In Defense of Kim Kardashian West

Op-Ed by Haley Nippert, Culture Editor

KK1It is not often that I go a day without hearing the name “Kardashian” at least once. From their highly successful show, Keeping Up with the Kardashians, to their wide array of business ventures, the Kardashian family has managed to permeate and fascinate the American public for over a decade. One member in particular seems to enthrall us the most: Kim Kardashian West.

When the Kim K Superstar scandal broke in 2007, I was 11 years old and working through my second semester of sixth grade. In my ignorance, it was easy to go along with everyone else when they dragged her name through the mud. This is an event that continues to haunt discussions of Kardashian West, with a common statement being “she’s only famous because of a sex-tape.” This type of disparagement not only wrongly demeans her character and accomplishments, but also ignores the fact that the tape was released without her consent. Videos, nude photos, or anything else that passes between couples requires trust, and the release of this video was absolutely a violation of the privacy of Kardashian West and Ray J’s relationship. It’s something that could easily have broken her spirit, yet Kardashian West took this situation and used it to her advantage, building herself into the successful woman we see today.

Outside of her family’s reality TV show, Kardashian West is a highly successful and hard-working business woman. Drawing from her early career as a fashion stylist, she launched a clothing boutique, DASH, in 2006 with her sisters Kourtney and Khloe. According to Khloe Kardashian, the three sisters muddled through business texts, “bought all [their] own inventory, cleaned the store, did [their] own taxes—everything,” determined to build their business. A few years later Kardashian West co-founded ShoeDazzle, a subscription shoe website, which was valued at $280 million by 2012. According to Forbes, “her earnings nearly doubled to $53 million” in 2015, partially due to the success of her app, Kim Kardashian: Hollywood. Kim Kardashian West is nothing if not a business mogul, and it took perseverance and ingenuity on her end to make it to this point.

What is perhaps most under-appreciated about Kardashian West is her unabashed pride in who she is and where she has come from. In 2015, Kardashian West penned an essay for TIME in honor of the 100th anniversary of the Armenian genocide. She not only called for the recognition of the nearly 1.5 million Armenians massacred at the hands of the Turkish government, but shared her own heritage, recounting her grandparents’ escape from turkey and her own wish to “honor them by passing their memory down to [her] daughter.” While world leaders, including our own president, continually refuse to acknowledge with words that this event constituted a genocide, Kardashian West used her celebrity to validate the suffering of the Armenian people and demonstrate pride in her Armenian heritage.

This sense of pride not only appears in how she values her culture, but also in how she values herself. Early last month, Kardashian West posted a nude selfie to her twitter and everyone from your Regular Joe twitter troll to actress Chloë Grace Moretz jumped in to shame her for it. Recognizing that this reaction was about more than just herself, Kardashian West responded saying, “I am empowered by my body. I am empowered by my sexuality. I am empowered by feeling comfortable in my skin. I am empowered by showing the world my flaws and not being afraid of what anyone is going to say about me. And I hope that through this platform I have been given, I can encourage the same empowerment for girls and women all over the world.” The disempowerment of cis-women through their bodies is rather commonplace, from the shaming of breastfeeding mothers to the sexualization of women in male-targeted commercials, like those for Viagra. In both her selfie and subsequent response, Kardashian West takes a stand against this, calling for the empowerment of all women. For Kardashian West, who was refused the right to present herself on her own terms back in 2007, this selfie is an act of self-love and an exercise of her personal agency. As actress Rowan Blanchard recognized in her own defense of Kardashian West, “Girls being nude publicly isn’t new: but isn’t it nice when they can be the subject of the image, & the portrayer too?”

Kim Kardashian West is by no means perfect. She may do or say offensive things, and recognizing her flaws in social discourse is valid and important, especially given that her celebrity makes her highly visible to the public. The same is true of any celebrity. What it comes down to is that the vilification of Kardashian West at the hands of the press and social media commentators alike often serves to disparage her, while ignoring what she’s been able to make out of herself. You don’t have to support her celebrity status or the glorification of her family. You don’t have to immerse yourself in her beauty secrets or follow her on Instagram. You don’t even have to necessarily like her. But from her ability to push through situations in which people seek to disempower her to her multi-million dollar business ventures, Kardashian West has built herself up as a force to be reckoned with, and that is worthy of respect.

For my part, I will continue keeping up with Kim Kardashian West.

Photos: Cover, 1

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