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Kim K and Why We need an attitude-fix towards women in the media

(This article will be based on public reaction to Kim Kardashian’s robbery in Paris. If you are unaware of the robbery or simply want more information, Sky News has a concise, factual breakdown of the event here: http://news.sky.com/story/kim-kardashian-held-up-at-gunpoint-in-paris-10603918 .)

Now I’ll be one of the first to admit I’m not particularly bothered about the Kardashians, but being disinterested isn’t an excuse to brush off or be wilfully ignorant of her treatment by the general public after being a victim of armed robbery. Kim Kardashian is not a new target of vitriol by any means, but whether or not you criticise her on how she rose to fame, her reality TV show, or how she uploads risqué photos to her social media…we should care about the public’s response to her robbery. Biased news can (mostly) be avoided – unless you have some of those friends on your social media, but the underlying yet prevailing attitudes towards and about women simply can’t be.

‘Sexiness’ can be assigned to everyone – male or female – and can play a large part in how we perceive people. On an individual level, it can seem incredibly frustrating and unfair that something assigned to you can interfere with your daily life (being catcalled on way to your job/grocery shopping/friend’s house anyone?). This happens on a far greater scale to public figures – after all, being conventionally attractive/sexy is a big selling point and the industry standard for *most* of those in the entertainment industry in particular. Where the real gulf comes into play is when you have a person – particularly a woman – who is not only sexy, but exploits her sex appeal.

This is pretty much a cardinal sin for a surprising (or perhaps just disappointing) portion of the general public. The attitude of ‘it’s ok if you’re sexy – enjoyable, even. But be classy’. If you’re Kim Kardashian and outright just reject notions of ‘classiness’ in favour of exploiting your sex appeal for greater success, you’re shunned and an easy target.

These were among the top 6 comments on the Sky News article:  

Of the other 6, 2 talked about the whole ordeal being a publicity stunt, with 1 stating that even if you don’t like the Kardashians, there is no reason to wish harm on them (a voice of reason!) The next 4 comments below these simply stated they thought it was an insurance scam or arguing that this wasn’t really news – people get robbed everyday (fair point) – although one didn’t neglect to mention “like come on she got famous from a sex tap smh smh smh disgusting!!” as further proof of this event’s ‘irrelevance’.

Facebook comments on their own aren’t significant, but when they are reflecting a wider attitude it’s hard to ignore. This attitude is that women who are ‘sexy’ – or worse, exploit their assigned sexiness – aren’t worthy of respect. Whatever pain or suffering or just general inconveniences they may be going through is undermined by the fact that they are ‘sexy’. Pictures like these:

…or having a sex tape do not make you any less deserving of respect. Or if you’re one of those ‘respect is earnt not given’ people, then what about disrespect? Is someone being sexy such a great mark of disrespect that you can sneer at them being held at gunpoint and robbed?

The treatment of women who exploit their sexiness trickles down to the treatment of ‘normal’ women too. There’s a strange cognitive dissonance where on one hand slut-shaming is becoming more taboo, whilst exhibiting the same misogynistic attitudes towards someone famous – even on an event completely unrelated to her sexiness – is received very well. Unless we are able to engage with and counter comments such as the above and demand that sex appeal or the exploitation of it is not a free pass to express misogyny, there will continue to be a glass ceiling on how we respect women as a whole.

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