Is Kim Kardashian a celebrity to aspire to or one to be held up as an example of who-not-to-be? Our writers Róisín Burke and Ellie O’Byrne battle it out. Which side are you on?
. @jenatkinhair spiked my Oreo shake to try to get me to not eat it because she's fat shaming me— Kim Kardashian West (@KimKardashian) April 25, 2017
Kim Kardashian is part of an industry that tells girls that their value is in their appearance, not their achievements, writes Ellie O’Byrne.
Sometimes you’d almost wish that Kim Kardashian’s ass would just go ahead and break the internet.
In the latest round of tales from Kim’s vault, the reality TV star was supposedly “papped” au naturel whilst holidaying in Mexico. The resulting images of her cellulite-ridden posterior made the pages of the tabloids and triggered a new debate on social media about whether her bum is acceptable, or whether it’s let itself go.
The millennial yen for big bottoms has been hailed as empowering for women, and Kim and fellow well- endowed stars like Nikki Minaj and J-Lo have been touted as role models for women whose bodies couldn’t conform to the athletic or emaciated fashion standards of previous decades.
The fetishisation of the female derriere is nothing new. Sarah Baartman was a woman of the Khoisan people from South Africa, known as the Hottentot Venus. She was displayed at freak shows in London in the early 1800s for her ample posterior.
After her death, her pickled brain and sexual organs and a cast of her body were displayed in a museum in Paris until 1974; sickeningly, she wasn’t dignified with a burial until 2002.
Her rear was considered symbolic of rampant and primitive female sexuality; the Victorian bustle may have even mimicked her shelf-like fatty deposits as a big-butt craze swept fashionable society. Yet few would argue that Baartman’s story represented empowerment; she was an object, pawed at and carved up, a symbol of male colonisation, racism and ownership.
In the modern-day freak show of social media, Kim Kardashian has considerably more agency than Baartman had; she earned a reported $51 million (€47m) in 2016, with the help of social media endorsements that earn up to $300,000 a pop. That big butt is quite literally a money-maker.
But Kim still represents a woman dissected, reduced to the sum and value of her parts. Whether you fall into the “omg she’s really let herself go” camp or the “it’s a perfectly normal lady-bottom” camp, by adding to the conversation you’re still carving up female anatomy for judgement.
The toxic fashion and beauty industries and their associated media implant parasitic insecurities, the better to sell women endless consumer goods. The process begins with a message to girls and women that their value is in their appearance, as a commodity, rather than in their achievements.
Kim is part of this industry.
She’s the master of faking it; for her day-in-the-life diary for Harper’s Bazaar, she reported spending an hour and a half in hair and make-up on mornings when she appears in public. Her image is the result of a vast staff of professionals, but vulnerable teens on social media seem unaware of this.
Carefully staged for “spontaneity,” the stars of Instagram are faking it and minting it, and teenage girls are aping them… and their fragile aspirations are monetised in the process. You can bet Kim’s bottom dollar — pun intended— that her derrière will return to newsstands and twitter feeds near you soon, no doubt having been “improved” through various saleable celebrity diets and procedures.
In the meantime, immunise your daughters: focus on their achievements and strengths rather than their appearance. For life-long positive self-image, from pimply teen to gamine young woman into the childbearing and post-menopausal years, a mind-set that says, “look at how incredible and strong our bodies are; look at what we can do,” will take our girls further than relying on the vagaries of their changing appearance for self-esteem.
The fashion and beauty industries implant parasitic insecurities, the better to sell women endless goods
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