With Kim Kardashian West’s first round of released images from her Paper magazine shoot only fracturing the internet slightly, the second set featuring full frontal nudes rendered the web beyond repair.
Yes: the internet, as Paper magazine and Kim had hoped, was well and truly broken by her now infamous rear end. It split it down the middle into two camps: those who felt this was the very peak of a modern day woman reclaiming her sexuality, and the rest who didn't, who were by default snobbish stick in the muds harbouring a grudge against a reality TV star because of a ten-year-old sex tape. Take Glee actress Naya Rivera for instance who was immediately dismissed as a 'hater' for a less than enthusiastic response to the shoot.
I'm not sure I fall in either camp myself, but one thing is for sure; anything that falls into the latter is the very antithesis of feminism. I patiently awaited the inevitable think pieces in her defence and they came in their droves, billing her a "savvy businesswoman" and defying the idea of it being a by-product of sexism.
The thing is, these two truths are not mutually exclusive. While you can't knock her business credentials, is it now "unfeminist" to criticise her for well, getting her knockers out solely for the male gaze, and cashing in off male titillation? This becomes an especially fraught issue when you realise many of the feminists jumping to her defence would do anything to see the back of Page 3.
In order to be deemed a "proper" member of in the sisterhood, why must we have to agree with Kim’s decision to bare all? I respect and appreciate it’s just that - her decision - but when it comes to the response, I haven’t a clue why she’s automatically considered to have more agency than your average Page 3 model.
They're both women baring bare breasts and more often than not photographed by men and for men. Why’s one "liberating" and not the other? And even if all magazines that objectify women were run by women, is it more admirable? Are we more comfortable with the imminent objectification, as long as it’s a woman in charge of it?
I refuse to believe all images of naked women must be considered empowering regardless of context. I’ve already seen paltry comparisons made to the "Free the Nipple" campaign via Twitter, and they are futile. The entire purpose of that movement was to desexualise images of breasts, while Kim’s objective was quite clearly the opposite. Though she doesn’t need to be criticised for this I believe she can be, and any woman that does so isn’t necessarily "part of the problem".
This phenomena of shouting down anyone who doesn't think everything women do has to be "empowering" is part of what I dub the "Tumblr school of feminism".
This "fight all the causes" feminism is pushed via social media and sees people crowning Joan Rivers a feminist icon despite her fat shaming and flagrant misogyny. Anyone seen to be the underdog is instantly labelled the new Emmeline Pankhurst, which isn't to say they can't be, but that it often comes across as too automatic. Those of us who saw Miley’s VMA’s performance as objectification were shut down for our inability to allow her to "grow up’". It will be interesting if One Direction’s "grown up phase" sees a similar trajectory of dry humping and lycra.
Not all instances of nudity must be celebrated as "female liberation", especially not when they are clearly done to cut a cheque. Lauding Kim Kardashian for doing things many women seek to be stopped doesn’t make you "more feminist" in the same way being critical of it doesn’t make you less. And naked images of women are not always images of empowerment, even if social media tells us they are.
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