Kim Kardashian posted a nude selfie yesterday. It was shocking for everyone because seeing Kardashian’s body is something we’re not used to—in fact, posting a selfie of any kind seems a little out of character for the celebrity.
Obviously that’s not the case. This is Kim Kardashian we’re talking about. She rose to fame because of a sex tape. Last year she published a whole book of selfies called “Selfish.” We’ve seen her body on social media, on TV, in magazines—her body is her brand. “Kim Kardashian posts nude selfie” isn’t news. It’s a rerun.
Still, people are upset. For reasons that are both discussion-worthy and misdirected.
Actress Chloe Grace Moretz (“Carrie,” “Hugo”) tweeted a reply to Kardashian: “I truly hope you realize how important setting goals are for young women, teaching them we have so much more to offer than our bodies.”
She’s right, of course, that women have more to offer than their bodies. Here’s the problem: Moretz thinks she’s standing up for women and being a role model by calling out Kardashian, but the irony of her tweet is that she’s accusing a woman of having nothing more to offer than her body simply because she decides to show it to the world. Showing off your body isn’t automatically synonymous with saying that’s all you are. There’s a lot to unpack when it comes to sexism in society, but a blanket statement about the importance of suppressing the physical to give priority to the non-physical is only buying into people’s inability to see women as multifaceted.
Kardashian’s body might be a significant part of her persona, but that’s not all she is. A young woman from a famous family released a sex tape and got a reality show, but she also had the savvy to parlay that physical exposure into a fame-driven business empire, which takes a mind, too. Say what you want about her—and I would never claim to be a fan of hers—but it’s not accurate to suggest that her appearance is all she is simply because she has taken ownership of her sexuality.
Also, Kardashian is not required to be a role model simply because she’s famous. This is not a Miley Cyrus situation. It might have been weird for parents and preteen girls when Hannah Montana started dropping Molly and grinding on Robin Thicke, and it’s worth addressing how much stars like that have a responsibility to their young fans. But it’s not like Kardashian entered your life as a wholesome Disney princess and started showing off her boobs one day. If Kim Kardashian is your role model, you’ve known what you’re getting from day one. She’s not going to change, and she’s not the key to the country changing.
Because no public feud ever exists between just two people, the spat between Kardashian and Moretz also now includes Demi Lovato, Bella Thorne, Abigail Breslin … a decent percentage of young female celebs wants to weigh in on this case of overexposure vs. slut shaming. (Also, Bette Midler.) These are sadly relevant issues of our time, and it’s good that people, in the public eye or otherwise, want to talk about perceptions of women and how cultural influencers factor into that. But it’s International Women’s Day, and a variety of famous women have decided to observe that by jumping down each other’s throats to say who the best feminist is, drawing lines and making attacks instead of really opening up a dialogue about the underlying elements. Sadly, that’s not unique to this particular feud.
Venture back just a month ago, when a judge ruled that Kesha was still contractually bound to Dr. Luke, her accused rapist. Social media exploded with outrage and support for the singer for all of an hour before turning on Taylor Swift for not voicing her opinion on the matter. “She’s a fake feminist,” the collective masses screamed. “She only supports other women when it serves her.” According to some on social media, while Kesha accused Dr. Luke of raping her, Swift is the real villain for not being feminist enough.
That’s the message we see over and over again: Naked, clothed, it doesn’t matter. As women, Twitter says we’re all sluts or slut-shamers, we’re all bitches, we’re all desperately seeking attention, whether it’s with a nude selfie or tearing someone else’s nude selfie down. You’re either too feminist or not feminist enough. It’s one of many reasons progress is as slow as it is, with a global, public forum for conversation almost instantly turned into a tangled shouting match. (Which does happen with pretty much every topic, not just feminism.)
So Kardashian’s selfie isn’t anything new, but neither is the vitriol that surrounds it. That’s just another day of womanhood.
Lauren Chval is a RedEye contributor.
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