This morning (at least I think it was this morning. I am not Kardashicrazed) Kim Kardashian posted a nude selfie on her social media accounts with the caption “Happy #InternationalWomensDay” and to sum up, I wanted to die. It was a mirror shot, zero clothing (there might have been socks, we couldn’t see. But honestly socks would have just made it weirder) with black bars screening out the things that we shouldn’t and don’t want to see. The best part? She used an app to take the picture, flip it horizontally, and make the image double. Two naked Kims, 4 black bars, 2 possible pairs of socks.
This annoyed me. I mean, sure, Kim has a great bod, but that’s not why I was annoyed. It wasn’t annoyed jealousy, guys. And before people get all women-supporting-women on me, hear me out. This annoyed me because it felt like a metaphorical pat on the back for anyone and everyone that doesn’t take women’s rights seriously. This message, sent from arguably the world’s most recognizable celebrity, let people know that International Women’s Day is about how hot your body is. Nothing more, nothing less.
Some of you might be reading this and thinking that I am slut shaming her, and I could see why you might think that. I am opposing her greatly based on a sexed up image that she presented, assuming that she is, for lack of a better word, a slut. Her bedroom activities- both past and present- are not what this is about. This is about her use of an international day- a day that celebrates the diversity, freedom, and progress that women have made- to capitalize on what she thinks is the best that she has to offer: her looks.
I don’t hate Kim K. I’m sad for her that she doesn’t see the residual effects that this can cause. And even more, I’m sad for her that she doesn’t see that she’s a lot more than a body and a world- famous butt.
Listen, there are times when I look in the mirror and think, “Dang Leah, you are one fine motha.” That’s fine. You should think that about yourself. It’s good to think about yourself in a positive manner. But the fact of the matter is that beauty means literally nothing, and workouts, makeup, contouring, waist training, hair shine, and every other thing that we, as women, put emphasis on, is literal chaff in the ever burning fire of women’s rights.
Kim’s tweet angered me because I felt like it set us back 700 years. (Okay not that many, but I’m fired up). The nude pic downplayed women. It made women into objects to be admired, longed for and desired after. That nude picture sent a very clear message that when we celebrate women of the world on this International Women’s Day, we are celebrating how sexy you can make yourself in a mirror. It let women know that they don’t need substance. It told young girls to seek out affirmation through those avenues. It told women to starve themselves to be the perfect woman. A real woman.
Is that what a real woman looks like? Is that what a real woman is? I want to tell you what a real woman looks like.
I met my English teacher, Lauren Kaine, for the first time in 9th grade. She was a tough, no-nonsense woman with a heart fashioned out of the most absolute, purest gold. I remember seeing her for the first time: Her tall, vintage high heels. Her frizzy, wild hair. Her distant eyes that let you know that she had seen so much. She was smart, in charge, and focused. She was the first assertive, outspoken, unapologetic woman that I had ever come into contact with.
The most prominent thing that I remember about Mrs. Kaine is how badly she wanted us to succeed. She was and is, by far, the most brilliant person that I’ve ever known. She thought that the high school English books were “garbage” and so instead of using them, she wrote her own curriculum. I could diagram a sentence in my sleep. She got to school hours before the other teachers and stayed hours after they had left. Empowering young people to reach their intended worth was her entire life. She taught us that strength and beauty went hand in hand with intelligence. In my eyes, there was nothing that this woman couldn’t do.
I still think about Mrs. Kaine. She was one of the first women to show me that it was okay to be smart…in fact, SMARTER than most of the boys in my class. She taught me that it was okay to be loud about what I thought and be angry when anger was needed. She was a woman who was able to feel the world around her and not take it for granted. She was unpredictable, free, kind, and didn’t have time for your stupidity. In her presence, I felt like I could be all of those things, too.
I want to be the kind of woman that allows other women to thrive in my presence. I want to be the kind of woman who encourages other women to be the very best that they can be. I want to be the kind of woman who makes other women feel empowered because of their brain, their feelings, and their opinions, not their body.
To me, the Kimmy K nude pic let the women of the world- daughters, moms, grandmas, teenagers, 4th graders, moms, business women- know that they just didn’t quite measure up. It sent the message of “You will never be this.” That’s not a real woman. Why? Because a real woman wouldn’t have to broadcast that she was a real woman. Everybody would just know.
Am I slut shaming Kim and the rest of her krew? Nah. Am I jealous of her perfectly sculpted bod? Maybe like 5%, sure. But at the end of the day, I feel like this was a missed opportunity to celebrate the diversity, accomplishments, and sacrifices that the women of our planet have made to reach new heights, gain respect, and set new standards. In one picture, she discredited the work of every woman before her who fought to have her brain studied before her body was. In one picture, she made every woman in the country look at themselves and ask if they measure up. In one picture, she put herself above every other woman.
That’s not what feminism is about. That’s not what the fight for women’s rights is about. That’s not what the equal pay struggle is about. That’s not what Bring Back Our Girls, the war against genital mutilation or the ongoing fight against honor killings is about. Women’s rights aren’t about one woman who fits in a perfect bubble. It’s about every woman, every race, every tribe, every religion, every size, every age. It’s about the imperfection that makes us humans….women.
But most importantly, it’s about us standing together, recognizing the end goal, and creating ways to get there that won’t make any of us feel like a lesser version of ourselves.
Real feminism will make you feel strong. It will make you feel empowered. It will make you feel like you can do anything, be anything, accomplish anything. Real feminism challenges you. It propels you into being your greatest self. Real feminism takes your desire to be seductive and turns it into a desire to be smart.
Real feminism is easy to spot: It’s effortlessly worn by real, hardworking, honest, free women.