‘It’s about wearing a string bikini at a protest’
IT'S a funny old world we live in.
Last night Emily Ratajkowski, a successful 27-year-old model who spends much of her time spruiking her own brand of string bikinis on Instagram, was named GQ's International Woman of the Year at an awards ceremony in Sydney.
There is no doubt that the American model is very influential and famous. She has amassed a stunning 20.4 million followers on Instagram. Photos of her swanning about in her swimmers in Sydney this week have been highly sought after by media agencies. But what she has done to earn this title had some people in the audience scratching their heads.
Ratajkowski, who rose to fame after her turn in Robin Thicke's' 2013 hit Blurred Lines (a song heavily criticised for its sexually dubious lyrics), has worked hard to explain that you can spend most of your time posting pictures of yourself in provocative poses in string bikinis and still be a feminist.
She was arrested in October at a protest against US Supreme Court nominee Brett Kavanaugh, and penned an essay about sexuality in 2016 for Lena Dunham's Lenny Letter project.
In her acceptance speech last night she said:
"Thank you so much for having me. It's my first time in Australia, and I have to say that after my first few hours you have quite an amazing community.
"I think Woman of the Year is a pretty crazy title. But what I think about what's important in 2018 for both men and women, it's about defying stereotypes. It's about being multifaceted. It's about wearing a string bikini on the beach, and at a protest. I don't think that any of us have to limit ourselves into a box, or the perception that anyone tries to force on you. Hopefully men and women across Australia will take that to heart."
So how does GQ explain its decision to name Ratajkowski as International Woman of the Year?
"In 2018, Emily Ratajkowski, largely regarded as one of the world's most beautiful women, has defined herself by her ability to simultaneously leave people in awe and polarise them. "Spending the last few years travelling the world as one of the planet's most in-demand models, she's also established herself as a de facto face of the modern feminist movement, spreading a message of body positivity and a ruthless, no-holds-barred approach to sexual equality that has seen her sweep up both accolades and criticism across the globe.
"Of course, Em Rata would never have been far from the limelight had she never become the tireless social advocate that she is anyway."
"However, it's Ratajkowski's tenacious, ever-burning desire to use her immense social force to drive change that is her most defining feature. While her beauty will always be her most prominent medium of expression, everything she does, from getting arrested at political protests to writing lengthy essays on female sexual empowerment, is done with the goal of advancing the plight of the woman, establishing firmly that there's no reason that a woman can't find self-empowerment in defining and owning the expression of her sexuality and body.
Ratajkowski became the subject of much debate when UK journalist Piers Morgan called bulls**t on her feminist tag.
Morgan said that Ratajkowski's racy video for Love Magazine's 2017 Advent Calendar (below) sent a conflicting message.
"Take Taylor Swift who never does any of this stuff. She's the No. 1 pop star in the world, never does topless selfies, never seen writhing in spaghetti and the sisterhood, the feminists, hate her," Morgan stated. "Taylor Swift conducts herself perfectly in my view and took a view not to talk about politics or say who she votes for and the sisterhood have come for her … Emily, writhing in spaghetti, she's what it's all about. Women, sort it out. We are confused."
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🎄On the 3rd day of Christmas my true #LOVEADVENT gave to me @emrata’s amazing polemic on female empowerment. “To me, female sexuality and sexiness, no matter how conditioned it may be by a patriarchal ideal, can be incredibly empowering for a woman if she feels it is empowering to her. The way I dress, act, flirt, dance, have sex - those are my decisions and they shouldn't be impacted by men. Being sexy is fun and I like it. I should never have to apologize for that. My life is on my terms and if I feel like putting on sexy underwear, it’s for me. Personal choice is the core ideal in my concept of feminism. Katie directed us to say ‘Stay Strong’ at the end of each video and I think it's a message from one woman to another. You're watching a video of a girl grinding in lingerie or whatever else and she is looking into the camera at the end saying, ‘you do you, however YOU want to, fuck the rest’. In the wake of the Harvey fallout and women coming forward with incredible amounts of sexual harassment cases, I have been so disappointed to hear women talk about "modesty" and "our responsibility" as if we need to, yet again, adjust to make it "easier" for the rest of the world. I'm tired of having to consider how I might be perceived by men if I wear the short skirt or post a sexy Instagram. I want to do what I want to do. Feminism isn't about adjusting, it's about freedom and choice. Do you think viewers will understand that, given the current wider conversation about the sexual objectification of women? why or why not? What are the risks? This is something I've battled with personally and publicly. I've had men comment on sexy images of me online and say "this is empowering to you? Ha! I just masturbated to it so hope you feel good about yourself!" I guess that's the way people can react, which ironically, ultimately serves my point. I don't care about your reaction or what you do with my expression of self. In fact, it has nothing to do with you at all and that's the point-which is why it feels good. Ultimately, if a woman wants to wear a burka or nothing at all, it's great if it's what she wants and feels good about.”💥#STAYSTRONG Link in bio to full film
Ratajkowski was quick to respond.
Lol never said my love video was a feminist statement. But now it’s worth saying that telling women what to do with their bodies & sexuality is actually just classic sexism. I️ can have opinions about feminism & also do sexy photo shoots k thanks— Emily Ratajkowski (@emrata) December 7, 2017
In a chat with Paper magazine in August, Ratajkowski said: "I think that the whole idea that because the body I was given might play into some patriarchal idea, I should be ashamed of it or be covering it up is ridiculous. I find empowerment in celebrating and sharing my sexuality.
"I think my body is beautiful and a lot of different bodies are beautiful."