I don’t think I’ve ever actually seen an episode of their reality show, but like most people with internet access and a television, I can’t help but keep up with the Kardashians. It’s not that I want to; it’s that they’re everywhere. And while I know that’s the way they like it, I can’t help but feel uncomfortable.
My discomfort isn’t caused by them—I mean, I didn’t really need to see that picture of Kim K’s ass that “broke the internet,” but it’s not like nudity on the internet is a shocking oddity—but by two particular double standards their popularity has made evident.
When I logged onto Facebook this morning, the first thing I saw on my newsfeed was this headline from Bustle, usually one of my favourite female-centric sites:
Kylie Jenner, for those who have somehow managed to avoid keeping up with the Kardashians better than I do, is 17. She is also dating a 25-year-old, who is (rightfully) catching a lot of flack for dating a minor. And she gets a lot of attention from male-oriented websites, which (rightfully) catch a lot of flack for drooling over a minor. And yet because this is a female-oriented website posting about an underage girl’s body under the guise of Girl Power, it’s okay?
Let me be clear: I think women should be able to wear whatever they want, whether they are 17 or 27. I also think that breasts are oversexualised in our society when they are obviously a natural thing for women to have. That doesn’t mean that we need to be discussing the breasts of a 17-year-old and pretending it’s empowerment.
On the other side, there’s another double standard that comes from those who don’t love to keep up with the Kardashians. While I might be uncomfortable with Bustle talking about Kylie Jenner’s body-baring outfits, I am even more uncomfortable with people who are usually equally invested in empowering women deciding it’s okay to degrade Jenner or her siblings because they’re not fans.
If you’re against slut shaming (as you should be), you don’t get to make an exception for calling Kim K a “ho” because you don’t like the way she dressed or that she’s married to Kanye. If you’re against judging women for their appearances (as you also should be), you don’t get to make an exception for trashing Kylie Jenner because she got lip injections. Not keeping up with the Kardashians doesn’t mean you have to bring them down.
If the Kardashians faded into obscurity tomorrow, I wouldn’t miss them. But while their presence is ubiquitous in entertainment media we should use it to examine our reactions and responses to women we don’t like or whose choices we disagree with. It doesn’t mean we can’t criticize, of course, but when our criticisms—or even our praise (as in the case of Bustle’s comments about Kylie Jenner’s body)—would anger us if they were directed to women we like, whether celebrities or friends, we have to be willing to criticize our own biases. It’s not enough to respect women who do things the “right” way (our way); we have to respect those who don’t.