I think the obvious place to start with this question is to point out that, as she checks in on her cool $780 million sitting non-chalantly in the bank, Kim K probably couldn’t give a flying fig if anyone thinks she’s a feminist or not. Because whether you adoringly pore over her latest #ootd, or you’ve muted all references to her on socials, she is a powerhouse with a personal brand that has defined a generation. That is not opinion, that is fact, as bitter as it might taste.
Whilst feminism may not be her greatest concern, it is ironic that Kim K’s life and career are a perfect representation of the biggest thorn in the side of the current wave of feminism: what is a feminist?
The notion of simply wanting gender equality is no longer the sole qualifier for calling oneself a feminist, as progression in equality has brought with it the right of choice. It is this right of choice that now raises inestimable questions as to whether the choices women make can qualify or disqualify them from being a feminist.
Does a woman absolutely bossing her career, not just dominating an industry but creating her own industry and crowning herself the monarch of it, sound like a feminist? Yes, it sure does. But what about if that industry avariciously capitalizes on the insecurities of other women whilst simultaneously toying with cultural appropriation?
Her ‘feminism’ – if it is there at all – is redolent of parasitical feminism. Parasitical feminists accept the existence of the patriarchal systems which shape our society, hop on its back and ride it into the sunset, collecting coins as they go (780 million of them in Kim’s case). Whilst Kim could quite neatly categorise herself in this strand of feminism, there are those feminists who – quite raucously – denounce the strand altogether, claiming that parasitical feminism is not feminism at all, because feminists should not uphold the patriarchy in any way…and so, we’re back to square one.
But then again, even the most misandrist wing of the feminist movement would have to admit that Kim K has chewed up and spat out her fair share of men. Starting, of course with Ray J. Poor, poor Ray J who, although he denies it, quite obviously thought he’d prove himself as the man and leak a sex tape of himself and ‘Paris Hilton’s best friend’ (Kim’s then title before the press thought her worthy of an actual name). Spinning gold from dirt in the most ground-breaking way possible, Kim took her sex tape humiliation and turned it into a billion-dollar brand which catapulted not just herself but all members of her immediate family to vertiginous levels of fame. Where’s Ray J now? Or rather, who even cares?
Ray J is not alone in the elephants graveyard of men who’ve been pulverized at the hands of a Kardashian – a quick search of ‘men the Kardashians have ruined’ will produce endless Buzzfeed threads of ex-boyfriends, ex-husbands, baby-fathers and even brothers. Yes, many of these men’s careers came crashing down when they crossed the Kardashian women, but then again aren’t most of these just men who acted badly and got their just deserts? Women are not caretakers or counsellors whose purpose in life is to mend and better their men. The Kardashians know that, and honestly, I can’t knock them for it.
To counter all of these feminism brownie points Kim’s been accumulating, there are the feminists who say that a woman capitalizing on her sexuality and sexual activity completely contradicts the feminist drive to give women more purpose than to be mere sexual beings open to objectification. Without spinning the sex tape leak to her advantage, Kim would not have been the figurehead of a brand that took a sledgehammer to pop culture. Kylie would not have been the world’s youngest ‘self-made’ billionaire (although I think Kim might have something to say about the ‘self-made’ assertion). Kendall would not have been the highest paid supermodel in the world. Caitlyn would not have been the most famous trans woman in the world. But arguably the feminism of all this is undermined by the fact that Kim’s success has its roots in a sex tape and that she has continued to base her importance predominantly on how she looks to the patriarchal gaze.
If this is the school of thought that hard line feminists will adopt, then the movement runs the very real risk of becoming unappealing to would-be feminists who agree with feminist theories in principle but are scared of putting themselves on a pedestal when they know that, in reality, they partake in aspects of life that contradict the feminist cause. If a question mark hangs over the eye-wateringly successful business woman that is Kim Kardashian and her eligibility to be a ‘feminist’, then what hope do the rest of us have? Furthermore, will such a stance inspire women and girls to even want to be a part of the feminist movement?
Would a woman, hopeful for her future and the opportunities brought to her by the women who’ve gone before her, rather be like a woman who has trailblazed a career so stonkingly successful that it simply cannot be defined, or like a woman who snivels and picks holes in another woman’s success because it does not conform to the restrictions their type of feminism places on women?
Is Kim Kardashian a feminist? The answer is, I don’t know. And whilst so many different strands and schools of thought exist simultaneously within the feminist movement, nobody else could say for certain either. One thing of which we can be certain is, however, that Kim simply does not care. She has said, “I do feel like success is the best revenge”… Kim hun, you have enough success to avenge a whole nation. Take a holiday!