In November 2014, the day that Paper magazine released its nude cover of Kim Kardashian, the one that “broke the internet,” I remember a coworker next to me saying, “It’s just too much.” Shaking her head, and forcing her short blonde-brown hair behind her ears, she closed the tab quickly.
“I like it,” I said, admiring the photos. “I like her.”
I do like Kim Kardashian. For years, I’d never watched Keeping Up With the Kardashians, and went along with the media’s opinion of her and her family. She was dumb, shallow, and talentless. I assumed all of these things were accurate, because every news source strongly believed them. Most of my friends and family believed it. Then my roommate told me that the entire series was available on Hulu and that I had to watch it. I gave it a shot. I fell in love with the Kardashians.
In one of the earlier episodes, Kardashian was asked why she made a sex tape. Her response was, “Because I was horny and I wanted to.” I thought that was amazing. She wasn’t going to apologize for doing a very normal thing (have sex), and another fairly common thing (film it). In my opinion, that’s when the vitriol from the media first began. She had been caught in a “scandal,” but refused to look at it that way. She was an overtly sexual woman who wasn’t going to cower. Not only would she not let this sex tape break her, she would build an empire despite it.
My coworker didn’t get it. “What’s to like?” she asked about Kardashian.
“She’s funny,” I said. Because she is. She’s not Louis CK, but she’s certainly funnier than most of the people I meet on a daily basis.
“Well, I just don’t care about her,” she said. “I don’t dislike her, I just couldn’t care less.”
This came from a woman who’d gotten very worked up when she saw the cover image. A woman who’d been talking about Kardashian for more than 10 minutes. I always find that the people who care the least about Kim Kardashian are often the ones who have the strongest opinions about the choices she makes.
Ever since that cover, Kardashian continues to make people talk with her nude photos, inlcuding the spread she shot for GQ this month. She faced backlash for a nude selfie she took in her bathroom, with black bars censoring her body. The image received a lot of criticism, most notably from 19-year-old actress Chloë Grace Moretz. Moretz believes that the image was a negative message to send to young women. She thought it was done in a “slightly voyeuristic light.” (I wonder if she would say that about her possible future father-in-law’s H&M underwear campaign.) The only difference between Kardashian’s nude selfie and Moretz’s half-nude Nylon cover is a sweater and a production crew. Both are meant to be admired. Both are pretty images of scantily clad, beautiful women.
Even Kardashian’s caption, “When you’re like I have nothing to wear LOL,” seems like a stab at all the “intelligent” and “highbrow” writers, actresses, pop stars, who post selfies of themselves and go to great lengths to come up with a witty caption just to justify them.
It fascinates me (and Kardashian) that she’s still shamed for a sex tape from 13 years ago, when no one ever thinks of Ray J. It’s similar to when Janet Jackson lost the lead role in the Lena Horne bio pic because of her Super Bowl “wardrobe mishap,” while Justin Timberlake’s career skyrocketed—only this time Kardashian flipped the script.
If Channing Tatum had posted a nude bathroom selfie, no one would be complaining. Women have been doing this to each other for decades, and in order to move forward, we have to follow Kardashian’s lead. And when you get criticized for doing what you want, never back down.
Which is exactly what Kim did at the Webbys, after winning the “Break the Internet” award (yes, that’s a real thing), with her five-word acceptance speech: “Nude selfies ‘til I die.”
This is a different attitude than she had in 2010, when she told US Weekly, after posing nude for W Magazine, that she didn’t want to do a nude shoot after she turned 30. Now, at age 35, she says she’ll never stop, because any age, any size, you shouldn’t be ashamed of your naked body. You shouldn’t be ashamed to be a sexual being. Other women shouldn’t be threatened when you express your sexuality. In 2016, we should be able to do anything men can, and that includes being as naked as we want, and not having to answer to anybody.
Viva la nude selfie!