Kim Kardashian caused her latest Instagram-based publicity frenzy by posting a nude photo of herself on March 7. The mirror selfie—expertly captioned “When you’re like I have nothing to wear LOL”—caused an immediate and overwhelming amount of backlash from both Instagram users and outraged female celebrities.
Kardashian posted the year-old selfie in response to the increasing number of comments about her weight gain during her pregnancy. Despite Kardashian’s efforts to censor body parts that may have offended the general public, it wasn’t enough to satisfy many outraged women.
One would expect a large amount of ignorant comments and misogynist responses from anonymous Twitter and Instagram users, but much of the negative feedback came from female celebrities who felt that Kardashian’s Instagram post was anti-feminist.
For instance, actress Chloë Grace Moretz tweeted, “I truly hope you realize how important setting goals are for young women, teaching them we have so much more to offer than just our bodies.” Singer Bette Midler tweeted a more aggressive criticism, writing, “If Kim wants us to see a part of her we’ve never seen, she’s gonna have to swallow the camera.”
While the 19-year-old Moretz may have been well-intentioned in her critique, both her and Midler’s responses share the same kind of harmful, conservative rhetoric that was prominent in early forms of feminism. Although feminism is entirely subjective, it is objectively harmful to shame women for making any kind of choices regarding their own bodies.
In an attempt to empower women, this kind of feminism focuses on issues such as putting women in the workforce, giving them political power and having women join the ranks of men. In doing so, many second-wave feminists may criticize women for being openly sexual and showing off their bodies––arguing that this only furthers the way men view women as sexual objects. Oftentimes this brand of thinking equates modesty with respectability.
This ideology, however, perpetuates the kind of slut-shaming that Kardashian faced. While I agree with Moretz in her belief that women are more than just their bodies, she is reinforcing the harmful idea that women can only be respectable when covered up. It is extremely damaging for her to claim that Kardashian cannot be a role model for young women simply because she is proud of her body and is not afraid of her own sexuality.
By choosing to post pictures of their own naked bodies, Kardashian and other women are reclaiming their own sexuality. In being proud of their naked bodies and openly sexual, women are able to combat slut-shaming and the idea that women must be modest or that our bodies are shameful things that should only be used for sex.
This is not to say that Kardashian is a feminist icon just because of her Instagram post. She and her family are constantly criticized for their problematic views regarding sexism, transphobia, racism and other issues. Kardashian, however, has every right to show off whatever parts of her body she pleases without being attacked by women who claim to be feminists.