In news destined to excite precisely no one, least of all the scorching star herself: Kim Kardashian is fine by me. No, really. So long as none of us is compelled by law to purchase the Kim Kardashian credit card, the Kim Kardashian energy drink, the Kim Kardashian alcoholic drink, the Kim Kardashian weight-loss drink, the Kim Kardashian weight-loss shoe or any one of the dozens of awful products she has chosen to endorse, I am untroubled by her celebrity. I could even go so far as to say that I endorse it.
Let’s hail Kim for two reasons. First, such uninhibited brand partnership is probably the Klarion Kall of Kapitalism’s downfall. We can welcome her profligacy as a sign of the market’s impending death. Second, my god. That rack. It’s extraordinary and I, for one, am very glad to see it documented so often.
Before Kim Kardashian started publishing her nude self-portraits, such unfeasible bodies were seen only in the notebooks of masturbating teen cartoonists. She is, in my view, hopelessly gorgeous and hers is the kind of geometry that could start Lord Byron on a curvilinear tear. It is a public service to show it. It should be a summary offence to conceal it. I cheer every time this beautiful woman removes her on-trend kit.
What I don’t do, though, is cheer her “feminism”. This puts me in a minority. Cheering Kim’s feminism has become a widespread habit, most especially following last week’s nude selfie, which I personally regard as one of her very best.
To say that one does not cheer her feminism is not to say that one disputes her feminism—in my case, it is certainly not to say that I do not cheer her form, which, despite her claims that it is “flawed”, looks nigh on perfect to me. Phwoar. Anyhow. There’s no point disputing feminism. I’ve given up disputing feminism for Lent. You can’t dispute a movement in which everything is admitted as valid.
Feminism, as several pieces written about Kardashian remind us, means anything you fancy. Just as long as you agree with the principle of “equality”—which many forgotten feminist scholars do not—you’re in. Everything else, including and especially Inspiring™ nude selfies, is feminist. This means that feminism is always and necessarily beyond criticism, and it also means that people are talking an awful lot of shit. Well, shit in my view. Of course, there are youngsters who vehemently disagree that the Kardashian Konversation—which largely affirms her “right” to nude up, as if that were ever a question—is shit.
If one suggests that the nude-selfie may not have earned a place of
primacy in the feminist conversation, one is elitist, ageist, and sometimes even racist or transphobic in refusing to admit the centrality of the corporeal, both the subject of nude selfies and the oppressively defining cultural characteristic of transgender people and people of colour. Which is an argument I can brook, to a degree. But FUCK ME. We’re talking about Kim Kardashian. And we cannot talk about Kim Kardashian as a signifier of anything but herself.
Once you’ve put your image on a credit card and openly admitted that your body functions as a marketing tool, you ain’t the same as me, dacks down on Facebook waiting in the dark for empowering “likes”. Not all bodies function solely as bodies. Some of them are logos.
So, even if we listen to these young persons who insist that (a) any criticism of a soi-disant feminist is “elitist” “policing” and (b) the failure to celebrate the feminism of the nude selfie is also the abject failure to understand the terms of a newly emerged diverse visual culture, this is still Kim Kardashian. And she will turn your feminist defence of her right not to be “body-shamed” or “slut-shamed” into a pay-per-view feminist essay. Yes. She did.
If you like, you can subscribe to Kardashian’s site to experience her Come to Feminist Jesus moment. But, before you commit your Kardashian credit card to a $2.99 pcm payment, why not read the terms and conditions for subscription. At 34,000 words, it’s a slightly longer read that Heart of Darkness. Or, to make a better comparison with another famous legal text, it proceeds for about eight US Constitutions.
All of which is to suggest that Honest Kim’s Moment of Righteous Feminist Candour, available for $2,99, may be produced by a mechanism even more complex than that which objectifies bodies. It may be a deception.
This is not to say that Kardashian may not earnestly feel hurt by criticism. This is not to say that she herself is always cynical nor that she has any particular responsibility to be a good girl. If you fret that Kim Kardashian is “bad for women”, I fret for your powers of social understanding. If you fret that Kim Kardashian is a “bad role model” for your teenage girl, I fret for your parenting skills. Patently, you raised an idiot child unable to discern the difference between reality and Instagram.
All these criticisms that Kardashian is “bad” make as little sense as those that she is “good”. She is neither good nor bad nor, in my retro understanding of the term, feminist nor anti-feminist.
Like any advertised commodity—and this is not a sermonising insult, but a statement of fact where Kardashian is concerned—this woman is beyond morality. You can’t hold a mirror up to something for sale and ask “Is it good?” You can only ask “Does it sell well?”
The market, intrinsically corrupt, cannot be judged by morals. It must not be defended by feminism.
Oh. There I go with my “elitist” “policing” again. I should probably atone and treat myself to an empowering credit card.
Previously by Helen Razer: