This was originally published on Sum of My Pieces.
On August 5, Kim Kardashian is scheduled to be the keynote speaker at BlogHer's annual conference in L.A--one of the biggest conferences for women bloggers in the country. In explaining this decision, Elisa Camahort Page, a co-founder of BlogHer, told ABC news, "She has parlayed her influence into a huge media, commerce and mobile app empire, including making tens of millions on her app alone. And it's an empire with women in the driver's seat." Apparently financial success alone merits this prominent space on a platform supposedly intended to promote female empowerment.
I suppose, given how this country has already deified her, this shouldn't come as a surprise. And yet it does.
It seems to me outrageous, and incredibly sad, that BlogHer would hire Kardashian to be the voice of their conference. Maybe I'm crazy, but I could have sworn that blogging had something to do with actual writing, even if in the most tangential of ways. That ideally, being a presence on social media might be about more than just the numbers--that as feminists we could strive to make it also about contributing something of substance to the world around us. (Hold the laughs until the end please.)
And I realize I'll be called a slut-shamer for being so disgusted by this decision. I know that some feminists believe that Kim K. is an empowered woman who has made her empire by claiming ownership of her body and her sexuality, and that if I can't handle that it's because I'm embracing the rape culture that she is trying so hard to fight.
Frankly, I've had enough of this argument.
I am a feminist. I reject rape culture. I do not slut-shame. And I think Kim Kardashian is a terrible role model, and that BlogHer has completely sold out by hiring her.
One of the arguments made in defense of Kardashian is that of the societal double-standard: that when the empty, passive vessel of the female form is used in pursuit of profit, we call it advertising; but when an empowered woman takes control--when she is an agent rather than an object of her sexuality--well, we call that other things. Attention-starved. A bad role model. A slut. And while there is no question that that double-standard exists, it's just not relevant to this discussion--because Kardashian is one giant advertisement. Her entire life is a walking, talking billboard, her image as empty as any of those pictures plastered across the pages of all those fashion magazines we hate to love. (It seems worth noting here that she is often on the covers of those magazines.)
Kim Kardashian isn't fighting the system by which flesh is used to buy and sell things--she is the system. And the product she's peddling is herself--pouty and over-sexualized, as seen through the lens of that very male gaze that determines all of our standards of beauty. She is embracing all those standards, not rejecting them. Her empire is paid for by the same national obsession with wealth and fame and beauty that funds the advertising industry.
And this isn't about slut-shaming. It's not about being offended by her naked selfies or her exhibitionist tendencies. This isn't a discourse on Kim Kardashian's morality. This woman has found a way to dupe millions of people into handing over their cash and their esteem, and I truly think she has every right to do just that. What matters is not what she does, but how the rest of us talk about what she does. Is she really a feminist? Is she the kind of woman who should be given primetime slots at feminist-minded conferences? Does financial success alone merit such a huge platform? Is every act of disrobing in and of itself some progressive stance on female sexuality?
I'd be lying if I said that I really know what the word feminism means anymore. But I know that it has something to do with re-defining the terms by which we talk and think about women. Which means ultimately it's about the effort to change the perception of women--to shift the paradigm of how we are seen by others.
And Kim Kardashian does nothing to shift that paradigm. What she does--everything she is, in fact--reinforces all of the negative stereotypes of women: vain, catty, sexualized, and vacant. As feminists we should be looking to dismantle the system by which we use nudity to buy and sell things, not reinforce it. We should be trying to demolish the premise that female nudity equals dollar signs, and dollar signs equal everything there is about what it means to be a successful woman. We should be trying to change the perspectives of those who see women as a commodity to be bought and sold by others.
But mostly, the perspective we should be concerned about is that of all those young girls who are following Kardashian on social media--and taking notes about where to find their worth. That's why this matters. They are looking at her, and they are looking at how she is exulted by so many people, and they are developing their senses of personhood accordingly.
The defense of Kim Kardashian boils down to this: society profits from images of the naked female form, she should be able to as well. Which seems to me a variation of: "Well, if you can hate women then I can too." And sure, she certainly can, but I'd love it if the rest of us could stop pretending that she's breaking any glass ceilings by doing so. She has every right to profit off of her vacant image, but I then have the right to do everything I can to ensure that my two tween nieces turn out nothing like her, without being labeled a slut-shamer for doing so.
Connect with Dani on Facebook, Twitter, & Instagram, and check out her blog Sum of My Pieces, for grown-ups like her who don't have their shit together. She writes about her messy life in order to write about things she thinks are important: societal expectations, sexuality, relationships, and the vortex that is social media.