Kim Kardashian keeps putting on a Twitter strip show, posting fully or partially nude photos of herself, which has led to a vocal backlash and critical comments from many people, which of course quickly led to accusations of slut-shaming from many others who rallied to Kim’s cause in the name of equal rights and female “sexual empowerment,” whatever that is.
Last week, after Kim and a gal-pal posed topless whilst flipping the bird, British journalist Piers Morgan lost it. “Classy ladies. Real classy,” he wrote. “If women genuinely think this photo advocated women’s rights and equality, then feminism as it was intended is dead.”
He was, of course, promptly slammed (again) for slut shaming. But is he right? Is feminism dead?
For Kim, at least, it is and always has been.
Kim is perhaps the most popular female celebrity in the world, and yet she embodies precisely what feminism fights against — that women are nothing more than their bodies. She has done a truly impressive job of showing and telling the world that she sees herself as a physically attractive body, but nothing else. Her existence is her appearance, and she lives for validation of her sexiness and desirability.
What else can she say she does other than completely shun the philosophy that women can actually do better than taking naked selfies of themselves in the bathroom? (Sorry, feminists, having others manage your reality-TV career and endorsement deals doesn’t make you a businesswoman).
And it’s sad, not just for this woman trapped in the lie that life is just for looking good, but also for her millions of female followers who are seeing that vapid vanity and plastic surgery can pave the road to riches and fame.
It’s the mindset of body and breasts over brains, and it has infiltrated the social media accounts of many other young women, like up-and-coming Instagram starlet Lindsey Pelas, the blonde beauty whose photos seem to have as their sole purpose flaunting her ample assets to her 3.5 million followers.
Like Kardashian, she is known for her curvy flesh, which she barely covers and then twists around into seductive shapes, desperately hoping that strangers will decide it looks good.
And like Kim and her posse, Lindsey laments what she calls the slut-shaming she gets for doing this. She recently asked, “If we’re going to embrace large women, skinny women, tall, short, why stop at the breast? Why shame a woman for her breasts?”
But here’s the thing: no one is shaming Pelas or Kardashian or any social-media stripper for having breasts. No one.
These women are enduring shame and critical comments because of what they’re doing with their breasts, for shaking them around for a selfie and saying, “Look at these! Look at me! I’m an empowered woman because I’m pretty and naked!”
This is what creates a backlash, as it should. Whenever a woman suggests, explicitly or implicitly, that her worth or value or power comes from her appearance, she loses. Women everywhere lose. And feminism, the kind that taught that a woman’s life is not about her body, loses, too.
So it’s easy to understand and share Piers Morgan’s sense of hopelessness for American women and girls: Their Instagram role models are not telling them to be smart and free and ambitious and classy, but rather to use their hard-earned equal rights to get naked.
This may very well be the saddest, most supreme irony of our times:
A woman can do anything in the world she wants to do, and yet many of our most popular and powerful women pour their time, energy, and wealth into stripping for strangers, seeking their approval and then adding a hashtag like #empowered.
Stop tweeting and turn off Instagram, and you will see a type of feminism that is alive and thriving.
You’ll see more women graduating from college than men, and going off to do whatever they want, wherever they want. You’ll see women running companies, running for office, and running the homes that are raising America’s next generation.
These are the women who, unlike Kim and Lindsey, have work to do, who are not chained to cameras or shackled to bathroom vanities.
These are the women to watch, not the stripping slaves on social media. These are the women who don’t have time to either slut-shame others or be slut-shamed themselves, because they are too busy being real women.
And someday, perhaps still far in the future, when the bathroom and camera lights finally go out, the girls of social media will become women like this, too.