National News

Why Kim Kardashian’s billionaire status has killed feminism

COMMENT:

That’s it then. Kim Kardashian has achieved billionaire status, and feminism – or at least my version of it – is officially dead.

She has sold a fifth of her cosmetics brand, KKW, to beauty giant Coty for $200 million (NZ$309.8m) – a deal that has propelled her into the financial stratosphere.

As the mother of a teenage daughter, to see Kardashian – a woman who has done very little apart from debase herself in the name of profit – rewarded in this way just fills me with sadness.

I grew up in a time when girls were encouraged to think of themselves as something more than mere objects of desire. For me, as an awkward, bespectacled girl with a less than perfect shape, this represented a kind of hope. A sense that, whatever my physical drawbacks, such things were not the only measure by which a woman could achieve success.

Being beautiful wasn’t the only passport to fame and fortune – with hard work and application, any girl might achieve through wit and intelligence.

Even those of my girlfriends who were gifted with looks strove to pursue purpose in their lives, becoming lawyers, teachers, journalists, doctors.

That, to my generation, was what feminism represented: not a rejection of femininity per se, but an acknowledgement that we were capable of so much more than being mere arm candy.

Kardashian has changed all that. Since she came on the scene back in 2007, following the release of a sex tape featuring her and her then-boyfriend, the rapper Ray J, she has built her brand – shamelessly and, brazenly – on the diminution of that notion.

She is living, pouting, leather-clad proof that in this modern, image-obsessed world what really brings in the big bucks is not hard work, a university degree and a fulfilling career, but a big butt – and a willingness to sell it to the highest bidder.

No doubt some would say that she is canny and smart enough to have worked out how to turn her high profile into a vast sum of money. But I’m not sure that’s enough to earn our admiration.

In fact, what really gets my goat are those who claim that she is, in her own way, a feminist icon. No. Malala is a feminist icon. Margaret Thatcher is a feminist icon. Even Madonna, in her own slightly nutty way, is a feminist icon. Kardashian is just what happens when you combine vacuousness with extreme vanity, and remove all boundaries of common decency.

No doubt her fans will accuse me of being a “hater”. But I don’t hate her – how could I when I’ve never met her? But I do hate what she stands for: the paucity of aspiration and old-fashioned sexism she represents.

Aspiration is not, of course, the same as ambition – something Kardashian is by no means short of. Aspiration is what drives young girls to become the scientists, historians, writers and politicians of tomorrow.

Ambition just says I’ll just take my clothes off, make a sex tape, marry a rich man … and then feed society’s seemingly endless appetite for drooling voyeurism.

Because Kim Kardashian is not like other risqué superstars such as Beyoncé or Lady Gaga, whose audacity and jaw-dropping appearance are merely a side show for their talent.

Kardashian has no talent other than self-promotion, the ability to put make-up on – and take clothes off.

Of course, there are plenty like her. But none has achieved such a level of success. And it’s that which makes her such a toxic influence and the very worst of role models. And she makes our jobs as mothers so much harder.

The lure of quick internet fame is the curse of our modern age, and she – along with the rest of her exhibitionist family – personifies it. That is the lesson her success teaches the next generation of impressionable young girls.

And now she’s got her billion in the bank, who am I to argue?

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