’. She walked the aisle in a yellow Zara suit. ‘It just felt like the most me outfit ever,’ she grins. Yes, her wardrobe was a feminist statement. No, she didn’t take his name. Although, she grins, ‘My family has been joking about him taking mine.’

[From Grazia]

How many times is she going to tell that story about developing her bust early on? Good lord. Every time she tells that story, it feels like she’s saying “I realized I was a feminist the moment I was discriminated against for being stacked.” As for the rest of it… I actually had a minor epiphany while I read through this interview: Emily is a new strand of Cool Girl. She’s the new Feminist Cool Girl, where she’s all about making her White Feminism Lite appealing and palatable to men. She’s not looking to extend her knowledge of feminism beyond “I want to post a lot of sultry selfies,” so she’s just telling men that when they look at her bust, they’re being feminist allies. That’s what it is.

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Photos courtesy of WENN.

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52 Responses to “Emily Ratajkowski: ‘Women must feel liberated, not constrained, by feminism’”

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  1. Sarah Joan says:

    I am starting to actually feel sorry for her? I think she’s just started realising she’ll never have a real career, and has a few more years (if even that) of walking around with her tits out before people move on.

  2. BaronSamedi says:

    Ugh. So in her world feminism is basically about sexuality and owning your body in a *sexy* way.

    Because that is ALL she does. I don’t see her starting any women-focused projects, I don’t see her forming companies or doing ANYTHING but being out there talking about her body and taking pictures.

    There is zero substance to her feminism and it’s so patently obvious that she has internalized the male gaze to a ridiculous degree. Please Emily, wake up and smell the patriarchy.

    • Char says:

      She clearly uses feminism as an excuse to show her body and boobs anytime. If you wanna do it, girl, do it, but own your thirst for attention, don’t try to make it deep.

      • otaku fairy... says:

        “She clearly uses feminism as an excuse to show her body and boobs anytime. If you wanna do it, girl, do it, but own your thirst for attention, don’t try to make it deep.”
        Wrong. She, like most of the women who people try to use this argument on, has been pretty open and honest about the fact that she has had more than one motive for her choices. The problem is that misogynists on both the left and the right don’t genuinely want to hear ALL of a woman’s motives for behavior that’s deemed ‘slutty’ or ‘promiscuous’. They only want to hear- and use- answers that they feel will allow them to keep painting women as either damaged/crazy, willing to do ‘anything’ for male approval, or as lying, conniving temptresses.

        Emily Ratajkowski and other immodest women with public platforms have unapologetically admitted to sometimes being motivated by wanting to turn on men. There’s nothing wrong with turning on and wanting to turn on; these are not things anyone needs to be cured of (it’s a shame this discussion still has to be had in the 21st century). But these women have also discussed that some of it is about empowerment through liberation from sex-negative, victim-blaming patriarchy. They’ve even been honest about the fact that sometimes it’s not really about either of those two things, and they just don’t particularly care to make a more conservative/classy choice. Misogynists are eager to silence women who list these last two motives because they want to keep pretending that there’s nothing wrong with slut-shaming, they want to hold on to gender-essentialist myths about female self-respect, and they want to keep pretending that women ONLY do sexually immodest things for male approval.

      • missskitttin says:

        Otaku Fairy i love what you just said. At the same timeI kind iof feel bad for this girl because while she wants to say something that is valid and good I feel she at times doesnt find the right words and it comes out semi wrong and confusing.

    • Mumbles says:

      Yeah, I give her credit for her Kavanaugh protest but her feminism has always been “choice” feminism as in “as a feminist I have the choice to dance around topless in a Robin Thicke video about ‘blurred lines.'”

    • TQ says:

      Totally agree BaronSamedi.

    • Icantremembermyusername says:

      Well, she did march around during the Kavanaugh stuff in her sexy overalls.

    • Doomsday Colt says:

      Wants kudos for standing up to patriachy whilst conforming to the male gaze to cash in. Typical celeb.

      • ...otaku fairy says:

        Expects young women to earn basic respect as human beings by being less tempting to men, fails to recognize how that expectation is a form of patriarchy itself. Typical misogynist. It wouldn’t be the first time feminism was used to promote the values of rape apologists and worshipers of purity.

  3. RedTop says:

    So mediocrity = not famous to her. Gotcha. Know your worth outside of big breasts and fame.

  4. OriginalLala says:

    I developed my boobs in grade 6, and they are now legit giant 36G – they cause me chronic pain and I can’t wait until my reduction surgery. I guess what I am trying to see is that my biggest complaints about having large breasts isn’t the attention but the chronic and daily pain they cause me and the fact that breast reductions are not always covered by health care (in Canada) which is crazy to me because I’m sure if men’s oversized nuts were causing chronic pain the surgery would be covered and not considered “cosmetic”

    • Lightpurple says:

      One of the first cases I handled as a legal intern was Medicaid coverage for a woman’s reduction surgery. It was denied as cosmetic. I had to write statements for her doctors to sign describing the impact the breasts were having on her spine. The doctors thought they could just say “I’m a doctor and she needs this because I say so and I’m a doctor.” But that wasn’t going to fly as far as showing medical necessity. Medicaid did finally agree to cover it for her.

      • OriginalLala says:

        thats so crazy! the amount of pain in your neck, shoulders and back from having breasts too big for your body is really not fun…and I can tell it’s causing me spinal issues as I age.

      • Swack says:

        My friends daughter had cracks in her spine from her large breasts and they had to jump through hoops to get hers covered. It is crazy.

    • Swack says:

      Good luck on your surgery. It isn’t necessarily covered here in the US. My daughter was minimum DD cup at age 11 (grade 5). I believe her loose shoulders was due to developing large breasts. The PT could move her arm out of socket very easily. She had a reduction when she was 19. We had to move up her surgery because once the anniversary date of the insurance policy came around it would not have been covered (this was 14 years ago). Plus the surgeon had to remove a certain minimum amount of tissue for the insurance to pay for it. Had a great plastic surgeon. She never regretted it.

      • OriginalLala says:

        In Quebec, where I live now, it’s covered if they can take out a minimun of 250 grams per breast but in Nova Scotia where I used to live, it was a minimum of 800 grams, you had to lose weight (regardless of your BMI) and you couldn’t be over a certain BMI. So it was basically impossible to get it covered.
        I’m just waiting for a surgery date (wait list is 5 months for reductions) and I cant wait to live a pain free life

      • Swack says:

        If I remember correctly they had to take out 650 grams (somewhere around that amount).

  5. Kitten says:

    “Art in everyday life should be a visceral reaction” Like, what is the actual F*CK? I’m not sure if she’s trying to draw a distinction between selfies and like, Picasso or something, but art–even “fine art”–has ALWAYS been about a visceral reaction. I could go on but I don’t want to sound “elitist”. JFC, maybe read a book about art theory or don’t talk about a subject that you clearly don’t understand. Oops sorry for being so *snobby*, Ems.

    Also, her husband’s hell mouth combined with his gross personality terrify me.

    • Lightpurple says:

      Emily’s selfies don’t elicit the same visceral reaction for me as Picasso’s Guernica.

    • adastraperaspera says:

      Well, Kitten, I wish you would go on, because it would be a refreshing counterpoint to Emily’s vacuity.

    • Ada says:

      I think you are misreading what she is saying, no? Art in “every form” is interesting as long as it elicits a visceral reaction. It should not matter if it’s a Picasso or a selfie, as long as it makes you feel something. That doesn’t seem controversial at all, and I have studied art history. She is trying to suggest a more inclusive definition of art, not saying that highbrow stuff isn’t visceral.

      The level of criticism that she is getting on here is really out of proportion to what she is saying and doing. “Choice” feminism is not my favorite, but she seems well-read enough and active in her politics.

      • ...otaku fairy says:

        “The level of criticism that she is getting on here is really out of proportion to what she is saying and doing. ” It almost always is. Liberal women not yielding to the myth of the ‘classy’ woman’s superiority draw up more patriarchal ire, fear, and disdain from the right AND the left then the misogyny of that myth itself.

  6. Medusa says:

    I think you’re actually proving her point by looking down on her for not being feminist enough. Yes, she has her breasts out all the time but that’s her choice and if I’m honest I’m jealous of her beauty.

    • OriginalLala says:

      no one cares that she has her boobs out all the time, most starlets do it constantly too. I think it bugs people that she only discusses feminism in relation to her boobs and her sexuality. You can’t argue that it is very Peak White Rich Feminist of her. It’s so very one note….

    • ...otaku fairy says:

      @Medusa: +1. You’re partially right (and people often do prove some of the points she makes). But it’s not her choices with her body alone that make people want to put her in her place- it’s the fact that she criticizes the way we’ve been taught we’re all entitled to view and treat women like her that stirs up the strongest reactions.
      Girls/women are supposed to do one of two things with respectability politics: Either avoid being perceived a certain way, and turn a blind eye when those other girls get disrespected (or even better for the patriarchy, help out with the abuse), or be ‘slutty’, but silently accept the way they’re treated as a natural consequence. When a woman does neither of those things, it’s perceived as haughty and angers people.

      After the part about being kicked out over the dress, she also goes into a story about how her mom stood up for her and was a feminist influence on her. I thought that was sweet and refreshing. So often, the stories that get told and applauded are those of older women siding with older men by using their position and privilege in the culture to reinforce the slut-shaming and victim-blaming directed at younger women/girls. So it’s always sweet and refreshing when the opposite kinds of stories are told, even though it often leads to these women being derided as ‘Cool Moms’ by those with more traditional values.

    • BorderMollie says:

      It’s certainly her choice, and starlets like her have no obligation to be good role models or conform to anyone else’s standards, but there’s a real world cost to all this Instagram fronting. Young people, both men and women, are being feed very unrealistic body images basically all day long, often alongside ads that promise them the similar results for a price tag. These starlets can do whatever they want, but we also need to have the difficult conversation that this isn’t ‘goals’ or positivity, its more often a cycle of manufacturing inadequacy that feeds consumerism.

  7. Kaye says:

    I really hate myself when I judge somebody’s looks, but . . . I may just have to hate myself for him. I’m a bad person. I accept it.

  8. mynameispearl says:

    This is all a bit daft, I’m still not over the time she did a semi-naked photo shoot with spaghetti bolognese in the name of feminism. How is this helping us Emily??

    Also, why would you rather 300,000 trolls than people saying nothing, is that not indicative of pure desperation for attention?

  9. Queenb says:

    “feminism is all about choice”
    No it is not. Seriously how can you not get that not any decision is feminist. Ok, if women want to vote for Trump and have rapists ruling the entire world let them, ITS THEIR CHOICE!!!! Lets just rebrand patriarchy as a choice by women and all problems are fixed!!!

    Choice feminism is not feminism.

    • ladie says:

      YESSSS!!!! I feel like mainstream feminism has become more of a lifestyle brand than a political movement. Feminism is about the liberation of women from the oppression of patriarchy.

      “Choosing” to perform actions that align with patriarchal ideals of womanhood do nothing to advance feminism. It doesn’t make you a bad person!! Doesn’t even make you not-a-feminist!! But saying you’re a feminist BECAUSE you post sexy photos for male attention, or wear makeup/shave your legs, or choose to be a housewife, etc. etc. makes actual feminist action basically meaningless, since you can do whatever you want and call it activism.

      Also, how much can we freely “choose” anything, when we live in a patriarchal society and are influenced by misogynistic social norms?

      • otaku fairy... says:

        Choosing to reject patriarchal messages about which kinds of women deserve/invite disrespect and abuse, are less than, and are unworthy of the feminist label is a feminist choice. That toxic propaganda isn’t just used to control an individual woman’s choices with her own body. It’s used to corrode our empathy and keep misogynistic abuse (packaged as ‘morality’ or ‘respectability) normalized in all of our minds. Also, she’s spoken enough to show that she doesn’t think being a feminist is determined by the skin a woman shows/doesn’t show, being a housewife, or any of those other things you listed. Is there room for improvement in Emily’s message? Sure. But there’s always room for improvement. To me, allies like Emily R. imperfectly sending the right message don’t make other forms of feminist activism meaningless at all because the feminist movement is not some one-woman act.

      • ladie says:


        I absolutely agree that it is a feminist choice to reject the idea that some women are more worthy of respect than others. However, I’m not sure how that applies to my statement. Perhaps I misrepresented myself, but what I disagree with was Emily’s “feminism is about choice” statement, and the “choices” I’ve seen that go along with that idea. Most of what I’ve seen Emily comment on with regards to feminism is related to how you can be a sexy woman still be a feminist – I don’t disagree with that.

        “For me, feminism is all about choice: socially, sexually, in the workplace, in any capacity. It is about women having the freedom to choose.’
 Are there limits to that? ‘I don’t think so. Once you start drawing lines you’re missing the point, because everyone has different things they want for themselves…” This statement is what I take issue with. I think we need to “draw lines” at what constitutes feminist choice, because there are some choices/actions that objectively are not-feminist. The idea that any choice a woman makes is therefore a feminist action doesn’t make TRUE (subjective, I know) feminist action meaningless, it makes the TERM “feminist action” meaningless, in my opinion. I should have been clearer about that in my original comment.

        My comment overall was more about choice feminism in general, than Emily specifically. Though for what it’s worth, I’ve found that this type of feminism can be a jumping off point for “deeper” levels – it certainly was for me, anyway! And I think Emily’s activism is absolutely valuable, I just disagree with some of her opinions on feminism 🙂

      • ...otaku fairy says:

        @Ladie: We’re definitely on the same page about not every choice automatically being a feminist choice just because a woman did it. Even though it’s safe to assume that doesn’t mean she thinks a woman doing something like caping for Kavanaugh or being a deplorable would be a feminist choice, there are definitely republicans who have used the ‘choice feminist’ argument as an excuse for evil. That’s one of the areas where I see room for improvement in Emily’s message for sure.

  10. Swack says:

    According to definition: “the advocacy of women’s rights on the basis of the equality of the sexes”. That is SO much more than her definition: ‘For me, feminism is all about choice: socially, sexually, in the workplace, in any capacity. She needs to sit the heck down. Not sure why anyone cares about her thoughts on feminism.

  11. Lindy says:

    Yeah, I will criticize “choice feminism” all day long. The Onion had a fabulous takedown years ago of this notion that every single thing a woman chooses to do is feminism because choice.

    It’s not that I want women to be forced to do anything against their will. But. Just because someone with two X chromosomes does it, does NOT make it a feminist act.

    I suppose you could make the case that fighting for the right of all women to choose their life decisions freely is feminist. But many of those life decisions will, sadly, be anti-feminist. (Voting for Trump, being part of a patriarchal religion, etc.)

  12. JeanGrey says:

    I’m gonna be vapid and just focus on her calling herself “very curvy” Big boobs alone don’t make you very curvy. Curvy is hourglass figure. Curvy is having BOTH T&A…Not just T. It’s hips, it’s thickness. Looking like a skinny “P “shape is not mine or a LOT of people’s definition of curvy.

    Anyway, Em’s version of feminism has always come with some eye-roll inducing sound-bytes to me -shrug-

  13. D says:

    Says the girl involved as the young chick in a typical patriarchal relationship WE SEE YOU DUMMY

  14. Apalapa says:

    Mediocre and boring lady

  15. minx says:

    I was happy about her Kavanaugh protest. But a little of her goes a long way.

  16. Riemc526 says:

    A lot of us developed our busts at age 13. BFD.

  17. Ripley says:

    Thanks for framing your post in a critical way. It’s clear that Emily has no idea about what she’s talking about yet loves the sound of her voice. I’m so tired of the mainstream white feminism that undermines the reason for the movement. I agree that she’s the new cool girl, the feminist who’s palatable for men, a foot soldier for the patriarchy who also shows up for the protests which are popular. Cool girls always find a way to adapt.

    • ...otaku fairy says:

      She’s only palatable to men in the sense that visually she checks off most of the boxes in what men find good-looking in a woman. But her capitalizing on physical appearance isn’t enough to make her a foot soldier for the patriarchy- unless you see abusive Good Girl Privilege coming to an end as the height of patriarchy. Morally, a feminist is definitely more palatable to men when she dismisses other feminists as man-pleasing sellout wh0res for asserting boundaries that differ from her own. MRAs, libertarian men, and conservative men eat that shit up. Piers Morgan would approve.

  18. Icantremembermyusername says:

    Madam, have you perused your husband’s Instagram?

  19. anony7 says:

    I don’t get it. In the first picture (where she’s wearing saffron) she looks like she has no boobs…yet in the last picture (crimson top) she does.

  20. Naddie says:

    The poster girl of the joke that choice feminism is. Still, she’s not the enemy.