Is Kim Kardashian-West the New Elle Woods?

A simple Twitter search of the Kardashian sisters’ names reveals tweets calling them ‘b*tches’ and claims that they only get naked to extend their ‘fifteen minutes of fame’ (a questionable claim as their fame has been nothing but on the rise for the past twelve years.)

 

While the Kardashians can absolutely be criticised for certain things, such as their promotion of ‘detox teas’ and ‘appetite-suppressant lollipops’ on Instagram, as well as their constant straddling the line between cultural appropriation and cultural appreciation (most recently, Khloe Kardashian’s getup at Diana Ross’s birthday party… if you have not seen it, don’t even bother googling it.) Their lavish lifestyles chronicled on television and social media constantly raises eyebrows. Kourtney Kardashian dressed her 6-year-old daughter in $400 Gucci loafers for school, while Kylie Jenner’s daughter got to celebrate her first birthday with a private set-up carnival (which more resembled an actual amusement park.) At times, they have filmed the contents of their picture-perfect pantries, and the abundance of food seems outright wasteful; the massive jars of cookies, crackers, and cereal, which I doubt they ever really get around to finishing before it all goes stale and inedible. And, the promotion of questionable products filled to the brim with laxatives and who-knows-what-chemicals to achieve flat stomachs, is a terrible message to send out to their millions of followers.

 

This article’s point is not in any way to argue that the Kardashians are perfect. They are not. They are human beings, albeit very wealthy humans, who know how to finesse the capitalist system. To those who have been living under a rock, and are not yet aware, the Kardashians are the children of Robert Kardashian, a lawyer famous for being one of O.J. Simpson’s defense attorneys. However, Kim Kardashian (who now officially goes by Kim Kardashian West, after marrying Kanye West) later rose to fame when her ex-boyfriend leaked their sex tape in 2007. An act which was undoubtedly designed to break and humiliate her, Kim took it and ran with it, and her family got granted a reality television show “Keeping Up With the Kardashians” later the same year. Fast forward a decade, she has become one of the most influential women in the world (like it or not), owning multiple companies and having been one of the first people, with her sisters alongside her, to utilise social media in the first wave of self-branding.

 

Doing things like this requires intellect. You might be scoffing at me right now. You might be one of those people who thinks that anybody could become an influencer or a pop culture phenomenon. But if that were true, everybody, or at least a significantly larger number of people, would do so successfully. The simple truth is that in order to do all this, you have to have an understanding of how society works, how capitalism works, how business works. To take away these achievements, and to reduce their success to the grounds of them having gained it just for ‘taking their clothes off’ is incredibly dismissive, and dare I say, sexist. It speaks of something bigger than just the public perception of the Kardashians. The language we use when discussing the Kardashians, in my opinion, can tell us a lot about the cultural climate and our societal attitudes. Of course, this phenomenon extends beyond this specific family, but they seem to be the perfect example, a real epitome of it all.

 

In April 2019, news came out that Kim was studying to take the bar exam in California in 2022. Apart from woke Twitter, the response I saw to this news was, once again, telling. The same people who have shamed her for ‘doing nothing’, ‘being stupid’ and ‘not knowing to do anything except get naked and pose’ were now… unhappy that she was, indeed, ‘doing something’?

 

But it is not this silly double-standard that bothers me the most. It is the fact that this shows the fact that in our society being a woman is still strictly tied to a list of mutually exclusive dichotomies. Ugly or beautiful. Smart or stupid. And God forbid, that Kim, who is a soon-to-be mother of four, has kept her sensuality and sexuality intact. It seems that as a woman, you cannot embody multiple traits at the same time.

 

Kim Kardashian working with the law is nothing new. In the last couple of years, she has enlisted the help of her own lawyers in granting clemency - successfully - for Cyntoia Brown, a girl sentenced to sixty years in prison for killing her abuser at 16 years old,  and Alice Marie Johnson, a woman sentenced to life in prison for a non-violent drug trafficking charge. Kim has time and time again brought forward the discussions around the flaws of the United States justice system, regarding both the unfairness of charges and sentences, as well as the treatment of formerly incarcerated people. She is arguably, not a complete idiot.

 

But the discussion around her and her family reveals the truth about what it means to be a woman in the 21st century. I wish that we would have enough sense in this day and age to allow women to be multi-dimensional beings, allowed to change and develop and further their education. Kim Kardashian shows us that it does not matter if you are a mother-of-four in your late thirties; you can run multiple businesses, own your sexuality, AND pursue a law degree. Because why shouldn’t you? Just because the world sets strict parameters on female intelligence does not and should not mean anything.

 

Like I said before, the Kardashians are not by any means non-problematic figures. But they offer an incredible basis to the deeper understanding of misogyny in the 21st century. It has been suggested by many social scientists that different kinds of discrimination and oppression in today’s world are not conducted through explicit, but rather implicit ways. Limiting women to having to choose between not just beauty and intelligence, but also between things like family and career, are ways of implicit discrimination; and furthermore, the discussions centered around how Kim should ‘stay in her lane’ are nothing but displays of these (ancient) attitudes.

 

I wish we had moved past this a bit more, as it is literally the year 2019. But if one good thing has come out of this, at least Kim Kardashian has at least brought the issue to the forefront once again. Kim Kardashian, in her Instagram post announcing her plans of taking the bar exam, writes “I want people to understand that there is nothing that should limit your pursuit of your dreams, and the accomplishment of new goals. You can create your own lanes, just as I am.” Call me crazy, but this quote, to me, definitely has the same energy as Elle Woods’ line "You must always have faith in people. And, most importantly, you must always have faith in yourself."

 

I ask one thing, and one thing only; let’s quit limiting women, and ridiculing them for fighting against the arbitrary rules of society. Let all girls and women pursue their passions without being subjected to relentless scrutiny over non-essential things. So go ahead and bend and snap those rules, girls!

 

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