I’ve never given Kim Kardashian much thought, or any of the Kardashians, for that matter. But I’m going to give her my full attention for the next 15 minutes while I free-write some thoughts in response to her photos released this week.
When someone strikes me as an attention whore, my brain automatically shuts off when they are mentioned. I can’t believe that anyone who so desperately asks for my attention actually deserves it. But the other day, I found myself asking my daughter (who is fascinated by the Kardashian reality show and is allowed to watch it when I’m not home or within earshot) why Kim K took a set of nude shots, including a ¾ full frontal. Even as the question was coming out of my mouth, I was asking myself “why not?” I’m a big fan of nudism. I love a weekend at Star Ranch (a nudist retreat outside Austin) and have run in their Bare Buns 5k. In theory, I have no problem with getting naked and feel everyone would benefit from a weekend with nudists. Really, it’s a relief to see how real human bodies look: we are so inundated with fictional human bodies—images that begin as photographs but then have all flaws removed, all humanity smoothed out—that facing actual human bodies, with their sags and wrinkles and slackness and puckers, is a revelation and a comfort. So why am I judging harshly Kim K’s decision to go nude, front and back? Partially it’s because she’s a mother now and her child will be growing up in an age when all these photos of her mother will be available for anyone else to see, and I feel like maybe the kid’s peers will give her crap about it. “Everyone’s seen your mom naked.” That doesn’t seem fair to her kid.
But then, isn’t that also tied up with mothers not being sexual, or at least not supposed to be sexual, which is a bogus point? (As you can only be a virgin OR a whore, not a fully developed human person who loves sex and also procreates.) I don’t want to buy into that bullshit, I don’t want my daughter to, and I don’t want North to, or anyone’s child. I think what bugs me about these photos is that the desperation in them muddies the waters of a good discussion about how women in general and mothers in particular should be allowed to fully claim their sexuality, their nudity, their humanity. Kim K’s photos are attention mongering, not freeing or celebratory, despite their staging. And that desperation for attention makes me sad and uncomfortable, and I feel like it makes all women look bad, because we DON’T want to be judged just on how our bodies look artificially greased and lit, and then here’s this person whose whole career is based on that. And that’s what bothers me about them, now that I’ve given Kim K the 15 minutes she never got from me before.