I am a feminist. I believe that women should have the right to make whatever choices they want without feeling beholden to the judgments of others. I am also sex-positive. I have no problem with women in porn or any other sex work if it is a choice that they have willingly made. My view is: you do you, I’ll do me and we’ll move along quite happily.
There’s a difference, however, between respecting and supporting a woman’s right to make choices and holding those choices up as positive examples for all women.
In case you’ve been living under a rock, Kim Kardashian’s most recent nude selfie has been creating a lot of noise. There was some hubbub on Twitter between actresses over their responses to it. One, Chloe Grace Moretz, said (to Ms. Kardashian): “I truly hope you realize how important setting goals are for young women, teaching them we have so much more to offer than just our bodies.” This was countered by Abigail Breslin, who said, “Anyone who tries to say how a woman chooses to display their own body is wrong, is severely misinformed, and misguided.”
Does she have an obligation to act as a role model and send out a different message to her young fans? I would say that this is a moot point, because if your daughter views Kim Kardashian as a role model, then there are some conversations that need to be had that go beyond, “Don’t take naked pictures, Becky.”
On the other hand, should we embrace her choice to share this photo and celebrate it as a symbol of a woman owning her sexuality? While I support her right to take the photos and plaster them wherever she likes, that shouldn’t be held up as a model of female empowerment.
Before we make Kim Kardashian the Gloria Steinem of beaver shots, let’s consider how powerful (or not) the nude selfie actually is in making a statement about women’s ownership of their sexuality.
Imagine that I am an indentured servant. One day I say, “You know what? Enough of this. I’m going to show my master that I have my own power by cleaning his house better than I ever have before. Finally, he will know my strength by the shine that I put on his shoes!”
What would be the master’s response? I imagine it would be something like, “No. Stop. Don’t.”
Embracing the tools of the oppressor isn’t always an effective way of creating power for the oppressed.
Women and girls posting nude photos of themselves does nothing to help women. It may accomplish something for that individual woman by either allowing her to take pride in her body or destroying her life by showing up all over the world. And for those of us who aren’t Kim Kardashian, and that’s a lot of us, the latter is far more likely than the former. But, to each their own.
To say that this is an applause-worthy example of sexual confidence and some sort of feminist declaration, however, is ridiculous. No woman should be ashamed of her body, but nude selfies shouldn’t be presented to young women as examples of strength and power.
No. Stop. Don’t.