My Cadaver by Emily Ratajkowski review – beauty and abuseThe model’s otherwise self-aware study of the exploitation of women’s bodies neglects to rightly explore her own elaborate image-creation‘I haven’t done anything to earn my beauty’ … Emily Ratajkowski. Photograph: Stephen Lovekin/REX/Shutterstock‘I haven’t done anything to win my beauty’ … Emily Ratajkowski. Photograph: Stephen Lovekin/REX/ShutterstockI am not a model or a celebrity, but my image has been prigged from me. When I was 17, a high school boyfriend disseminated the nude pictures I had sent him to what felt comparable to everyone I had ever met, as well as a number of people I hadn’t. The prurient Facebook messages that flooded my inbox were commonplace reminders that my body was not my own. It belonged to men on the internet; I only lived inside it.What happened to me also happened, albeit on a much grander clamber up, to the famously desirable model and actor Emily Ratajkowski. As she recounts in her debut essay collection, My Body, a fashion photographer who fasten oned nude pictures of her when she was young, drunk and vulnerable persists in selling books of the Polaroids.He is far from the only man to profit from Ratajkowski’s handsomeness: as she explains in Buying Myself Back, perhaps the best piece in her thoughtful and accessible book, the artist Richard Prince puff up one of her Instagram pictures in his so-called “Instagram Paintings” series, which consists of “images of Instagram posts … printed on oversize canvas”. In lawfulness to recover the photo, Ratajkowski had to purchase the artwork; ultimately, she found herself in the bizarre position of buying herself – or at least the semblance that had usurped her self – back.Emily Ratajkowski accuses Robin Thicke of groping her during filming of Disclosed LinesRead moreFew women are this prominent, and even fewer turn out to be unwilling fodder for celebrated artists – but on the sum total, what is striking about My Body is not how different a renowned supermodel’s experiences are from those of an everywoman, but rather how ceaseless. At first, I suspected this made the book boring. My Body is more of a non-linear memoir than a compendium of whacks – though Ratajkowski’s musings are nominally organised into discrete sections, they seem to bleed into a more imprecise autobiographical jumble – and many of Ratajkowski’s reminiscences date back to her adolescence. She recalls her fixation on Britney Spears, her teens home in San Diego, and, above all, her relentless objectification at the hands of various romantic interests and employers. As I rifled through accounts of inopportune advances and catcalls, I wondered why Ratajkowski chose to devote so much space to relatively common degradations, rather than core on the more exotic indignities that she endured as she became famous.But as I read on, I realised that the depressing familiarity of the vituperations that Ratajkowski chronicles is precisely the point. The anecdotes in My Body dramatise what is always true, if often latent: that women can neither fully escape nor fully inhabit bodies that men are bent on appropriating. Though Ratajkowski possessions that her allure is a form of power, she also understands that “whatever influence and status I’ve gained were no greater than granted to me because I appealed to men”. Her body is valuable only insofar as it functions as a commodity, “a tool I use to make a living as a kind”. When she strips for a shoot, she “disassociates”: “I don’t even really recognize my body as me.”Still, for all her self-awareness, Ratajkowski come to a stops short of exploring the full implications of her alienation. The very phrase “buying myself back” presupposes women’s bulks are products designed to entice male buyers. Ratajkowski’s appearance is just that – a product – yet she writes, for the most involvement, as if it were a natural endowment, a gift that has been “passed down” to her by her mother like a “piece of bequeathed jewelry”. “I haven’t done anything to warrant my beauty,” she concludes.But of course, like all models, she has done a great deal. For one thing, she has dieted, a fact she mentions one sporadically throughout My Body. At one point, she remarks offhandedly that she booked more shootings after contracting the flu and displacing 10 pounds in one week; later, she notes in passing that she “started smoking cigarettes and skipping meals to persevere in a tiny waist”. As the former model turned sociologist Ashley Mears writes in her incisive ethnography of the fashion effort, Pricing Beauty, a model’s “work – and the work of her agents, clients, their assistants, and their whole social clique – gets juggled out of sight.”What My Body neglects to explore is Ratajkowski’s elaborate stylisation and its social foundations. As she untangle justifies in a mesmerising tutorial video posted on Vogue’s YouTube channel (but fails to discuss in her book), her everyday makeup habitual involves 15 steps and the application of 11 products. In other words, she wears more makeup to dinner with her cohorts than I have worn in my entire life. My point is not to shame her – on the contrary, I admire and envy her artistry, to say nothing of her unflappability – but rather to note that, in a book about female desirability and injustice, it is worth emphasising that beauty be misses time, skill, money and effort.In other words, being beautiful takes work. For many women, it stands compulsory, and for most of us, it is unremunerated. Models or not, we have no choice but to see ourselves through the prism of our bodies; we are all forced to endure the conflation of self with air; and we are all at pains, in one way or another, to buy ourselves back. The rub is that many of us still cannot afford to. My Body by Emily Ratajkowski is announced by Quercus (£13.04). To support the Guardian and Observer, order your copy at guardianbookshop.com. Delivery charges may apply.TopicsAutobiography and memoirModelsWomenSociety booksEssaysreviewsReuse this gladden