International Women’s Day And That Selfie

This week marked International Women’s Day, a day to celebrate women and their many achievements, and bring attention to the inequalities women all over the world still struggle with today. I’m sure on Tuesday you found your news feeds and timelines brimming with positive messages about womanhood, inspirational females and expression of desires for further change, so we can continue to strive for equality. You also might have noticed a slight blip in these feelings of sisterhood, which started in the form of a selfie from the social media Queen herself Kim Kardashian. Kim posted a nude photograph of herself, captioned ‘When you’re like I have nothing to wear LOL’, and the backlash began…

For a woman who has built an incredibly lucrative career based around her image this revealing selfie is just a drop in the ocean of images of herself Kim posts on a regular basis to her various social media channels, you can even buy a hardback full of her selfies, it’s fair to say she’s made a fortune through this self-commodification. In a day this particular image in question had garnered 1. 3 million likes and some 260, 000 comments ranging from compliments, to nasty comments on her appearance and even her mothering skills. This really doesn’t come as much of a surprise; her images often attract a lot of attention both positive and negative, but what was surprising was the a-list Twitter fallout that followed.

Kim is no stranger to controversy – her famous #belfie and #breaktheinternet shoot got plenty of chins wagging (the exact desired effect) but this time comments appeared to hit a nerve with Kim, someone who is seemingly quite good at ignoring or brushing off such negativity.

Bette Midler fired up the debate by Tweeting that for the public to see a new part of Kim’s body she would have to swallow a camera… ouch. Next up actress Chloë Moretz weighed in Tweeting directly to Kim ‘I truly hope you realise how important setting goals are for young women, teaching them we have so much more to offer than just our bodies’, a fair opinion and one no doubt many will have regarding Kim’s social media antics.

Later in the day Kim’s less than cool response caught even more headlines across the web. In response she criticised Bette Midler, making jibes about her age and implying that she herself did not have a body worth celebrating, as Kim had celebrated her own. She also took on 19-year-old Chloë Moretz claiming that ‘no one’ knew who the actress was. The reality star ranted on, and even dropped in the fact that she had just cashed in a cheque worth $80 million for her new video game. In light of her husband Kanye West’s recent Twitter rants, many were suggesting her somewhat out of character Twitter behaviour was in fact his doing. This is problematic in itself, Emily Ratajkowski tweeted, ‘love that when a woman stands up for herself everyone thinks it must be her dude speaking for her’, and Kim’s own response to this idea was quite sad in itself: ‘Wait I can’t believe people thought Kanye or Khloe hacked my Twitter. I swear I’m funny too!!!’

Kim Kardashian’s responses to some of the many criticisms she received over her Twitter selfie

Here there are so many problems with the reaction to the photo; firstly the fact that Twitter couldn’t believe that the somewhat sassy response Kim gave couldn’t be her own voice as a woman, and assumed it must have been her husband instead. Secondly the fact that in response Kim felt the need to publically dish out nasty comments back at the women who criticised her, something far more damaging than the photo itself. The media response was largely to create a discourse of sides, whose side were you on? The Daily Mail even ran a poll, sigh. The bottom line of this is people are entitled to their own opinions, but the way in which these various public figures went about expressing their views enabled the media to portray it as a claws-out cat fight, hardly in the spirit of IWD.

Lastly, the problem we see here is the demonising of certain people when they share nude, or revealing photographs, and not others. There is a huge double standard at work here when it comes to the criticisms Kim received. Without stating the bloody obvious, all women, and all people are different. Kim may find posting such a photo empowering and liberating, Bette Midler may not find liberation in the same act at all, and that is ok. Feminism can be interpreted and understood in many different ways, and means something different to everyone, and that’s cool. What is not so cool is women stamping on each other with Tweets over this difference, and creating a genuinely damaging media discourse in which they are pinned against each other.

Female nudity is certainly nothing new, we see it all around us in media, in art, in advertising, and very often in fashion. The issue here is the hypocrisy; what makes a nude photograph of anyone high culture, or high fashion, and what makes one ‘trashy’? More importantly: who should decide this?

Last month Gigi Hadid appeared on the cover of French Vogue, wearing nothing but heels and earrings. The cover received a lot of press, but was widely praised. It was considered beautiful, high fashion, art. Lena Dunham often posts topless photos of herself on social media, but these aren’t ‘trashy’, ‘desperate’ or ‘tacky’, she is empowered, liberated, a feminist. The double standard at work in the media representation of women is the problem here, the way Lena and Kim are treated is far from the equality that we are supposedly striving for.

The sad bottom line is that the media knows that the story of ‘beef’ between famous women, a ‘spat’, a ‘feud’ will generate clicks, and sell magazines. Miley Cyrus rounded off the whole day’s comments well, under an Instagram picture of Kim’s famous behind, in Ki-moji form and asked ‘for one f**king day and love / celebrate one another!’

Nude selfies and the choice to liberate ones naked body online are perhaps perfect examples of what some might consider feminist issues from a privileged perspective. There are undoubtedly more pressing issues around gender inequality, like education, sexual violence and the pay gap felt all over the world. That said, through creating a wider discourse around any issues of gender inequality, even if a selfie is the starting point, more awareness of these issues will be raised and the first steps towards change can be made.

Bella Brooks

Images courtesy of: Fashionista, Evening Standard, Mail Online, Heavy

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