Earlier this month was an interesting time in the world of female celebrity. After the internet went crazy for Kim Kardashian’s naked photo on her Instagram, the debate on ‘slut-shaming’, body confidence, and the relationship between female celebrity success and nudity became highly discussed. It begged the questions ‘What is the world’s obsession with the naked female body?’ and ‘Can a woman in the entertainment industry be as successful without her nudes or partially naked body being publicised?’
Other fellow celebrities pitched in to the discussion, with Bette Midler tweeting ‘If Kim wants us to see a part of her we’ve never seen she’s gonna have to swallow the camera’, and Chloe Grace Moretz tweeting ‘I truly hope you realise how important setting goals are for young women, teaching them we have so much more to offer than just our bodies’. So is Kim Kardashian setting a bad example for her huge 64 million followers? Is she encouraging the relationship between female fame and nudity to grow stronger?
She is known for her sex tape, but it seems bizarre that something released against her consent, something she did not want the world to see, something she has managed to turn around and gain success from, is something the world has decided she must be punished for.
It appears that this debate is much more complex than we all first thought. The majority of the criticism that Kardashian received referred back to her 2007 sex tape, released against her consent, which many claim lead to her fame and success, as her reality TV show Keeping Up With The Kardashians premiered the same year. So begun the Kardashian Empire of curves, leopard print, crazy families and – you’ve guessed it – more nudity. But this Empire, which is worth approximately $300 million, is all about branding and marketing: it is about the Kardashian name, their bodies, their selfies. It is a brand we all give in to and one that is evidently working for them. And yet, the moment Kim reveals her naked body, people become offended, disgusted and insulting. Irrelevant of her successful business skills, fashion designs, styling, modelling and even her new app game ‘Kim Kardashian: Hollywood’ (which earned her $74 million in its first year), Kim’s sex tape and her nudity will forever be what the public discuss and criticise her for.
She is known for her sex tape, but it seems bizarre that something released against her consent, something she did not want the world to see, something she has managed to turn around and gain success from, is something the world has decided she must be punished for. Kim is expected to hang her head in shame and to be never heard of again, to crawl into some cave and be known as ‘that girl in that sex tape’. Kardashian even mentioned this in her statement regarding her recent nudes:
“It always seems to come back around to my sex tape. Yes, a sex tape that was made 13 years ago. 13 YEARS AGO. Literally that lonnng ago. And people still want to talk about it?!?!
I lived through the embarrassment and fear, and decided to say who cares, do better, move on. I shouldn’t have to constantly be on the defense, listing off my accomplishments just to prove that I am more than something that happened 13 years ago.”
The majority of comments on her post are people reminding her that she is a mother because, in our society, the moment a woman has children she is no longer allowed to be, or even associated with, anything remotely sexual. The majority of society will not even allow mothers to breastfeed in public – the most maternal and primary function of breasts – because breasts have become so sexualised. It appears women can do no right when it comes to our bodies.
Is Kim Kardashian being ‘slut-shamed’? Why is it when it is against her consent, it seems to be okay and people are willing to watch it and accept it? But when she reclaims ownership over HER OWN BODY, and wants it publicised in her own way, she is called a slut? Perhaps it is because Kardashian, now, has much more of a significant influence and fan-base than she did 13 years ago. Yes, she has succeeded in the fashion and beauty industry, but I personally feel that these are never the focus. I couldn’t tell you off the top of my head what she actually, specifically does. This could be because Kardashian fails to show as much evidence or take as many pictures for her social media of these other successes, or that the public simply ignores them. A naked selfie is going to get more publicity than her latest profits and business model. Maybe this is the problem, we have become so obsessed with female nudity, we still seem to not be comfortable with it: it still remains a scandal, and one Kardashian is merely exploiting for her own gain.
Female nudity is seen as opportunistic, a good career move, the key to success. We all slate their nudity, yet we all want to see it.
Yet this is very dangerous. Even if Kardashian is merely manipulating the public’s potentially regressive attitude towards the female body, she is still encouraging the equating of female nudity with female success and fame. Going back to Chloe Moretz, I have to agree that young women need to know that we have more to offer than our bodies. Unfortunately, we seem to live in a time where “sex sells”, where showing more cleavage will get you more likes, where a picture in a tight dress will get you noticed more than your viewpoint on political or social issues. The attention nudity, or even partial nudity, provides is associated with desire, with love, with success, with fame. And this, even for all of the personal empowerment of Kim’s selfie, is something that we need to discourage.
It seemed important to note that the Erin Andrews’ case, coincidentally, fell around the same time as the Kardashian “scandal”. Andrews, co-presenter of Dancing with the Stars, had her hotel room peep-hole bugged by a stalker, who recorded her naked as she was getting ready in the privacy of her own room. The video, showing Andrews in her full nudity, was then leaked on the internet, against her consent, and went viral. She successfully won her case, gaining $55 million in compensation, but the most horrifying part of the ordeal was the defence lawyer’s insinuation that the release of the tape had only made Andrews more successful, and was ultimately of benefit to her.
Unfortunately, we seem to live in a time where “sex sells”, where showing more cleavage will get you more likes, where a picture in a tight dress will get you noticed more than your viewpoint on political or social issues.
The combination of these events shines a light on the harsh reality of our celebrity culture. Female nudity is seen as opportunistic, a good career move, the key to success. We all slate their nudity, yet we all want to see it. The underlying difference between these cases is consent. Andrews’ nudity was against her consent, and so was Kim’s original sex tape. The ability of both women to overcome these horrific events should, surely, not be criticised. It is ultimately a fault of society that our obsession with female nudity means people are willing to risk ruining others’ lives for the payout they may receive. But it is still important to recognise that Kardashian’s consent may come with some consequences upon the young women of our generation.
So my message to women is: Love your body and own it. It can do incredible things. Never let the pressures of society dictate how you should feel about something that is 100% yours. Be proud of what you have, and embrace it to its fullest. Never succumb to the opinion that your body is all that you have to offer. Use your body to express yourself, in any way you wish, but only as one part of your whole self. We have so much more to give, so let us change the world’s obsession with female nudity into an obsession with female empowerment.