I really didn't want to have to write this. In fact, I've started and deleted an equivalent post at least three separate times in the past, most recently when Kim was accosted by a man in blackface as a guest at a Viennese ball and the internet masses decreed that she deserved to be mistreated for being a paid escort. The time before that it was because I saw someone declare that it was perfectly acceptable to body shame Kim Kardashian because that's what she's famous for; we're only discussing her job! The time before that it was after seeing the awful way the tabloids were treating her during her pregnancy.
Kim Kardashian can't seem to catch a break in the public eye. Granted, she's got her millions to keep her warm at night, so I'm sure she'll be all right.
But the reason I kept deleting this post? It's because Kimberly Noel Kardashian doesn't need me to come to her defense. I am uncomfortable with the dynamic of me as a black woman, swooping in to defend the honour of a white woman (and no, her Armenian ethnicity does not make her any less white, or negate her access to whiteness). She doesn't need that from me or anyone else to be honest. Kimberly Noel Kardashian is living the high life with her A-list fiancé, her beautiful baby girl, and her millions, and millions, and MILLIONS of dollars. But I've always found it interesting that Kim has never been able to benefit from her whiteness when it comes to the court of public opinion.
This 33-year old woman is independently wealthy. And not for laying on her back as people like to keep insinuating (though it wouldn't be a problem if she had), but from spinning the public embarrassment of leaked sex tape into a media empire. In the seven years since Keeping Up With The Kardashians premiered on the E! network, Kim along with her sisters have expanded their clothing store into at least two more cities, authored two books, had a hand in creating countless fragrances, been part of hundreds of endorsements, been involved in too many fashion collaborations to count, all while continuing to film for their several spin-off television shows.
Kim Kardashian might have become famous because of a sex tape, but she stayed famous because she parlayed that notoriety into "respectable" business ventures. She's a business woman; a fact that too many people seem far too reluctant to acknowledge. You don't have to like her, but you do have to respect her and her tactical acumen. Kim Kardashian is in the business of being a celebrity, and it's a game she and her family play very well. We created the demand for a celebrity just like her by continuing to consume what she creates. We don't get to then turn our noses up at her because she got good at getting us.
I find it strange that Kim Kardashian seems to be the one target that women and men alike agree is deserving of their ire and their scorn. When baby North was born, the internet was filled with vile jokes about her future in pornography. The internet discussed at length, the prospect of a newborn, in porn. Somehow that's okay because we don't like that Kim had sex on camera and we were privy to it? Here's a newsflash: People have sex. Some people film it. This is not a crime, or a comment on their moral worth. That so many people continue to hold this against her as The Ultimate Wrongdoing says so much about our culture's puritanical discomfort with sex and sexuality.
And then there are her marriages. She's 33 and twice divorced, three times engaged. This is apparently another Moral Failing. Well, Kim's first husband was abusive. She married him at 19, and got out when she could. Kris Humphries is a troll who she never should have married in the first place. When it became apparent that he wanted a life for her that she couldn't abide by (barefoot and pregnant in the middle of nowhere) she left him too. Now she has a family with a man she loves. How is this a problem? Elizabeth Taylor was married EIGHT MOTHERFUCKING TIMES and she continues to be held up as a paragon of grace, dignity and womanhood. We live in a culture that touts marriage as the singular goal for a woman. To be married is to be legitimized in femininity. We mock women who are still alone after a certain age (hi, Jennifer Aniston!). Is it really so crazy to believe that a woman living under ten times the scrutiny as the rest of us, would have bought into that lie as well?
And now we have Vogue. The American fashion bible. The symbol of high-fashion, aspirational living and elitism. And Kimberly Noel Kardashian is gracing its cover. Cue shit storm.
In every single article I've read about this cover, the comments have devolved into a discussion about whether or not an "amateur porn star" deserves such an honour. Kim Kardashian is defiling Vogue magazine by being within its pages. Fuck ALL that noise.
Kim Kardashian is exactly the kind of person that Vogue can, and does put on its cover. The only reason she hasn't been on the cover before was to maintain the elitist stance that positions Vogue as both exclusive and aspirational; a position it would lose if every Tom, Dick and reality television star had access to its pages. Love her or hate her, the woman is a business genius and merchandizing superstar who made her fortune on her own steam. She created a brand almost literally out of nothingness. She is a pop culture icon. She has commanded the public's attention far longer than anyone thought possible, all on the strength of a "lowly reality show." Everything she does becomes part of the public conversation, even when it's just to tear her down. She is exactly the kind of polarizing force that gets magazines moving off of newstands.
As Anna Wintour herself has said:
"part of the pleasure of editing Vogue, one that lies in a long tradition of this magazine, is being able to feature those who define the culture at any given moment, whose presence in the world shapes the way it looks and influences the way we see it."
Emphasis mine. You may not like Kim Kardashian. You may not agree with how she entered the public consciousness. You may not approve of her life choices, but you don't have to. I certainly don't. I happen to think Kim is a little too naive for someone who has been famous this long. And it's perfectly acceptable to simply not like someone or what they stand for. There are legitimate reasons to take issue with Kim Kardashian, not least of which is her questionable charity work. But to justify belittling a woman and her accomplishments because you don't like that she had sex on camera that one time? That says a whole lot more about your morals then it ever did about hers. I am completely over the entire conversation about Kim Kardashian being one long slut-shaming bonanza.
So I'm happy for Kim. I'm happy that she has a man who loves her, the mostly painfully adorable baby to love in turn, and a family who supports her. I'm glad that she's on the cover of Vogue and is getting something that she has in fact earned, by continuing to be part of the cultural conversation and proving her staying power. She and Kanye look lovely together, and I'm sure the editorial spread will be gorgeous. I just hope that people can finally start divorcing her worth as an individual from her presence on a sex tape. Because there's nothing less feminist than judging a woman by her sexual past.