by Shanice Brim
The subject of sexuality is an intensely fraught one in feminism because women’s relationships with our bodies are so complicated. We grow up being inundated with images of us filtered through a male lens. From ads that sell women’s bodies as much as they sell any product, to TV shows that are littered with naked women to the point of ridiculousness, to images of the “good girl” in all her manifestations. Women grow up getting the message that you can only be one of two things: a virgin or a whore. A Betty or a Veronica. A “good woman” or a “thot/hoe," if you’re a Black woman. Anyone who knows feminism knows that the Virgin/Whore complex has been discussed, dissected, and written about ad nauseum. Which is why I find it so intriguing that feminists were scoring points for using their platforms to publicly slut-shame Kim.
I think something we don’t talk about enough is the moments in which we don’t extend our feminism to people we don’t like. I believe part of the reason behind this whole thing is that Kim is an easy target. In a culture that loves to see women’s bodies-- but shames them for revealing them-- it’s easy to take her down a peg. She became famous because she made a sex tape. She’s still famous for using her body to capitalize on that. Is it revolutionary? No. But, people, especially dudes, have been cashing in on women’s naked bodies for forever. Before they photographed them, they sat for hours and painted them. Go to a museum. Boobs are everywhere: in paintings, in marble, in pictures, in brass. Is it any surprise that women are now taking their own photos of themselves? I don’t believe blaming women for a system of objectification they didn’t create is helping anybody.
Kim Kardashian didn’t create porn or objectification. That train left town well before Kim Kardashian’s sex tape leaked and her family decided to turn lemons into an entire lemonade stand franchise. Kim Kardashian’s nudes are not what’s holding anybody back. The system that exploits women’s bodies and makes it hard for them to form their own ideas about their sexuality without their ideas being misread through a patriarchal lens is. There are plenty of reasons to critique the Kardashians (like their frequent and unabashed appropriation of Black culture, or her suddenly using the language of feminism to defend herself after allowing Kanye West to sex shame Amber Rose for years) but this one isn’t it. If you are a person who identifies as a feminist ask yourself something the next time you want to slut shame someone: would be doing this if you liked the person? Why are you doing this? Is it to let the world know that you’re not-like-the-other-girls? If so, why do you feel the need to seek validation in that kind of way and why does your validation need to come at the expense of another woman? Regardless of whether you like someone, gendered insults and double standards affect all of us. If it could happen to one of us, any of us could get it. Whether you consider yourself a sexual person or “respectable” woman, the specter of the mythical “slut” has dangerous consequences for all of us as Franchesca Ramsey explains below:
Attacking a woman for her sexual expression denies all women the ability to be seen as fully human. It creates something known as the The Perfect Victim Myth in which women must meet society's standard of perfection to receive any kind of respect, believability, or justice. None of us are perfect, and when any one of us is attacked for falling short of it, it makes it harder for all of us to be what we all are: human. We are human beings who make mistakes, who go to parties, who curse, who have sex, who aren’t saints, etc. As often quoted in the Black Lives Matter movement: Respectability Politics will not save us. The same goes with women.
Shanice Brim is a 25 year old New Yorker by way of Alabama, New Jersey and California. She’s an avid reader, Beyoncé enthusiast and fan of the film Clueless.