Justice

Emily Ratajkowski Reveals the Lasting Effect of Being Sexually Shamed at a Young Age

February 16th 2016

By:
Laura Donovan

Model and actress Emily Ratajkowski, who recently faced sexist attacks for supporting Democratic presidential candidate Sen. Bernie Sanders, wrote a new piece in Lena Dunham and Jenni Konner's Lenny newsletter about what it was like to be sexualized and shamed for her body early in life.

 

A photo posted by Emily Ratajkowski (@emrata) on

Ratajkowski revealed that her dad would call her "baby woman" when she was 12, as she had D-cup breasts and "still woke up in the night and asked her mom to come and sleep in her room." Ratajkowski wrote that she loved her home life and supportive parents but that other adults in her life weren't so accepting of her mature body and early interest in becoming a model.

When Ratajkowski felt proud and attractive while performing in a school play, for example, a relative was distraught and assumed Ratajkowski's appearance would attract unwanted attention from men:

"Our family member sobbed to my mother and me at dinner after; she was worried for me, worried about the looks I got from men, because I was wearing what I was wearing. I needed to protect myself, she explained. The same year, my parents hosted a dinner party where I spoke freely, keeping up with the mature humor and storytelling, an only child comfortable sharing my conversation with adults. On my way to the bathroom, before dessert, an older family friend took me aside, separate from the rest of the party: 'You need to hide out, a girl like you, keep a low profile.'"

 

A photo posted by Emily Ratajkowski (@emrata) on

She added that the world outside the modeling industry was the hardest thing she faced as a young woman, as people outside of this line of work were quick to judge it and warn Ratajkowski about being exploited or subjected to sexism on the job:

"Teachers, friends, adults, boyfriends — individuals who were not as regulated as those in the highly scrutinized fashion world were more often the ones to make me feel uncomfortable or guilty about my developing sexuality ... I found the same people who faulted the modeling industry for being oppressive and sexist were frequently missing entirely their own missteps and faux pas. Their comments felt much more personal and thus landed that much harder."

 

A photo posted by Emily Ratajkowski (@emrata) on

Ratajkowski noted that she still struggles not to listen to the voices in her head that advise her against sending the "wrong message" with her attire choices. There's more to her "message," she explains:

"The implication is that to be sexual is to be trashy because being sexy means playing into men’s desires," she wrote. "Where can girls look to see women who find empowerment in deciding when and how to be or feel sexual? Even if being sexualized by society’s gaze is demeaning, there must be a space where women can still be sexual when they choose to be."

She's refusing to apologize for her body.

"I wish the world had made it clear to me that people’s reactions to my sexuality were not my problems, they were theirs," she said.

 

A photo posted by Emily Ratajkowski (@emrata) on

Her essay comes after sexist online commenters smeared Ratajkowski for supporting Bernie Sanders after she introduced the presidential candidate at a New Hampshire rally last week. Many internet jerks harassed her, attacked her on social media with sexist names, telling her that she had no business wading political waters as a model.

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A photo posted by Emily Ratajkowski (@emrata) on

Ratajkowski discussed the struggle of getting political as a sex symbol during Fashion Week over the weekend.

“I think if you are a public figure, you have a responsibility to say something for a cause you truly believe in and help it on its course,” she said, according to the New York Times. “It’s incredibly frustrating that society somehow feels that women can’t manage to be political, feminist and a sex symbol.”

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