A curious post published by the ladyblog Feminspire wonders if Kim Kardashian is not just a feminist, singular, but an “overlooked face of feminism.” As in “figurehead.” As in…someone feminists should look at and sigh approvingly whenever they see her plastic smile on the cover of a magazine. Look up to, even.
The lengthy (or TL;DR, if you want to be a dick about it) post references Jean Paul Gaultier‘s corsets (and his faux-feminist doublespeak about them), ancient Greece and Helen of Troy, all in service of making the argument that Kim Kardashian is a feminist because she has chosen to use her adherence to conventional beauty norms to become marvelously rich and famous. No, really. (Trigger warning: this makes no fucking sense.)
From her choice to publicize a sex scandal to her display as a sex symbol, she has exemplified the Gaultier corset. Her intellect, similar to Helen’s, is exemplified through the multitudes of endorsements and the success of her reality television show. Although we constantly disregard her intelligence and blame the American consumer society as reasons for her rise to fame, she does play a role in this scenario. She marketed herself to fit the needs of the consumer society…By portraying herself as the bedside fantasy haunting the sleep of mankind, she exemplified the liberties that she can take in this society to achieve her goals and survive. She chose to wear these corsets rather than be forced to wear it…
Although some might argue Kim is a thwarter to the feminist movement, I believe that she has exemplified a different mode of feminism. A feminism that is not criticized as being an overzealous method of attack by battalions but rather a feminism that is defined by physical and intellectual presence. It has reinvented feminism to be a complex kaleidoscope rather than the movement brought on by Pankhurst and other militant feminists. Due to the society that has changed its norm of seeing women as symbols as human beings, we are allowed to view these individuals as having different perspectives of feminism. Even though all might not agree with each other, I believe that these differing outlooks have provided a broader context and individuality that feminism in earlier years did not strike.
Over the course of writing about women’s issues, I am careful not to attack individual women for playing by the patriachy’s rules in order to “survive” (as if Kim was destitute before her sex tape came out), or even thrive within it. (This is different from looking at cultural trends in a systemic fashion, of course.) It’s up to each woman how much gender normative stuff she is comfortable doing to get what she wants from an unfair system, from putting on lipstick for a job interview to full on sex work.
But let’s not get it twisted: just because it’s not a crime against womanity to do these things doesn’t mean it is by any stretch of the imagination a feminist act. Kim Kardashian doesn’t pretend that it is, so why are we going and declaring her a feminist?
And fuck it: when a woman goes beyond merely adopting gender norms herself to actively enforcing those norms on other women for her own personal gain, as Tracie at Jezebel points out, I think we can start judging her as a “thwarter to the feminist movement.” It’s the difference between simply following the laws of an oppressive regime so you can eat, and working for that regime so you can get fat. At least Kim has the decency not to pretend she’s on our side.