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Kim K: Social Media Mogul, Trashy Reality TV Star, Feminist?

Illustration by Selena Repanis

Kim Kardashian. What comes to mind when you hear that name? Do you recoil at the mere reference of her scattered throughout your newsfeed or are you keeping up religiously with her social media updates? Love, hate or indifferent to her, you have to admit that Kim is dominating the entertainment industry despite many critics deeming her as having no “talent”. But of all the things that Kardashian is, from a social media mogul, successful entrepreneur to reality TV star, can being a feminist fit into the mix? Despite stating publicly that she does not identify as being a feminist as she does not like labels, her actions throughout the years scream feminism –  the belief that women should have political, social and economic equality with men. She has stated that she will “always fight for women’s rights” and will continue to “encourage women to be open and honest about their sexuality, and to embrace their beauty and their bodies.” These values are apparent in her continued fight against those who slut shame her and other women for embracing body positivity and own their sexuality for themselves and not for the male gaze, as well as in her support of intersectional movements such as Black Lives Matter.

Kardashian’s beliefs stem from her battle with sexism and misogyny throughout her entire career. This stems from the infamous “sex tape scandal,” where a private recording of an intimate moment filmed under the pretence that it would only be shared between the two people in question, ended up being shared for all the world to see. From its release, Kardashian was thrust into the public eye without her permission or consent. She was quickly categorised as vain, vapid and fame hungry. She was apparently a social climber clinging to her five minutes of fame, and willing to compromise an apparent sexual morality that women should uphold to get to the top. But instead of this misogynistic take on Kim as someone whose main contributions to this world are thirteen seasons of Keeping Up with the Kardashians and provocative selfies, let’s take on a different perspective. Kim, a young woman who fell victim to the hands of her ex-partner who betrayed both her trust and legal rights to private recordings by leaking intimate videos publically for all the world to gawk at.  Despite these circumstances, and all the criticisms, Kardashian has not let a sex tape from a decade ago define her, and has become a successful resilient business woman and mother of two who embraces and owns her own body and sexuality. From a feminist perspective, Kim has smashed the patriarchal expectations society has for her again and again.

In contrast to Kardashian, there has been a trend in the media of prominent figures who represent a recent trend of “pop feminism.” There is no issue of course, with people identifying as and speaking out about feminist issues, as it inevitably brings awareness to the movement. However, in the case of “pop feminism” the motivations behind their “feminist ideologies” are debatable; are they treating their brand of feminist activism as a trend or something that is a cause they truly are knowledgeable about and believe in? Think of these pop feminists as people who wear Nirvana band t-shirts but don’t know anything about the band or their songs other than being able to vaguely sing along to the chorus of Smells like Teen Spirit.

An example of someone who participates in pop feminism is Taylor Swift. Her brand of feminism revolves more around not what Swift can do for feminism, but rather what feminism can do for her. Despite talking about her feminist beliefs in many interviews and the odd tweet, actions speak louder than words. These range from her vague support for the 2017 Women’s’ March, to creating a song about a feud with another woman, despite stating that “there’s a special place in hell for women who don’t help other women”. Another celebrity example ironically comes from another of the Kardashian clan in the recent controversial Pepsi commercial starring Kendall Jenner, Kim’s younger half-sister. The commercial is obviously attempting to exploit the current serious issues surrounding police brutality in the black community, which caused such backlash that the ad was pulled from circulation. In both Swift and Jenner’s situations, the underlying motive behind their claims towards feminism and political activism is to market their brands towards their target audiences.

Kardashian differs from these examples, as she does not have to exploit an ideology in order to be successful. With no ulterior motive of creating a brand based on trendy activism, Kardashian’s support for intersectional equality can be seen as genuine. An ally for Black Lives Matter, she has stated her worry raising two young black children in a world where injustices such as the Dallas shooting and police brutality against the black community still occur. Additionally, Kardashian promotes her and other women’s right to embrace body positivity, and wear as much or as little in order to feel confident, as contrary to popular belief, gender equality and sexuality are not mutually exclusive. Of Swift, Jenner and Kardashian, who is using their influence to make a difference and not primarily to make a profit?

Now I’m not claiming that Kim is the be all and end all example of a perfect feminist, she like everyone else has flaws and should be held accountable to them. However, through her use of her platform to spread her beliefs about female empowerment and equality, she has shown that she is a powerful ally to the feminist movement. Feminism is not some trend for women to jump on and use for their own benefit, but an entire community that calls for the focus to be not only on the mainstream privileged white woman, but on women of colour, trans women and other marginalised groups. Kardashian’s actions show that she understands this defining part of feminism more than many who claim their support. Whether you love her or hate her, you can’t deny that these traits propel Kardashian as a great supporter for gender equality, and like it or not, she’s here to stay.

 

Joanne Fong

The author Joanne Fong

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