Can We Please Stop Pretending Kim Kardashian is a Feminist?

*I’m doing exactly what they tell bloggers not to do—changing the schedule. I’ll be posting Monday nights now. For the most part. Unless I can’t.*6307608171_832605f0f2On August 5, Kim Kardashian is scheduled to be the keynote speaker at BlogHer‘s annual conference in L.A—one of the biggest conferences for women bloggers in the country. In explaining this decision, Elisa Camahort Page, a co-founder of BlogHer, told ABC news, “She has parlayed her influence into a huge media, commerce and mobile app empire, including making tens of millions on her app alone. And it’s an empire with women in the driver’s seat.” Apparently financial success alone merits this prominent space on a platform supposedly intended to promote female empowerment.

I suppose, given how so many people have already deified her, this shouldn’t come as a surprise. And yet it does.

It seems to me outrageous, and incredibly sad, that BlogHer would hire Kardashian to be the voice of their conference. Maybe I’m crazy, but I could have sworn that blogging had something to do with actual writing, even if in the most tangential of ways. That ideally, being a presence on social media might be about more than just the numbers–that as feminists we could strive to make it also about contributing something of substance to the world around us. (Hold the laughs until the end please.)

And I realize I’ll be called a slut-shamer for being so disgusted by this decision. I know that some feminists believe that Kim K. is an empowered woman who has made her empire by claiming ownership of her body and her sexuality, and that if I can’t handle that it’s because I’m embracing the rape culture that she is trying so hard to fight.

Frankly, I’ve had enough of this argument.

I am a feminist. I reject rape culture. I do not slut-shame. And I think Kim Kardashian is a terrible role model, and that BlogHer has completely sold out by hiring her.

One of the arguments made in defense of Kardashian is that of the societal double-standard: that when the empty, passive vessel of the female form is used in pursuit of profit, we call it advertising; but when an empowered woman takes control–when she is an agent rather than an object of her sexuality–well, we call that other things. Attention-starved. A bad role model. A slut. And while there is no question that that double-standard exists, it’s just not relevant to this discussion–because Kardashian is one giant advertisement. Her entire life is a walking, talking billboard, her image as empty as any of those pictures plastered across the pages of all those fashion magazines we hate to love. (It seems worth noting here that she is often on the covers of those magazines.)

Kim Kardashian isn’t fighting the system by which flesh is used to buy and sell things–she is the system. And the product she’s peddling is herself–pouty and over-sexualized, as seen through the lens of that very male gaze that determines all of our standards of beauty. She is embracing all those standards, not rejecting them. Her empire is paid for by the same national obsession with wealth and fame and beauty that funds the advertising industry.

And this isn’t about slut-shaming. It’s not about being offended by her naked selfies or her exhibitionist tendencies. This isn’t a discourse on Kim Kardashian’s morality. This woman has found a way to dupe millions of people into handing over their cash and their esteem, and I truly think she has every right to do just that. What matters is not what she does, but how the rest of us talk about what she does. Is she really a feminist? Is she the kind of woman who should be given primetime slots at feminist-minded conferences? Does financial success alone merit such a huge platform? Is every act of disrobing in and of itself some progressive stance on female sexuality?

I’d be lying if I said that I really know what the word feminism means anymore. But I know that it has something to do with re-defining the terms by which we talk and think about women. Which means ultimately it’s about the effort to change the perception of women–to shift the paradigm of how we are seen by others.

And Kim Kardashian does nothing to shift that paradigm. What she does—everything she is, in fact—reinforces all of the negative stereotypes of women: vain, catty, sexualized, and vacant. As feminists we should be looking to dismantle the system by which we use nudity to buy and sell things, not reinforce it. We should be trying to demolish the premise that female nudity equals dollar signs, and dollar signs equal everything there is about what it means to be a successful woman. We should be trying to change the perspectives of those who see women as a commodity to be bought and sold by others.

But mostly, the perspective we should be concerned about is that of all those young girls who are following Kardashian on social media and taking notes about where to find their worth. That’s why this matters. They are looking at her, and they are looking at the ways in which she is exulted, and they are developing their senses of personhood accordingly.

The defense of Kim Kardashian boils down to this: society profits from images of the naked female form, she should be able to as well. Which seems to me a variation of: “Well, if you can hate women then I can too.” And sure, she certainly can, but I’d love it if the rest of us could stop pretending that she’s breaking any glass ceilings by doing so. She has every right to profit off of her vacant image, but I then have the right to do everything I can to ensure that my two tween nieces turn out nothing like her, without being labeled a slut-shamer for doing so.

photo credit: Kim and Khloe Kardashian via photopin (license)

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28 thoughts on “Can We Please Stop Pretending Kim Kardashian is a Feminist?

  1. run.rabbit.RUN August 1, 2016 / 7:17 pm

    This is a passionate argument you’ve put forward and I very much agree with you! You make some really good points 😊 Lottie.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. nicolaelisabeth August 1, 2016 / 9:37 pm

    Couldn’t agree more. she is successful on social media because 1. She was on tv. 2. she posts naked photos.3. she is stinking rich and has time and money to put into it. Will be interesting to hear what she talks about though, and perhaps I’ll eat my words but I’m not sure bloggers are really looking for lighting and photo editing tricks or the names of good plastic surgeons!

    Liked by 1 person

  3. Carolyn August 1, 2016 / 11:05 pm

    Right on, sista!

    Like

  4. Kitt O'Malley August 2, 2016 / 12:31 am

    Part of me responds as you do, for I’m not impressed by Kim Kardashian until she proves she’s more than the image she projects. But she must be more than that image, as we all are.

    I’m ambivalent, too, about monetizing my blog, my work. My writing is worth getting paid. But, as I begin to tweet advertisements for small change, I feel that I cheapen my message. Besides, honestly, I am privileged. I do not need the small sums of money that tweeting advertisements brings. In fact, it’s really not worth my time or energy.

    So, in addition to ambivalence about Kim Kardashian, I’m ambivalent about monetizing written speech. To top it off, I’m certain that I will be completely overwhelmed by the entire experience. Sensory, social and information overload.

    Liked by 1 person

    • sumofmypieces August 3, 2016 / 4:59 pm

      Lmk how it goes! I’m very interested to hear your thoughts about the conference.

      Liked by 1 person

      • Kitt O'Malley August 3, 2016 / 5:25 pm

        I signed up for the nutritional supplement lunch which conflicts with Kim’s speech. So…

        Liked by 1 person

      • Kitt O'Malley August 3, 2016 / 5:27 pm

        I didn’t even realize that there would be a conflict when I signed up. But, I prefer smaller, quieter groups anyway.

        Liked by 1 person

  5. Kevin McCormick August 2, 2016 / 7:50 am

    Why you hatin’ on Kim? Sounds like you’re jealous. I applaud her for her bravery, celebrate her success and look forward to her next hot selfie!

    Like

      • sumofmypieces August 3, 2016 / 5:01 pm

        That’s my idiot boyfriend. Said he was trying to “stir the pot” for me. I told him he had to be a lot meaner for anyone to really believe he disagreed with a blog post. He’s not on the inter-web too much – doesn’t know how mean the trolls really are…

        Liked by 1 person

      • Bourgeois Alien August 3, 2016 / 7:13 pm

        i doubt many people would have sensed it was not real, next time i’ll zip it! xo

        Like

      • sumofmypieces August 3, 2016 / 5:02 pm

        His heart was in the right place though.

        Like

  6. allisonarnone August 2, 2016 / 10:12 am

    I’m not going to BlogHer, but not gonna lie… I was taken aback when I saw she was a speaker, too. Especially because I remember seeing the other keynote speakers in years past and she doesn’t exactly…um, make sense? Listen, Kim chose to be famous in a very specific way and that’s her prerogative. She wants to be a sex object and objectified and ogled and that’s all her choice – I’m just on board with you that she doesn’t belong at a conference empowering strong, intelligent women. Sorry.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Chloe August 8, 2016 / 7:11 am

      I can understand the part about her not being a blogger, but what exactly makes her not strong and intelligent? What is your definition of these things.

      Liked by 1 person

  7. Baddest Mother Ever August 3, 2016 / 9:30 am

    Yep. Yep yep yep. I’ve been to BlogHer three previous times and found it eye-opening. This year, I’m not going (for non-Kardashian reasons), but this choice for keynote had me completely flummoxed. Last year, Gwyneth, and now this? We’re getting farther away from telling women’s stories and a lot closer to fame for fame’s sake.

    Liked by 1 person

  8. alfageeek August 3, 2016 / 3:00 pm

    This is a little off-topic, but I was taken aback the other day when my 14yo daughter made a disparaging comment about a group of “feminists” she saw. I asked her if she thought women and men who did the same job should be paid the same, and a bunch of other no-brainer questions like that. And then congratulated her on her answers, because they show she is a feminist herself. She did not like this at all. She then changed her description of the group of women to “feminazis.” I am still congratulating myself on not totally losing my shit. Words made up by Mr. Limbaugh are not welcome in my home. It appears that teenage girls are being taught that being a feminist is a bad thing. That word has been poisoned in youth culture.

    Liked by 1 person

  9. CC Mom August 5, 2016 / 3:56 pm

    I am not a blogger, but stumbled upon your piece. I very much agree with you and hope many more women (and men!) can write empowering and truthful articles.

    Liked by 1 person

  10. Chloe August 8, 2016 / 7:08 am

    I am really troubled by this article, for many reasons. On one hand, I do think media these days is obsessed with labeling any and everything “feminist”. But on the other hand, it does feel questionable why one would go out of their way to write an article about all the reasons a woman “isn’t” a feminist. It’s articles and sentiments like this one that have made many women shy away from feminism. It’s made out to be, by a lot of people, this exclusive club that isn’t accessible to everyone. Truly, what it seems like, is a bashing of normative femininity. Yes, Kim takes lot of photos of herself. And gets naked. And is in to fashion and makeup, all of which is where I think the “vacant” and “vanity” criticism comes from. So she’s not Melinda Gates. Not every woman is. But where is the space for feminine women in feminism? Where do the girly girls go? Are we less important, less valuable, or even detrimental to the advancement of women? Why is my choice of typical femininity any less radical than one’s choice to reject society’s image of femininity? Aren’t we both expressing our own ideas of womanhood? To come back to Kim, I don’t think it’s fair to dismiss her business success because of nudity and said femininity. Why can’t a successful business owner and working mother be a good role model? Because she takes selfies and some of them happen to be nude?

    Liked by 1 person

    • sumofmypieces August 8, 2016 / 10:55 am

      First of all I just want to thank you for your comment—it’s definitely the most insightful (and civil) “opposition” comment I’ve gotten on this article, and it’s made me think the most about the other point of view. You make some good points about inclusivity, specifically as it pertains to “girly-girls”–I don’t claim to have it all worked out. And I agree that feminism should be inclusive, and that girly-girls have as much of a right to call themselves feminists as anyone else. But being a girly-girl isn’t inherently feminist (in my mind)–it’s what one does, the action one takes, the contribution one makes, the efforts to really shift the negative stereotypes of women–that’s what I think feminism is about. I’m not bashing Kim K. for being feminine or girly, I’m saying that that’s not enough to make her some feminist icon (regardless of how much money she’s made). It’s really not so much about her as much as it’s about us. And, part of the point of the article was the frustration I feel about being labeled a “slut-shaker” anytime I’m critical of another woman in any way. Again, I really do appreciate your comment, and am glad you took the time to respond.

      Like

  11. Lucy Anderson September 16, 2016 / 8:51 pm

    I agree, she doesn’t represent women, much in the same way she isn’t representing the “average” mother, as she herself believes (delusional). I myself have contemplated writing such a piece on my blog http://www.darlfacinton.com, but then I think again, not because it’s not worth noting, but because for me personally it’s just fueling hate, and I don’t want to tear down another women (regardless of just how far off she is with labeling herself a feminist) because what’s the use in that? She works in the Entertainment history. You know that, I know that, everyone does. So I keep her and her image in a little “for entertainment’s sake” box in my head, and I know that her words hold no depth, I know better, as do you. If enough women (and men) complain about the privileges she’s afforded because of her fame, what’s the end-game for us? Kim seeps into oblivion and we stop contributing to her fame? Okay, but then what? Onto the next women we have a problem with? It’s really hard when women are trying to fight for equal rights (still in 2016) in Parliament and in the legal system (the nipple thing), while at the same time we get angry at each other when women sell their image and kick modesty to the side. What do we want? The right to march naked down the main street, or do we want to censor women like Kim Kardashian who plasters images of her naked body anywhere she can? Feminists are arguing we should have the right bare our bodies and not be objectified or “sexualized” by the public, but meanwhile women also get angered that Kim has taken her image into her own hands and profits from it. We just go round and round.

    Like

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