In an age when Kim Kardashian’s bottom can break the internet, feminism is a term we cannot do without

Time magazine are trying to justify what is a clear piece of trolling

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The Independent Online

What a time it is to be alive. In a small town in Germany, a group of the world’s most brilliant scientific minds landed a probe on a comet that was zooming through space at 34,000mph. Meanwhile, in New York via Paris, a woman balanced a champagne glass on her PVC-shrink-wrapped bottom; a man took a photograph of her doing it, and together they “broke” the internet.

Progress, I suppose, comes in all different shapes and sizes. And while there is one school of thought that holds that Kim Kardashian – for it was she who converted her own rear end into a drinks tray in a potential game-changer for parties and pub queues everywhere – has done something groundbreaking and empowering, there is another, more persuasive one, that holds that she has not.

Kardashian, daughter of the attorney who got O J Simpson acquitted, star of a notorious sex tape and reality shows thereafter, and wife of Kanye West, is a modern phenomenon. Some call her a socialite; some call her a “social media personality” and others call her a successful businesswoman who oversees a multimillion-dollar empire of Kardashian-branded bodycon dresses, false eyelashes and apps. She is also inextricably linked to her butt. I mean, we all are – that’s biology – but unlike most people, Kardashian treats hers as an asset. Which is how it came to pass that this week she posed for a male photographer, placing it centre stage, first as a portable table and second, rising naked above the defenceless shreds of its PVC wrapping like a brace of shiny, caramel-coloured balloons.

The headline on the cover of Paper magazine was “Break the internet Kim Kardashian”. Why break the internet? Perhaps she had seen some of Dapper Laughs’ Vines. Still, it was a curious thing: the internet is really useful. You can email on it, buy books on it and watch cats laughing on it in your lunch break. The answer is: because Kim can. Kardashian wouldn’t exist without the internet, or perhaps it’s the other way round. She has 25 million Twitter followers, is the third most popular human on Instagram and is about to publish a coffee-table book, Selfish, composed of some 352 selfies she has previously posted online.

The flurry caused by Kardashian’s bottom is the latest in a long line of disembodied female body parts to titillate and disgust, thrill and rile the online community. One week it’s Renée Zellweger’s face, the next, Keira Knightley’s un-retouched breasts. They all purport to tell us something about the way we live now, but they don’t really. They just tell us that despite technology, social media and probes landing on comets, nothing very much has changed at all.

Take Time’s current poll, in which the magazine asks its online readers which word they would “ban” in 2015 if they had such powers. Previous winners of the annual poll are “OMG”, “YOLO” and “twerk”. This year’s contenders include “om nom nom nom” (for people who don’t know the word delicious), “yaaaaassss” (for enthusiastic idiots) and “obvi” (for people who are too busy for the syllables “ous” and “ly”). There are a few real words too – vilified concepts like “kale”, “bossy”, the perennially misused “literally” and “feminist”.

Feminist? Indeed – and it is comfortably in the lead at the time of writing with 48 per cent of the vote. This is a sorry state of affairs and not just because it is one of only five or six real words on the list rather than made-up internet babble. Just think of all the words that might have made it on there. Like “plus size”, as used by the fashion industry to describe anyone who does not have the dimensions, and appetite, of a pin. If there was no “plus size”, Calvin Klein would have to call its proudly unveiled size 10 lingerie babe with the far more truthful “still-two-sizes-smaller-than-the-average-woman” model. Or how about “rape”, when it is used metaphorically – like Brooks Newmark did this week when he said that living through his sex scandal felt like being “mentally raped”. These are good options for a putative ban; feminism is not.

“When did feminism become a thing that every celebrity had to state their position on, like some politician declaring a party? Let’s stick to the issues and quit throwing this label around like ticker tape,” says Time. That is a lame way of justifying what is a clear piece of trolling. To suggest the simple idea of equality for women is an assault on language like “bae” or “sorry not sorry” is clearly daft. Here’s a deal: Time can ban “feminist” as long as I can ban the word “empowering” when used in connection with famous women taking their clothes off in an effort to further their career. That seems fair.

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