One of the most enduring and damaging arguments to come out of academic pantsuit feminism is that women who choose to present themselves as objects of sexual desire cannot be empowered, and belong to the ‘bad role model’ class of women. It is an argument that I think comes out of an innate insecurity and fear by women who wish to blame other women for the overall oppression of our gender, as if it isn’t completely systematic and entirely not a fault of our own.
Insert Kim Kardashian, a prominent fixture in our treasure chest of celebrities. She is a mother, a wife, a daughter and a person. One of the most cited arguments I hear for why she should be dismissed as empowering or as a role model is at the very genesis of her fame, the sex tape.
Some argue that the sex tape made her famous, but that argument is flawed and only proves a misunderstanding of fame. One can’t become the magnitude of celebrity that is Kim Kardashian from a viral video on PornHub, and even with that, people often forget the most important piece of information in this. The tape was taken by someone she trusted, and then sold and published without her knowledge.
To most people, this act has to be incredibly traumatizing. At its core, it was as misogynistic an act as it was cruel. Yet Kim Kardashian did not make herself out to be a victim of these incredibly misogynistic circumstances. She used them for her own gain, eventually building an enormously successful and profitable media empire around herself, with her sex tape being simply a speck in the rear view mirror of her life.
So when an established media mogul and public figure posts a nude picture of herself on social media with black bars obscuring anything that couldn’t be shown on cable, just as Kim has been publicly condemned by other powerful media figures for doing recently, I don’t take issue with it.
No, the suffragettes probably wouldn’t be applauding her for what she has accomplished, but that shouldn’t matter. Kim Kardashian has helped women progress, despite what the white male pundits on women seem to spout. She took misogyny thrown at her and turned it into fame and money. She made lemonade out of the rotten lemons that the world gave her.
I don’t think that young girls need women role models that tell them to make themselves small or to say sorry. No, I’m absolutely not arguing for girls to be taught that their only valuable qualities are their bodies. But this world is not equal, and it will likely not be equal for some time, and presenting oneself in a sexual manner can be an immensely empowering.
In regards to what is truly a ‘good role model’ for young women in this capitalist, patriarchal, racist and self involved world, I am at a loss. However, I do know that the impact of what Kim Kardashian presents to the world is invaluable, and those that try to argue otherwise have an innate misunderstanding of the depth of women’s politics in this world.