By Amy Callaghan
It seems like we have a new Kardashian social media blowout every few days. From Kanye’s debt to rumours of Kourtney’s romantic attachment to Justin Bieber, the media can’t leave everyone’s favourite love-to-hate family alone. Typing the word ‘Kardashian’ into Google garners around 206 million results. But this isn’t another article preaching about the degeneration of media or questioning why, exactly, the Kardashians are famous. I want to discuss the latest Kardashian ‘scandal’–Kim’s naked selfie—and what exactly the fuss is about.
It’s almost impossible to have missed the photo or the backlash. If you haven’t seen the image itself, you’ve certainly heard about it, thanks not only to the usual anonymous trolls but to numerous high-profile celebrities who have made their contempt public news. Bette Midler for example, wants us to know that we’ve seen it all before. ‘If Kim wants us to see a part of her we’ve never seen, she’s gonna have to swallow the camera’, Midler jokes, referring to the infamous 2003 sex tape, leaked without Kim’s consent. US actress and model, Chloe Grace Moretz, argues that Kim should be using her platform as a celebrity to show young women that women are more than just their bodies.
In different ways, Midler and Moretz exemplify the very toxic misogynistic issue at the heart of this debate. Midler said later that she was not trying to slut-shame Kim, but it certainly sounds like slut-shaming to me. Moretz implies that a woman who is empowered by her sexuality and her body cannot be a good role model to girls and young women– both a problematic message and objectively untrue.
There’s clearly a double standard at play here. When Kim’s sex tape was leaked non-consensually thirteen years ago, it was hugely popular and it’s still watched today, despite the fact that Kim did not want it to be shared or seen by anyone. Yet when a confident and sexy Kim makes the decision to post a selfie, suddenly no one wants to see any more of Kim Kardashian.
Criticism of the Kardashians is nothing new, but I think what really bothers people is the fact that Kim is an empowered and self-assured women unafraid to share her pride and confidence in her body with the world. Women’s bodies are big business. Young celebrities like Emma Watson, like so many other girls and women, are threatened and intimidated by “revenge porn” from former partners. Unauthorized sex tapes become big news and big business. Yet when women take ownership of their bodies and post scantily clad pictures or selfies they are subject to vile, hateful insults.
Clearly there’s a huge issue with the way in which women’s bodies are viewed. As long as they are saleable and pleasurable and controlled by others they are acceptable, but if women give even a hint of being confident, of taking back that control, then she’s the problem. What’s alarmingly apparent is that these sorts of images and videos are sexier, more pleasurable, more attractive, if they are nonconsensual, if the woman in question is a victim.
Kim wrote an inspiring essay on her website in which she argued that she feels empowered posting pictures of her body when she feels good, owning her flaws, and showing her confidence to the world. This does not make her any less of a role model, particularly from a business perspective (she makes millions of dollars from her apps, clothing lines, and most obviously her reality television franchise). Kim has proven that she can be a successful businesswoman as well as front woman for a massive dynastic franchise, while still owning her sexuality and feeling powerful and confident in her body. She has shown that even in the face of malicious and toxic backlash from the media and others, she remains secure in herself. This is, in my view, a much more inspiring and powerful message than that put forward by those who judge and ridicule her. Not once does Kim say that a woman is required to be sexy in order to be successful – just that she should allowed to be sexy and successful, and show this off to the world if she wants to.
Kim closed her essay with a powerful statement: ‘I am a mother. I am a wife, a sister, a daughter, an entrepreneur and I am allowed to be sexy.’ As a young woman, I find this message inspiring. Kim doesn’t care what others think of her – she’s going to continue being herself and being proud of it. Regardless of the hate and insults, she is confident and unafraid. She is, as she defiantly captioned a photo after the backlash she received, #liberated.