My feelings about Kim Kardashian have always been in the ‘meh’ category of indifference. To be fair, I don’t know much more about her beyond the buzzwords – sex tape, Kanye, babies… and of course the most recent social media outrage/outcry: The Nude Selfie.
The words empowering, body positivity, and role model are being bandied about in the wake of her Instagram post and subsequent explanation.
I am empowered by my sexuality. I am empowered by feeling comfortable in my skin. I am empowered by showing the world my flaws and not being afraid of what anyone is going to say about me. And I hope that through this platform I have been given, I can encourage the same empowerment for girls and women all over the world. Kim Kardashian.
To give Kim the benefit of the doubt, I do not question these motives. I don’t disagree that feeling comfortable in your own skin is empowering. Accepting your sexuality is empowering. Young women and girls who see their favourite celebrities writing about body positivity can only be a good thing – encouraging us all (cis-gendered or not) to feel happy with our selves, with our bodies as we make them. But in my perhaps prudish opinion, I don’t think her nude (or just censored enough) selfie was the right means to that end.
As a Slate’s Laura Bradley aptly wrote, “Kim Kardashian is, in a way, empowered. She and her family have built an empire around their own images.” (Slate.) But building a commercial empire around our obsession with beauty and celebrity does not translate directly into being a good role model.
The body-shaming and slut-shaming — it’s like, enough is enough. I will not live my life dictated by the issues you have with my sexuality. You be you and let me be me. I am a mother. I am a wife, a sister, a daughter, an entrepreneur and I am allowed to be sexy. Kim Kardashian
I would never begrudge Kim this point either – she is more than allowed to be sexy, and has in fact built an entire industry for herself around it. I have no problem with the nude picture in and of itself. I have a problem with her framing the act of taking it as part of her ‘good role modelling’.
The counter argument is: well, we see these images every day. In magazines, on bus ads, on television shows. Kim Kardashian’s selfie shows her own agency in the matter – taking control over her image.
My response is: fair enough. We do see images like this all the time. Nearly naked women are used to sell everything from toothpaste to cars. These images are not something I agree with – so regardless of Kim’s agency in the matter, using nudity for any kind of commercial promotion (self or otherwise) feels disingenuous and backwards to me. (Let’s not even start arguing about artistic merit.)
Her selfie does confront slut shaming. Ragging on her for presenting her meticulously crafted body on Instagram is absurd. I want to be clear that’s not what I’m doing. Live and let live. No one has to follow her on social media if they don’t want to. I don’t.
But…What does not do is shatter beauty standards – it kind of reinforces them. It does not prompt us to think about the shaming of post-natal bodies, or transgendered bodies. It is self serving, and self promotional, under the guise of being a good role model. Her words are wonderful, but in reality the actions behind them, to me, feel hollow.