For many years, whether or not someone liked Harry Potter was paramount to my opinion of them. If they, like some in my 6th grade Algebra class, thought it was “gay,” then I had a problem with them. There are other litmus tests, now, like your opinions on American police and how you talk about your exes (She’s crazy, eh? What did you do to her?). I have a new test to add to my repertoire. I’ve been thinking about it for a while and am ready to be vocal about it.
Like the police and exes example, you don’t have to hate or love them, respectively. You just have to have an appreciation for the nuance of the issue. Nuance is sexy as hell, and so is taking Kim Kardashian, perhaps her family too, for a spin.
Here are the criticisms I usually hear in objection to her…
“Why is she famous?”
“All she did was have sex.”
“She does, like, nothing.”
“She’s too promiscuous, she’s bad for feminism.”
“Her whole body’s fake.”
If I’m honest, I’ve rarely encountered people who dislike her for reasons other than this, and I think that’s, as Kim would say, tragic. Those who know me know I work really hard to incorporate intersectionality, self awareness, and activism into my feminism, and give a lot of thought to social justice issues, very often. I’ve come to the conclusion that Kim is both a scapegoat of a victim and a privileged white woman, and she can be both.
First, to the former. Let’s go over some of the reasons why folks disparage her. Followers of the lore will remember that she is famous for a few reasons. She was a friend of Paris Hilton back in Hilton’s heyday, but before that, she is the daughter of infamous lawyer and friend of OJ Simpson, the late Robert Kardashian. Of course, her big break seems to have been her sex tape with R&B artist Ray J. From there she launched a multi billion dollar enterprise, comprised of her television show, makeup, clothing, an app, emojis, and social media influencing, among much else. We’ve followed her carefully marketed life like hyenas, and that is her design. No, none of this is accidental. Kim has built an empire.
A fun little quirk of capitalism seems to be the phenomenon of demanding that those lift themselves up and build wealth on their own chutzpah and grit, and then tear only specific successful people- women, people of color, other minorities- down when they do succeed, while leaving mediocre white men like Mark Zuckerberg untouched upon their thrones.
Yes, Kim is a woman, and she’s extremely sexual. She flaunts her sexuality to make money. Her career was launched by sex. You’re really going to live in a system of capitalism, profit from that system, and then criticize her for doing what she can to benefit in that system that is stacked against women from the get go? Get outta here.
Now, if your qualms are with her sexuality, I’m happy to report that you have no control over Kim Kardashian’s body, nor does your opinion matter to her one bit. The Rock makes a living on his body, flaunting it as publicly as could be, but because he is a man, he is not critiqued for it. He gets to retain his wholesome status, which is to say, his status as deserving of his success. It’s easy to say Kim Kardashian skated by on her good looks. It’s much more difficult and fair to come to the conclusion that she’s being astute and shrewd in a system she didn’t design, that she doesn’t perpetuate in any massively meaningful way (i.e. massive corporations, lobbyists, politicians, etc). You’re used to having a say over women’s bodies, but the concept of Kim’s sexuality is bigger than you. She owns it, you don’t. Hah.
To the fake body point: to put this to bed, she’s admitted to minor butt injections and facial botox only. Even if she’d put every part of her body under the knife, it wouldn’t be somehow deceitful or misleading, or whatever the critique would be. Women are under immense pressure to be beautiful, especially when that’s your brand. Hate the system of female oppression that mandates the necessity of plastic surgery, not its victims. To blame the woman for succumbing is horrific victim blaming that subverts attention to the systemic problem.
I’m also a firm believer that she cannot be held accountable for her husband’s actions. Like Hillary Clinton, she is married to a man who has done questionable (at best) things, and has stuck by him. I won’t hear a minute of blaming the woman for the man’s misdeeds, though. It perpetuates the myth that women are puppeteers, taking accountability away from men’s bad choices and placing blame with the sly females! Nonsense. Take ownership, men.
On to the valid critiques of Kim Kardashian. I have one major one; she gets away with bullshit that women of color never could. This is the point of intersectionality; in some ways, Kim is harmed by her visible womanhood, and in some ways she benefits from her whiteness and white womanhood. These ways all coexist and deserve attention.
To begin, though her figure is in style for white women now, too, when she first was flaunting it, it easily was a riff on the natural curvature of the bodies of women of color, bodies that had long been mocked for being too big, too curvy, too luscious, taking up too much space. She, of course, would be praised for the same traits that women of color were excluded from spaces for.
Her tenacity, sass, grit, would all be much more poorly received if it were coming from a woman of color. She is allowed to be human, make mistakes, where famous women of color are much more heavily scrutinized and able to be “cancelled.” Kim cannot be cancelled, now. She can benefit from a system that drags down her black and brown sisters but bolsters her for the same behavior and image with no negative repercussions. It’s maddening.
She does, however, do a great deal of charitable good. I’m of the opinion that once you get to a certain level of wealth and privilege, a bit of charity is expected and thus doesn’t make you any sort of exceptional. My ex is unbelievably wealthy, and his family acts as if raising a few hundred dollars of others’ money for a NAMI walk is in any way meaningful. No, your charity should be in proportion to your wealth, which is to say, massive, if you want to be truly “charitable” in nature.
Anyway, my point is that sure she’s charitable, but I’m not here to praise Kim. I’m just here to defend her. Dislike her all you want. Just make sure you’re not doing to for unfair, potentially sexist reasons. My guess is, if you dislike her, you should be examining why and what that says about you.