When I was in college I knew a couple of young women who paid for their tuition by working at a local strip club. They rationalized their afterschool job choice in a variety of ways, but their biggest defense was that it was a feminist act; they were the ones exploiting the men by separating them from their money. But they were the ones naked, being visually devoured by these men. Were these girls being empowered or were they being exploited? There are two very different ways one can look at this.
A writer for Huffington Post defended stripping as a feminist act saying that it indeed is “because that woman is making a choice for herself — no matter how confused or misguided she may be, she has made a choice. A choice of circumstance, or need, or desire — it does not matter. If she has made that choice for herself, then it should be honored and seen as a feminist act — a conscious choice of her destiny in the world.”
This whole concept of strippers and feminism popped into my mind when I saw the newest racy photo of Kim Kardashian that she posted on Instagram. No, she is not a stripper, but we should not forgot that she shot to fame after a sex tape she participated in was leaked. She also famously posed for Playboy, so she is no stranger to exposing her body to the masses.
On Instagram, Kim Kardashian chooses to share these racy photos of herself, and I have to wonder, is this a feminist act or is it just a side effect of an inflated ego?
The feminist selfie has been getting a whole lot of play on Twitter and Instagram. Erin Glorida Ryan wrote in her piece “Selfies Aren’t Empowering. They’re a Cry for Help” for Jezebel: “Selfies aren’t empowering; they’re a high tech reflection of the f*#ked up way society teaches women that their most important quality is their physical attractiveness.” After Ryan’s post went viral, there was a strong reaction on Twitter with a large array of women posting their own “feminist selfies.” Eve Vawter (@EveVawter) tweeted, “Selfies are empowering. Women are in control of how they look in the pic and where they post it. #feministselfie.”
Personally, I do not think this is a feminist message of any shape or form. While some may holler out a great big “You go, girl!” for sharing her candid photos, I think it’s just another part of the Kardashian machine. She came to prominence by way of her body and her outward appearance. Kim Kardashian is famous for being Kim Kardashian, curves and all. And those curves are what she chooses to celebrate and to “sell” as the major part of her sizzle.
I wonder what kind of message this will be sending to her daughter North West when she is old enough to ask questions like: “Mommy, why are you famous?” and “Mommy, how did you become famous?” and “Mommy, why did you post all those racy photos?” As a girl growing up in the shadow of such a famous figure, it would be difficult if not impossible to not have the message of: “You are what you look like” or that “Image is everything.” Who knows, North West could escape the messaging that her mother sends out and could embrace academia like the grandmother she never met (Kayne West’s mother Donda was on the faculty of the English Department of Chicago State University for over two decades). Fortunately for North West, the possibilities are endless.
So is Kim Kardashian making a feminist statement or does she believe her most important quality is her physical attractiveness? What do you think?
Photo Source: Kim Kardashian/Instagram
More on Babble: The #365FeministSelfie Project: What it is, and why I’m doing it