A special Friday night rant! I have the second-most popular comment on a highly visible article. An article, nonetheless, that put me in a surprising position. An article containing full frontal nudes of America's Sweetheart Kim Kardashian. As I write this, I have 499 stars and it is the second to the top. The comment says:
I'm digging her playful expressions. Fully nude with sheer joy across her face, instead of her typical fuck-me-face she makes in photos (or she is told to make - I don't know who is in charge).
BOY were there opinions. I dismissed the ones that pissed me off a lot; there were a few calling her a tramp. There were a few just telling me I was just another idiot who drank the Koolaid or something. Then just some normal trash comments, about her liking it up the butt because there is so much room, about how ZOMG DID I KNOW THOSE WERE PHOTOSHOPPED? And, of course about what a dirty, dirty slut she is.
I know she represents problems (I'm not willing to call her the actual problem). Nevertheless, here is my defense of Kim Kardashian. I think it also applies to a few other famous women we can all think of.
Nudity Is Not Shameful. EVER.
Inappropriate? Often, but not in a magazine. Seriously, we have got to stop being ashamed of nudity. I would like to see more diversity in what we see of nudity - her photoshopped, oiled up body did nothing to represent womanhood or humanity. It didn't have to. I refuse to believe she is a woman of poor morals because of nakedness - even exhibitionism.
Morality and nudity are unrelated, just as sex and morality are unrelated (as any sex-positive person will tell you).
Perhaps this is my upbringing; my mother, an art professor college when I was a little kid, and again when I was older, taught figure-drawing. Paintings and drawings and paintings and drawings of naked men and women were all over our house. I taught myself to draw the human figure at an early age, because of this book that I received as a birthday present at the age of 8. FULL OF NAKED PEOPLE. I knew the right words for genitals.
Something in Kim's face, in these photos, gives a hint of freedom; she has a similar expression to a little kid that stripped naked at a party and started running around (something that I saw at a wedding three weeks ago).
There is not one thing anyone can say that will convince me a naked human body is anything other than acceptable - no matter how manipulated, no matter how fake, no matter nothing. This is not to say that exploitation is ok, or that nudity is always welcome in every context. But the human body itself - EVERYONE'S human body - is acceptable. If we are speaking about problematic porn, or some other type of inappropriateness regarding nudity, the ACTUAL NAKED BODY is not the problem at hand. It is the exploitation or abuse of this body.
Someone who is exploited is conditioned to be ashamed of her body; we would say to her, "you are not at fault, you are not shameful." Do we believe it, if we attach moral judgment to the state of nudity?
Kim is not the Whore to your Madonna
Somehow, Kim Kardashian brings out the 15-year-old MRA in a lot of otherwise rational people. You don't have to like her, but whore? Really? She's no more of a whore than any of us constantly want the right to be. If I get to sleep with whom I want and tell whom I want and videotape it and release it if I want, and I don't deserve name-calling, neither does she. Comments that I dismissed called her all kinds of names. Many of them were otherwise intelligent comments, not WUT A NASTY SLUT I WILL PUT MAH DICK IN HER HUGE BUTTHOL!!1! Many of them were thought out responses that were even agreeing with me, saying "I just wish she wouldn't be such a tramp all the time" or "I appreciate what she's doing, but what is she teaching our children" [hint: a lot of things you're not apparently teaching them] or "usually I think she's a dirty slut but I like these."
There is the next layer, which are the tired criticisms about she is only famous for having sex on camera (as are lots of people), or for being ditsy on TV, or for fucking famous dudes. Whatever. She's not where she is because she's dumb. She's not where she is because she's lazy, and she's not where she is because she doesn't work for it. There are plenty of exceedingly beautiful people from well-connected families that don't have this level of fame. If you believe the only reason she is famous is that she is a "whore," you're sorely mistaken.
Do not pull the "but she's a mom" card like Naya Rivera. DON'T DO IT. I'll cut you.
This is probably preaching to the choir, but one does not have to give up sexiness once motherhood comes. We are expected to be sexy, make children, stay sexy for our partners but not so much that we are whores. Be desirable so he doesn't leave you; be a responsible mother so you don't ruin your children. We must pass on a healthy body image to our children while being told everyday to hate our bodies - whether we work hard for (or purchase) a smoking hot physique, or things didn't go that way and our bodies have aged and changed.
I got a couple comments - one I responded to, one I dismissed, about "this is all well and good and she looks amazing but she's a mother and she should behave more responsibly." I can't imagine what kind of irresponsible this is. Is it that she is not passing on the message that her body must be kept private? This "concern" for the well-being of her child is just another thinly-veiled "whore"-calling. Just some standard pearl-clutching, nothing to see here.
There are plenty of times we must think about our children and what example we are setting for them; "Here's what Mommy looks like naked, she's proud of it" seems to be a pretty innocent message. Maybe it's my aforementioned nude-bias.
Society hasn't "come to" anything. Your generation is just as terrible as everyone's.
They have said the same things about sexy women in popular culture since popular culture started. This goes generations back - they said it about Marilyn Monroe, they said it about Britney Spears, they're saying it about Kim Kardashian (and Nikki Minaj and Miley Cyrus and bla bla bla). There is a popular woman who comes about and is somehow responsible for corrupting an entire generation. This, of course, happens entirely in a vacuum. She corrupts the youths, alone, because of her whore ways. No one else is involved.
Then there is the added mindfuck of people saying "don't give them any attention, it gives them power!" Oh, ok. So you're not giving them attention, by giving them enough attention to tell us to stop giving them attention. Right.
It's true - attention is the fuel. These women feed off of it; trashy TV and stupid pieces of pop culture all persist because dumb people give dumb things attention. But it's not going to stop; once people are over Kim, you'll have someone new to instruct us to avert our eyes from. Teach your children to think critically; not to criticize based on gut reactions, but to have discerning tastes and to understand each thing in their lives - how it has value, and how it lacks value. Everything has a little of both.
Ok, so it was photoshopped. So her butt is fake (I hear). STOP PEARL CLUTCHING ABOUT THIS.
I understand the harm airbrushing does; I understand that it presents a false reality to us and creates a lot of very deep and complex problems in many people. It's unfair for us to be held to the standard of fantasy.
But CHRIST ON A FUCKING ROLLERSKATE if someone else tells me how fake any of Kim Kardashian's parts or these photos of her are, I'm going to shit. I'm just going to take a literal shit. Right now, on my couch. Guess what? I KNOW. I KNOW ABOUT THE FAKENESS. I can simultaneously NOT call her a whore, AND know that she is physically fake. Do you have any idea how many people have a hand in the decisions that lead to photoshopping a Kim Kardashian photo? You think this publication was going to put her in there unphotoshopped? Do you think she is any different from 99% of the celebrities featured in magazines and on websites? I DO NOT GIVE HALF A TESTICLE. I will not blame the problems of an entire industry on one person in it. She's not airbrushing herself for chrissake.
Which leads me to my final rant subsection...
Don't hate the player, hate the game.
Kim didn't get famous because people don't value her body. Please. Are we really going to blame the downfall of society on her actions? Are we really going to act as if she has forced herself on an unwilling public? She has made her living being beautiful and ambitious. That happened. Great. I would rather we exalt the worthy to pseudo-royalty, too. But that's not how the game works. That's not how our society is structured. There has to be a deep restructuring - rooted in feminism and accessible education, I believe - in order to switch around the values of future generations. This is not Kim's fault; it was here before she got here, and will persist after she's gone.
We can have a conversation about why Kim Kardashian is valued so highly, without actually devaluing her as a person. We can have a conversation about the problems surrounding her notoriety and her actions that aren't centered around her sexuality. All these tiny criticisms of Kim Kardashian derail the actual conversation, and at worst, they take down all women with them, because we are not even allowed to be beautiful, sexual, and proud of it.