Kim Kardashian and the Madonna – Whore complex


Is Kim Kardashian a positive role model for women, or a disgrace to the feminist movement?

Representations of Kim Kardashian in the media are usually presented like two sides of a coin – she either sets an empowering example for women by embodying unapologetic confidence, or she sends a negative message to her millions of followers.

Vanessa De Largie is an Australian actor, author, writer and sex- columnist based in Melbourne. Her article titled, “I wanted Kim Kardashian to die” for the Rendeview section in the Daily Telegraph shows her opinion very explicitly.

De Largie is referring to Kim Kardashian’s robbing last month, where the celebrity was held at gunpoint and robbed of around $14 million worth of jewels.

Her article opens up with a short statement, “I’m a feminist,” which suggests that she knows her audience may disagree with her argument that this is a feminist perspective.

De Largie’s central claim is that Kim Kardashian sets a bad example for women and she justifies this by highlighting how much influence the celebrity has on social media:

“Kim Kardashian West has 48.3 million followers on Twitter and the late Nelson Mandala has 1.35 million. Welcome to the state of the world in 2016, ladies and gentlemen.”

Here the author is appealing to analogy to compare the difference between the two personalities. Her tone is sarcastic, expressing the author’s worldview that contemporary society is shallow and materialistic.

Throughout her article, De Largie constantly acknowledges the opposing perspective that defends and supports Kim Kardashian. This reflects that the author is aware of the polarising debates regarding Kim, and is cautious to explicitly mention it, in case her audience doesn’t share this viewpoint and needs to be persuaded otherwise.

“There were those who rushed to defend and empathise with Kardashian West – the wife, the mother, and the daughter.”

It can be argued that De Largie has used the relevance of Kim Kardashian’s robbery to express her distaste with Kim Kardashian’s contribution to society.

“But while Kardashian West had $14 million of diamonds and her sense of safety stolen that night, what about all the girls who have been robbed of their innocence and sense of self in the quest to emulate their idol?”

Here, De Largie compares Kim’s theft to young women who have been robbed of their innocence as they strive to look and live like the celebrity.

This can be considered a false analogy because there is little similarity between the two situations.

The author then appeals to authority and facts by referencing a survey conducted by Mission Australia of 50, 000 young people aged 11- 14 whose number one concern was body image. De Largie is claiming that Kim Kardashian is the main reasons why young people are self-conscious of their bodies.

This is an example over generalisation. Perhaps Kim Kardashian does influence many young women to aspire to look like her, however, there are considerably more factors in the media that contribute to the concern of body image – Kim Kardashian is not the only cause.

It is important to consider the debates in the media around Kim Kardashian’s body image. Opinions in the media are divided with those who applaud her for embracing a curvier, ‘healthier’ figure, and others who claim Kim’s body is anything but natural due to heavily filtered photographs and cosmetic procedures. De Largie obviously holds the latter perspective.

Vanessa De Largie mentions how many people have also shared her opinion of wanting Kim Kardashian dead. This can be considered ad populem fallacy because she is using popular opinion to justify that her hate of Kim Kardashian is valid and a shared sentiment:

“I was not surprised when I went on social media and read thousands of comments echoing my initial thoughts on the robbery. The masses wanted her blown away. When you offer so little to the world, is it any wonder that people react viciously to when something tragic occurs?”

De Largie brings in different voices into her article, the most notable being actress Kate Winslet. She quotes Winslet praising herself and her daughter for their natural curves:

“ ‘We’re so lucky we have a shape. We’re so lucky we’re curvy. We’re so lucky that we’ve got good bums.’ And she’ll say, ‘Mummy, I know, thank God.’ It’s paying off.”

By doing so, the author is appealing to analogy and drawing a comparison between the two females and the messages they send about body image. She is also appealing to authority by bringing in the voice of a famous and celebrated actress.

Other feminism perspectives are also voiced in the article such as Andrea Peyser, a columnist for New York Post. Peyser’s claim that “Kim Kardashian West has risen from being the co-star of a sex tape to one of the world’s leading post-feminist icons” is used only so De Largie can immediately refute it:

“Umm, no. Definitely not. Feminist-Icon-Land only reserves places foro women like Camille Paglia, Germaine Greer, and Gloria Steinem. Oiling up your butt – implants for a glossy doesn’t get you a Guernsey. Sorry, Kim!”

Here, de Largie is appealing to authority again by listing renowned advocates for the feminism movement and arguing that Kim Kardashian’s ‘contribution’ to feminism should not be celebrated.

Kim Kardashian is portrayed as a narcissistic, and self – centred and hollow. The author does not mention any details about her entrepreneurship or success, which is usually a common argument taken by those who support Kim.

The images used to support the author’s claim that Kim is materialistic and superficial are snaps from Kim’s Instagram account of her luxe lifestyle.

The article is largely opinion rather argument, as most of the points made by De Largie are ad hominem fallacies, attacking Kim Kardashian’s character instead of putting forward arguments as to why the celebrity should not be famous.

“The only thing I care about is whether a woman is REAL. I can’t connect to cookie-cutter celebrities, Botox, and reality TV…Give me real people. Give me people who can move their faces. Give me people that have views and opinions.”

Here, the author attacks Kim’s appearances, career, and lifestyle. However, it is important to note that other opinions in the media actually praise the Kardashians for building up a television show successful enough to air for 12 seasons. As previously mentioned, many also commend her for promoting positive body image for women and for being unapologetically feminine.

In September, Kim Kardashian was also been commended for using her influence to pen an open letter condemning the Wall Street Journal’s decision to run an advertisement from a group of Armenian Genocide deniers. Kim Kardashian is of Armenian descent and was publically thanked by the Armenian Educational Foundation, a non-profit organisation which offers financial help to Armenian students around the world.

So does Kim Kardashian really have no opinions and no contribution to society, as De Largie argues?

It can be concluded that De Largie positions her readers to agree with her sentiment that Kim Kardashian is superficial with no positive attributes. The author acknowledges opinions regarding Kim’s appearance but ignores others about her success as a businesswoman or her advocacy against the Armenian genocide.

Similarly to De Large, controversial personality Piers Morgan directed a public letter to Kim Kardashian; “That robbery was a wake up call Kim. Time to decide if you want to be the smart, warm woman you really are or the trash talking monster you were becoming.”

Like the first article, Piers Morgan uses the timeliness of the incident to criticise Kim Kardashian’s lifestyle and public image. Piers Morgan’s argument is recommendatory, as he suggests Kim should use the attack as a wake up call to reassess her life and her contribution to society.

His opinion echoes De Largie’s, and represents those who believe that Kim Kardashian is a negative role model for young girls.

“Do you seriously want to encourage them to think the only pathway to success for women is getting their kit off and middle fingers out? For better or worse, these girls relate to you, look up to you, admire and respect you. Why contaminate their impressionable minds with such a bulls**t message?”

Morgan is referring to Kim Kardashian’s notoriously famous nude selfies, which have sparked a lot of controversy, usually dividing the public population into feeling empowered or disgusted.

Morgan also compares Kim Kardashian to an activist personality. The television host claims that he interviewed the Dalai Lama and when asked if he minded that Kim Kardashian had more followers than he does on Twitter, the Dalai Lama responded that he did not know who she was. The author agrees that Kim Kardashian cannot compete with the preacher’s wisdom.

This is considered false analogy because the Kardashian and the Dalai Lama arguably do not represent the same values. They have two completely different ways of life.

Throughout the article, Morgan’s tone is quite condescending and scolding. He portrays Kim Kardashian as immature and selfish – almost like a teenage daughter gone rouge. And he positions his readers to do the same.

By outlining her positive attributes followed by her ‘less admirable’ traits, Piers positions the audience to feel sorry for Kim but also argues that her attack should teach her a valuable lesson.

“It’s a change to re-calibrate, to take a pause and work out if you just want to be known as a topless, bird-flipping, trash talking sex tape celebrity – or something more meaningful and influential.”

Piers Morgan attacks Kim for her vulgar selfies. Image: The Daily Mirror
Piers Morgan attacks Kim for her vulgar selfies. Image: The Daily Mirror

Morgan’s language is very negatively loaded and reprimanding. He uses a combination of evaluative presumption and either –or fallacy. He paints a very two-dimensional portrait of Kim’s character and offers her only two options of how she should live her life.

Musicians Taylor Swift and Kanye West’s feud, which was all over social media and celebrity news – is also mentioned by the author. The author assumes his audience has knowledge of this controversy and summarises Kim’s participation in the dispute:

“…you began trash-talking Taylor Swift after she took exception to your husband Kanye West writing a song in which he called her a b*tch and said he wanted to have sex with her. You even encouraged his appalling piece of waxwork ‘orgy art’ …it was exploitative, distasteful and frankly, revolting”

Here Piers Morgan’s disgust is explicitly clear, and he is positioning his readers to view Kim Kardashian and Kanye West as celebrities who use their influence to bully others.

The images Morgan uses to follow his belief that Kim Kardashian has transformed from a warm and successful woman to a vulgar and shallow celebrity. The photographs begin with her laughing with her husband Kanye West, to a still from an interview with Kim smiling happily and dressed appropriately, to photos of her posing naked and sticking her middle finger up, and laughing over a wax figure of Taylor swift.

Overall Piers Morgan’s article is a combination of opinion and argument. His language is very explicitly biased and evaluative; however, he does support his claims with justifications of why he thinks Kim Kardashian is a becoming a negative influence on younger girls. For example, posing vulgarly in photos using her influence to turn social media against Taylor Swift. Morgan also acknowledges that Kim has spoken out publically about gun laws, gay rights and the Armenian genocide, which perhaps gives the feel that he is more balanced than De Large. Both articles portray Kim as a negative influence on society and a bad role model for feminism.

On the flip side of the coin – other media representations of Kim Kardashian applaud her for being unapologetic about her body and sexuality and applaud her for being a successful entrepreneur, as previously mentioned.

Amy Buswell’s article “Why Kim Kardashian is one of my Feminist Icons,” portrays the author’s views that Kim is a successful businesswoman and great example for confidence and sexuality.

Similarly to De Largie, Buswell acknowledges that the opinions about the Kardashian are divided, she even writes a disclaimer at the beginning of her article acknowledging these different arguments. She agrees that Kim is not the ‘perfect’ feminist icon because she does not use her platform enough to speak for marginalised groups and the difficulties women face.

But central claim of the article is that Kim Kardashian is a feminist icon because of her success and unapologetic confidence. Throughout the article it is clear that the author admires Kim Kardashian, “The Kardashians are women who have built an empire on the power of women.”

Buswell discusses the controversial sex tape that arguably brought Kim Kardashian to the spotlight. She appeals to ethics in her justification that Kim was a victim of a privacy breach and that the hate she received for it is misdirected.

“However, as I’m sure you know, the public reacted to the leak by holding Kardashian to blame for…having consensual sex? I’m still unclear about that part.”

Buswell claims that Kim was able to make the best of a bad situation, which is impressive and requires talent. She appeals to popular opinion in her justification by saying many porn stars are penniless but Kim Kardashian was able to “turn the sex tape into a fortune.”

Buswell acknowledges that Kim Kardashian and her family are not relatable, reflecting that she understands that her readers may not like the celebrity. But she compliments qualities of Kim that she believes are admirable, such as her confidence and marketing skills:

“Kim Kardashian is a mother unembarrassed of her sexuality, a successful entrepreneur, and a human strong enough to withstand a decade of victim-blaming. And if that does not impress you, I can not wait to meet your dinner guests because they must be phenomenal.”

Amy Buswell presents a more balanced and less critical perspective towards Kim Kardashian. Her article was written before the robbing in Paris, which is why there is no mention of it. This article is written online and the images that accompany it are photographs of Kim holding her daughter, North and a naked selfie of her pregnant body from her Instagram account. These images portray Kim Kardashian as more human and therefore more relatable. There are also images of memes that make fun of Kim’s superficiality and lack of talent, but the author has used them to highlight and discredit the nature hate that Kim Kardashian receives.

Source: Instagram
Kim Kardashian cradles baby North. Source: Instragram

“The Kardashian lifestyle might be ridiculously decadent and unattainable, but I for one would love to unapologetically take selfies, be proud of the way I look without being embarrassed by acting vain, and not base my actions on the expectations of others. In short, I would like to incorporate a little Kim Kardashian in my daily life.”

Overall, Amy Buswell represents the arguments in the media that support and defend Kim Kardashian. The author understands why her readers find Kim hard to relate to but provides justifications of why the hate directed to Kim is unnecessary. Throughout the article, Buswell’s tone is sympathetic and admiring of Kim. She believes Kim Kardashian West is a positive role model for women’s confidence and femineity.

In conclusion, it is clear that most representations of Kim Kardashian in the media portray her as either a role model for women – for being successful and unashamed of her sexuality, or as a vulgar and superficial celebrity who represents a hollow brand and creates unrealistic expectations for women. The articles analysed represent a few of these debates surrounding Kim Kardashian.

Where do you stand?

Susan Chen z3462543


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