opinion

Her naked protest photo is making some women angry. But Emily Ratajkowski is not the enemy.

What do you feel when you look at this photo?

 

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A post shared by Emily Ratajkowski (@emrata) on

Insecure?

Angry?

Excited?

Impressed?

Envious?

Or do you feel energised to lobby for legitimate changes to pro-life legislation in the American South and to safeguard our own Australian state-by-state legislation to ensure that every woman has access to a safe termination if she needs one?

The last one? Great.

But that’s not what a lot of people are saying about the Instagram image that US model and actress Emily Ratajkowski posted on the weekend to protest a return to draconian abortion laws in several US states. Under the hashtag #youknowme, celebrities and civilians alike have been posting their fury at the legislation, which is so hardline it bans abortions even in the cases of incest and rape.

A lot of people are telling Em Rata (as she is known) to put her clothes back on. To stop making abortion laws about herself and her naked body. Professional troll Piers Morgan spoke for an army of detractors when he said that it was a “dumb, self-promoting” photo and the message was lost.

“Hey girlfriend,” ran one typical reaction. “You’re not empowering anyone by giving men what they want to see… if you want to make a difference, run for government.”

“Why don’t you just admit that this is just another excuse to take your clothes off for attention?”

And, “Stop overreacting, you’re selling your body to those ‘old white men’.”

Even the incomparable Celeste Barber appeared to be making a sly point when she posted:

 

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Caption about feminism and empowering women. #celestechallengeaccepted #celestebarber #funny #emrata

A post shared by Celeste Barber (@celestebarber) on

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Here’s the thing. Em Rata’s brand of feminism might not be your bag.

You might think that her barely-clothed Instagram feed is perpetuating an unattainable ideal that women can’t possibly live up to, one that keeps them in a prison of self-loathing.

You might think that she represents a very particular type of straight-male fantasy figure, and she makes a healthy living from playing directly to their thirsty eyeballs.

You might just be deeply irritated that someone who looks that “good” doesn’t have the decency to keep her bloody clothes on.

You might think that she’s an example of “performative feminism” and a distraction from the real issues.

But actually, none of that matters at all.

Because Em Rata is not the enemy here. She is a woman who has built a career from being extraordinary to look at, and has chosen to deliberately subvert that narrative by using her platform (22.8 million Instagram followers and counting) to shine a light on ‘women’s issues’. So whether that’s the choice of an accused perpetrator of sexual assault as a Supreme Court Judge (Rata was arrested, along with her friend, comedian Amy Schumer, for protesting at the Kavanagh hearings), or laws that will effectively turn back the clock on women’s bodily autonomy in the United States, she’s choosing to speak up in an environment that certainly doesn’t ask that of her.

Top on or top off, Ratajkowski has picked up the weapon of female objectification and is aiming it very specifically at the enemies of women’s freedom.

Now. If you are looking for a woman to blame for what’s happening in Alabama, it isn’t Em Rata.

It’s this woman:

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It’s true that the Alabama legislation – among the most restrictive in the western world – was created and passed by 25 lawmakers, all of them male. But it was signed into law by one woman, Governor Kaye Ivey, who in her own (clothed) Twitter post wrote: “Today, I signed into law the Alabama Human Life Protection Act. To the bill’s many supporters, this legislation stands as a powerful testament to Alabamians’ deeply held belief that every life is precious & that every life is a sacred gift from God”.

Governor Ivey was doing her job. The job that the 25 senators in those many memes have given her.

She is making laws in a climate where elected officials get away with saying things like:

“From what I understand from doctors, [pregnancy from rape] is really rare. If it’s a legitimate rape, the female body has ways to try to shut the whole thing down.”

That was Republican politician Todd Akin of Missouri.

And:

“If a woman has (the right to an abortion), why shouldn’t a man be free to use his superior strength to force himself on a woman? At least the rapist’s pursuit of sexual freedom doesn’t (in most cases) result in anyone’s death.”

That was Lawrence Lockman, a Republican member of the Maine House of Representatives.

And let us not forget, of course, the inimitable words of the person who’s making all of this possible, President Donald Trump, in the tapes of him discussing a woman he found attractive, before he was elected to the highest office in the land.

“You know I’m automatically attracted to beautiful—I just start kissing them. It’s like a magnet. Just kiss. I don’t even wait. And when you’re a star, they let you do it. You can do anything. Grab ’em by the pussy. You can do anything.”

No, it’s pretty clear who women’s enemies are, here.

And they have nothing to do with Emily Ratajkowski’s naked breasts.

Where do you stand on Em Rata’s protest? Tell us in the comments!

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