Celebrity Culture, Empowerement, Gender Studies

What Empowerment Means and How Kim Kardashian Has It Wrong

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Kim Kardashians’ nude selfies has been a trending topic for a few weeks now.  While the pictures themselves are nothing spectacular to warrant the trend, the surrounding conversations about the implications of her posts have been fascinating to me, to say the least.  I am particularly intrigued by the concept of Kim demonstrating a sense of empowerment when posting such selfies.

The Oxford dictionary defines the verb “empower” as to “give (someone) the authority or power to do something” or “make (someone) stronger and more confident, especially in controlling their life and claiming their rights.”  So, in the narrowest view of the situation, Kim K posting a selfie of her choice is indeed reflecting a form of control she has over her life; she has given herself the power of posting what she wants.

However, all actions are set within a specific context that defines, amongst others, if indeed it reflects empowerment or not.

If we believe that we are on this planet for a limited time to develop our spiritual muscles to use in the next world (much like a fetus is in the womb of its mother to develop physical muscles to use in this world), then we are empowered when we have the confidence, strength, and power to do what is needed to fulfill this objective.

Kim being boldly proud of her body—a body which doesn’t fit the conception of super-skinny as the standard of beauty against which we are all measured—does help us broaden our understanding and appreciation of the beauty of the human body, which is the vehicle with which we accomplish our life’s purpose.  To develop such an understanding is very precious indeed, and very empowering.

However, the way she is standing up for this concept does not take into consideration one of the major, growing challenges our society is facing: the pornification of sex.  This great article explains well how pornography is “molding and conditioning the sexual behaviors and attitudes of boys, and girls are being left without the resources to deal with these porn-saturated boys.”  This results in situations like “7th grade girls […] increasingly seeking help on what to do about requests for naked images” despite the fact that “girls are tired of being pressured for images they don’t want to send.”  That’s because “they seem resigned to send them anyways because of how normal the practice has become. Boys then typically use the images as a form of currency, to swap and share with their friends. Often times boys will use the revealing pics to humiliate girls publicly if there is a bad break up.”

The girls who are “resigned” to dealing with this reality are basically sending boys the nude selfies they are pushing them for.  This is definitely not an empowered act—an empowered woman would be able to say “no” however “normal the practice has become.”  Right?

This is where it gets a little blurry for some, but is crystal clear to me.  Kim Kardashian, as a famous public figure with a lot of influence—who some consider as a role model, even—has a huge responsibility to take these things into consideration.  She is the kind of person whose actions can become a powerful source of validation.  If she is doing it, then why not me?  Why not you?

So if she is posting nude selfies, why wouldn’t a young girl send one to a guy?

Seen in this light, it seems to me that Kim Kardashian’s selfie actually undermines efforts to empower women.  While those who are comfortable should send all the nude selfies they want, those who are not comfortable doing so are increasingly pressured to conform to a norm that Kim K is reinforcing.  Being empowered would mean for someone with her level of influence to not conform and to take a stance by not posting a nude selfie, because she understands that although she does have an amazingly fit body and would love to post such a selfie, she shouldn’t be exercising her power at the expense of the power of hundreds of thousands of young women.

Because even if one of us isn’t empowered, none of us really are.

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2 thoughts on “What Empowerment Means and How Kim Kardashian Has It Wrong

  1. I’m so conflicted by her/that pic because while I consider myself a feminist and believe in female empowerment, yeah — naturally I’d love to see that empowerment come from a woman’s mind, her personality, her intelligence… NOT her naked body. But then again I do understand how it’s her choice to say, “this is me; I’m not a size zero and I still look good” and that shows a level of confidence so many women lack. I DON’T KNOW.

    1. Ah, welcome to my life lol. I would think nothing of her selfie in a neutral world tbh–but in a world where I am objectified and my, erm, backside is grabbed in public places and I am told rude things and disrespected, well… I just feel it’s not the time to prove empowerment using this methodology, you know? There is an immaturity I feel we have to take into consideration when building a world where we are all truly empowered. I do believe that a woman should be able to walk naked down the street and not be objectified. But I don’t think that getting to that point starts with women doing that to prove a point 😛

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