She’s used to being in the spotlight, but a picture of Emily Ratajkowski aged 12 has sparked an unusually sick response from the dark corners of the web.
The 26-year-old actor, model, influencer and gender equality activist has pinned her reputation on social media ‘likes’.
Besides the occasional judgement on her political agenda and her anatomy, Ratajkowski is largely put on a pedestal by fans and commentators complimenting her work and her style.
Yet a recent post to Instagram throwing back to the summer of her sixth grade – for students aged between 11 and 12 for those of us not in the US – has been subjected to a particularly dark kind of comment.
Criminal, in fact. Observers took it upon themselves to sexualise a photograph of a pre-teen.
One man wrote:
The grade wasn’t the only thing that was tight… Baby got boobs
Another tagged a mate, ominously writing:
If I caught these 11 year olds [sic] in Harrow you don’t even know…
A third chimed in to offer an opinion literally no one asked for, claiming this young girl ‘had all the coaches wanting to risk it all’.
While a fourth slanderously wrote:
Her 6th grade teacher is doing life in prison somewhere right now.
If the implications of abuse weren’t enough, some have called commenters out directly for sexualising a child, while one said, ‘You’ve must’ve dealt with alot of pedophiles [sic]’.
Others began to body shame the pre-fame, pre-adult Emily Ratajkowski, subjecting the child to the same unjust objectification with which her now 26-year-old self has to contend.
One dubbed her body ‘not normal’ while another commentator took the opportunity to use Emily’s younger self to shame her in adulthood, laughing and falsely claiming, ‘when you had no fake boobs’.
It’s not the first time Ratajkowski has been targeted in this way:
For those meanies that insist I have had a boob job, here I am at 14 sooooo pic.twitter.com/MMZZvAMr
— Emily Ratajkowski (@emrata) January 11, 2013
Back in 2013, Ratajkowski hit out at haters who claimed she’d undergone ‘a boob job’ by posting a photo of herself to Twitter, aged 14.
Far from accepting Ratajkowski’s tweet as the final word on the matter, some Twitter users chose to reply calling a then 14-year-old Emily ‘jail bait’, claiming they ‘would smash’, thus attempting to glamourise non-consensual sex with a minor.
Other comments alluded to sexualising the youngster, like this one:
I feel wrong for taking a screenshot.
Perhaps unbeknown to the Internet Jury, Emily is currently starring in Amy Schumer’s film I Feel Pretty.
Its narrative condemns the consistent objectification of women and the modern female body stereotypes which feed into the aesthetic insecurities plaguing millennials and the iGen.
Female body autonomy is clearly an issue close to the Woman For Women International charity supporter’s heart, subjected as she has been to constant judgement.
In a line from the film, Amy Schumer’s character laments:
I have a crazy idea. Let’s be honest for a minute. No matter how many times we hear, ‘It’s what’s on the inside that matters’, women know deep down it’s what’s on the outside the whole world judges.
Sadly, it seems wider society’s predisposition to seeing women first and foremost on face value is a practice affecting women at younger and younger ages.
The Dove Global Beauty and Confidence Report 2016 found seven in 10 (69 per cent) of women and six in 10 (65 per cent) girls believe the media and advertising set an unrealistic standard of beauty, most women can’t ever achieve.
Compounded by our lack of empathy for celebrities, this means young women in the public eye are particularly de-humanised by this kind of objectification from keyboard warriors.
We can experience an ‘online disinhibition effect’ when we’re posting on social media, which means we abandon the social rules normally applied to face-to-face communication. For some, that means losing any sense of empathy.
The anonymity of an online persona gives a troll something to hide behind. But they can also adopt a separate online personality which is very different to how they are in real life.
This persona can become an outlet for their anger, hurt and resentment.
So a troll’s hated of an attractive female celebrity online may be an expression of their powerlessness in relation to women and resentment they don’t get the attention they want from attractive women – or even any women.
Anger can also create an initial, addictive emotional rush that comes when the body is flooded with adrenaline. And some people just like inflicting hurt in others – a number of trolls are just bullies.
Speaking about Ratajkowski’s case, Brown concluded:
The comments in relation to Emily Ratajkowski’s school picture were particularly offensive as they relate to a child, but there is a sense of trolls having to go ‘one step further’ these days to get a reaction as everything has already been said a million times.
As a child, Emily was a self-described ‘theatre school nerd’ born in London to American parents John, a painter and art teacher, and Kathleen Balgley, an English professor and writer.
Aged five she moved to San Diego where she held onto her acting aspirations. Her parents regularly turned down modelling agents who would scout Emily until she was signed by Ford Models at the age of 14.
Her modelling fuelled a passion for acting and she starred in two episodes of iCarly, even though she grew up without TV.
Ratajkowski shot to super-stardom when she appeared in the video for Robin Thicke’s infamous Blurred Lines, a song whose misguided and disturbing lyrics, as the title suggested, offered listeners a grey area in sexual consent.
In subsequent years, Emily expressed her regret over the video, and has proved herself to be a stalwart of 21st century feminism and liberal political thinking, unapologetically upholding her beliefs.
However, her empowering attitudes go unnoticed by the alarmingly wide section of society who become irate whenever the former fine art student at UCLA posts a picture on Instagram.
It seems some keyboard warriors are unable to separate Ratajkowski, the adult public figure who chooses to express her sexuality however she pleases, and Ratajkowski, the young girl who grew up in an era when Instagram didn’t exist.
All the while, they fail to understand no one should be subjected to these kinds of jokes and will continue to excuse their behaviour with the usual cries of, ‘She posted it, she’s asking for it’…
Despite literally no one ever asking for their opinions. Period.
If you have a story to tell, contact UNILAD via [email protected]
A former emo kid who talks too much about 8Chan meme culture, the Kardashian Klan, and how her smartphone is probably killing her. Francesca is a Cardiff University Journalism Masters grad who has done words for BBC, ELLE, The Debrief, DAZED, an art magazine you’ve never heard of and a feminist zine which never went to print.