OK, I lied. This isn’t an open letter. Open letters are annoying. I’m just going to tell you what I think.
In case you missed it: on Tuesday Kim Kardashian posted two nude (but censored) photos of herself on Instagram and Twitter, the first one captioned "#liberated:"
The second, coming about 12 hours later, was a throwback photo (she admitted it was taken about a year ago) which she captioned "Happy "INTERNATIONALWOMENSDAY:"
These tweets were followed by some chiding from actresses Bette Midler and Chloe Moretz as well as a mixed bag of comments from the general public and retorts by Kim. Here are the best ones:
Kim Kardashian tweeted a nude selfie today. If Kim wants us to see a part of her we've never seen,— Bette Midler (@BetteMidler) March 7, 2016
she's gonna have to swallow the camera.
This led Kim to write an "open letter" on her website entitled "#StraightUp: Happy International Women's Day."
The gist of Kim’s letter was that she should be able to celebrate her body and be "sexy" without being "slut-shamed" or "body-shamed" - especially by other women. According to Pop Sugar, Kardashian wrote:
"I never understand why people get so bothered by what other people choose to do with their lives. I don't do drugs, I hardly drink, I've never committed a crime—and yet I'm a bad role model for being proud of my body?"
I'm more than a little conflicted about this whole thing. If she hadn't written the “open letter” I would have chalked the whole thing up to "Kim being Kim" like everything else she does (including but not limited to: that "Break the Internet" cover of Paper Magazine; marrying Kanye West; marrying and divorcing Kris Humphries; publishing a book of her selfies). She's done nude and semi-nude photo shoots before. Big whoop. What she does isn't my problem. Do any of us really care?
It’s what she’s saying now that is bugging me. Her claims of why she does what she does and that there's a point behind it all. That she does these type of photos to empower herself and other women. She is getting a lot of "right ons!" and "atta girls!" from women out there who think what Kim and the other Kardashians are doing is helping women.
I’ll give her the benefit of the doubt that her heart was in the right place. That she is attempting with this response to tell young girls that they can do whatever they want and that they should feel proud of who they are and what they look like. Here's the direct quote:
"I am empowered by my sexuality. I am empowered by feeling comfortable in my skin. I am empowered by showing the world my flaws and not being afraid of what anyone is going to say about me. And I hope that through this platform I have been given, I can encourage the same empowerment for girls and women all over the world."
And yes, that is true: women - and men - should express themselves in whatever unique way they want to (as long as it's legal, of course). Women should absolutely be proud of their bodies - no matter what size or color they are. Kim is proud of her body and wants to show it and she should have that right.
But is what Kim is doing - with her career and her photos and her social media and with this letter - really about empowerment? I think she's backtracking a little bit. She’s – as they say - putting lipstick on a pig. Mixing up her egotism, narcissism and, let’s be real, business strategies, with important concepts like empowerment, feminism and liberation.
In this climate of continuing gender discrimination both in the U.S. and across the world, I get a little uptight when someone like Kim or other C list celebs throw around words like "empowerment" like they really know what it means to need or strive for it. It's disingenuous and irresponsible. You think you're using your "platform" to "encourage the same empowerment for girls and women all over the world?" Empowering girls to do what? Sexualize themselves to make a buck? To chase fame by any means necessary? To be selfish and care more about selfies and social media posts than actually looking outside themselves to make some kind of difference in the world?
Here are some other thoughts:
1. No one is body-shaming Kim Kardashian. Kim has a great body. She's curvy in all the right places. We definitely need more curvy girls representing us in a world full of unrealistic, unattainable stick figure body types. I don’t think those tweets from Bette and Chloe had anything to do with what Kim looks like. Their beef (or sarcasm – which it clearly was for Bette), in my estimation, is with the act of posting those photos and hash-tagging them as part of “International Women’s Day” like doing so gives them a big, feminist stamp of approval.
Disclaimer: I can't say that I read all of her tweet responses, so maybe some trolls were body-shaming her. Which leads me to...
2. If you are bold and brave enough to post photos of yourself online - NUDE photos - you have to be bold and brave enough to ignore the negative feedback. You have to accept the criticism as much as you accept the support. Kim of all people should know that everyone judges each other, especially on the Internet. My point? Either shut up about it, or stop posting that stuff.
3. When you have a sex tape scandal you are supposedly devastated about, that you had worked very hard to leave in the past and create a new image for yourself, is posting nude photos online the way to go? Aren't you effectively reminding everyone that you are a sexual object much like the person who was represented in that tape all those years back? Isn't that something you claim to want to get beyond? I'm sorry - but you can't be a former sex tape star/victim and then post nude photos of yourself on the internet and not have people relate the two together.
4. The Kardashians are good at a lot of things: making money; being fashionable; making reality TV; staying in the spotlight; being sexy. Are they role models for women? I guess it depends on how you look at it. They are certainly industrious and they make a lot of money. But are they also fame whores who are basically famous for no other reason except they put their private lives (and in a lot of cases, their bodies) out there for the world to see? Who are rich because they sell their images for the biggest offer? Is that empowering for women? Is it really the "hard work" their “momager” Kris Jenner claims? Or is hard work getting up every day for a "real" job that contributes in some way to society?
Let's not be fooled here. The Kardashians are great at what they do, but what they do is not helping women in any way. And for Kim to say that is misleading. I bet you my shitty salary we'll be seeing Kim on the talk show circuit being praised for her letter and for speaking out. But I'll be over here, not buying it.
[Note: Kim's website costs $2.99 a month to subscribe to, so I pulled the text of the letter from Pop Sugar. Read the full letter here.]
P.S. Here are some bad ass women who are actually empowering other women: