“For me, body hair is another opportunity for women to exercise their ability to choose. Isn’t that what feminism is about—choice?,” the actress wrote in a personal essay for Harper’s Bazaar

By Katie Intner
August 08, 2019 08:08 AM

 

Emily Ratajkowski has never shied away from showing skin in the name of feminism. And her latest editorial is no exception.

For a photo shoot accompanied by personal essay in Harper’s Bazaar‘s September issue, the actress and Inamorata swimwear founder poses in a black lacy bra with her arms stretched overhead, revealing a dark patch of underarm hair. In the essay, Ratajkowski discusses the societal treatment of female sexuality and what it means to her to be über-feminine.

“If I decide to shave my armpits or grow them out, that’s up to me,” she writes. “For me, body hair is another opportunity for women to exercise their ability to choose — a choice based on how they want to feel and their associations with having or not having body hair.”

Growing out her body hair makes her feel sexy, Ratajkowski continues, adding that it’s all about her right to choose.

“There is no right answer, no choice that makes me more or less of a feminist, or even a ‘bad feminist,'” Ratajkowski notes, quoting author Roxane Gay. “Ultimately, the identity and sexuality of an individual is up to them and no one else.”

Michael Avedon

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Ratajkowski maintains that she has learned from the social media criticism she’s received from showing skin and expressing her feminist ideals — mainly the importance of knowing her audience and prefacing her controversial statements.

“Let’s state the obvious: I’m a cis white woman,” Ratajkowski says in the beginning of the essay. “I’m well aware of the privilege I receive as someone who is heteronormative, and I don’t pretend to act like my identity hasn’t made some things easier for me. That being said, I want to take this opportunity to speak up about what my experience as a woman has been.”

She then drew from her experience as a student at UCLA, where she studied for a year before modeling full-time, and a gender studies class she “became obsessed with.”

“This class was my first introduction to a bunch of ideas I had never been exposed to: queer theory, the concept of sexuality as being on a sliding scale, and the important distinction between gender and sexuality,” Ratajkowski writes. “At the time I considered myself a staunch feminist and had signed up for the class assuming that I’d learn a lot about women’s lib, feminist rhetoric, and so on. I was shocked by how little I understood about gender, and it made me start to examine my own identity as a woman.”

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Towards the end of the essay, she touches upon the way “misogynistic culture” treats women. “As a fully grown woman, I continue to be shocked by how, in 2019, we look down so much on women who like to play with what it means to be sexy.”

But Ratajkowski also notes the way culture influenced her as a young girl compared to now.

“Sure, I’m positive that most of my early adventures investigating what it meant to be a girl were heavily influenced by misogynistic culture. Hell, I’m also positive that many of the ways I continue to be ‘sexy’ are heavily influenced by misogyny. But it feels good to me, and it’s my damn choice, right? Isn’t that what feminism is about—choice?”

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