Emily Ratajkowski discusses her new book My Body, the male gaze, a woman’s relationship with her body, and more in a candid chat with author Lisa Taddeo for Elle.

Ratajkowski reveals how she sympathizes with other celebrity women, like Britney Spears, and the criticism they have received from the media.

Her new book is a “deeply honest investigation of what it means to be a woman and a commodity.”

Ratajkowski tells the mag, “It’s hard now, starting to do press and seeing how things get turned into black and white: ‘It’s a condemnation’ or ‘She’s complaining about her life.’ But I couldn’t live with myself if I didn’t share these stories.

“I write about Britney and what it was like to grow up in the early aughts. I was watching these women as they were getting physically more and more destroyed. Watching these covers of [magazines saying] they look like c**p.

“I still thought that they were on top of the world and that they were winning. Now we’ve come to understand that these women were tortured and continue to be, but it was: ‘Oh God, they’re messy,’ which comes from this incredibly misogynistic standpoint,” the model shares.

Emily Ratajkowski. Photo Collage by: Monique Baumann
Emily Ratajkowski. Photo Collage by: Monique Baumann

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“But I think that it’s so important to reveal the complexities, because it’s not just famous women, it’s all women. Obviously white women have a very particular position in the world, but it’s all on a scale of what we experience and the ways that we try to work the system and fail at working it. Now we live in a world where everything is about empowerment. That word gets thrown around so easily. But I think we’ve almost lost perspective.”

Ratajkowski also talks about how things have changed for women and the motivation behind those changes: “I do think some things have changed. But I don’t know that it’s for the right reasons. We live in a culture where people are acting out of fear of consequences, rather than learned respect.

“You don’t teach a child to not hit their brother because they’re going to get a time-out, but because it’s not a nice thing to do. Everyone is worried about the time-out rather than actually understanding empathy. That’s why I think writing is so important, because it’s not the Twittersphere and the really quick cancellation.

“I think storytelling brings out people’s empathy in a different way. So I’m hoping that a lot of men read this book. I don’t know if that’s going to happen, but I would love for that to happen. It shouldn’t just be that once a man becomes a father to a daughter, he starts to understand these things.”

She then says of how motherhood changed her relationship to her body: “I was unsure if I wanted to end the book with motherhood, because I hate the idea that you become a mother and everything changes.

“It’s something I talk about in the book: You go from child to sex object to mother. But it was one of the most powerful physical experiences,” Ratajkowski adds. “Being in a room and trusting my body—even though there are people around me who say that they know it better than me or that they have a right to it in some way—was hugely impactful.”

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During the candid chat, Ratajkowski also discusses being relieved when she found out she was having a son because of her personal fear of being over sexualized at a young age.

“I wanted a daughter initially, but when I found out I was having a son, I was so relieved,” the star explains. “Because I think that it would bring up—I want more children, so it might be something I deal with later—being sexualized way before puberty and being aware of it. I have a memory: I did a sexy move down the wall of my parents’ kitchen. I was probably in first grade and my parents were like, ‘Where did you learn that?’ I was like, ‘I fricking learned it. That’s what women do.'”