The Private Life of Kim Kardashian
Words: Brodie Lancaster
With all the hoopla and listicles outlining the so-called wackiness her baby daddy spouted in his New York Times interview last week, comparatively little has been made of Kim Kardashian’s own public outpouring (and we’re not talking about her birthing fluids – Mazel Tov!).
A week before Kim gave birth to her and Kanye West’s child – almost a month earlier than scheduled (you’re welcome, gossip rags!) – she tweeted a series of distressing tales of paparazzi subterfuge, claiming when she denied them pictures of her, “they threatened my life & said if I continue to block shots then they will make my world dangerous to live in! How dare they threaten my life & my unborn child! This has gotten way out of control!”
“For years I've always been so gracious,” she continued, “Let me enjoy this last month of pregnancy please without threats & being scared to leave my home due to what dangerous thing they just threatened to do to me.”
What is clearly a cry for safety and privacy, though, will surely fall on deaf ears. If the paparazzi were willing to barricade Kim inside her car to get a shot of her at her most embargoed, it’s frightening to wonder what lengths they’ll go to snap a picture of the holy vessel with daughter of Yeezus.
There is a sense of feigned surprise each time Kim denies the public access to her personal life. She did, after all, make a sex tape, pose for Playboy and broadcast her wedding to millions of strangers. What falls by the wayside during these discussions, though, is the pure and simple fact that she is well within her rights to set boundaries. Expecting Kim to passively and graciously accept every request – or threat – that comes her way because of the ways she’s chosen to present her life to the public in the past is akin to expecting a woman who hires a professional photographer to capture her wedding to be as obliging to a creep taking upskirts of her at the park or on a train. Existing as a woman in public spaces is difficult and dangerous enough for non-celebrities, and the issue of consent is one that permeates tabloid culture.
I am, admittedly, approaching this subject from an immediately defensive place. I’ve watched all seven season of Keeping Up With the Kardashians – and their myriad spinoffs about “taking” US cities outside of Calabasas – and have actively followed the fairytale story of Kim and Kanye over the last 18 months. But I was also living in New York when Kim wed Kris Humphries and, less than three months later, filed for divorce (never mind the fact that they’ve remained legally wed until earlier this month, when Kris finally settled). I watched as the entire world proceeded to slut-shame a woman who married a man and, upon realizing the marriage was not working – something no viewers of Kourtney and Kim Take New York Season 2 could dispute – call an end to it. What would you expect, they cried, from someone made famous on the back of a sex tape? In a heartbeat, the phrase “72 days” became short-hand for poor decision-making.
Even the most sex-positive feminists are quick to dismiss Kim for the way in which she rose to public consciousness. It brings to mind the flawed and damaging Tina Fey version of feminism, in which only some women – those who are educated, driven, undamaged, well-spoken and tattoo-less – are deserving of our support. Let your boyfriend film you having sex in your early twenties and have the results distributed against your wishes five years later? Sorry, you don’t fit the requirements to join our club and you’ll soon get what’s coming to you.
The fact that she posted selfies to Instagram following her demand for respite from paparazzi was all the gossip rags needed to deem her point moot. This situations falls into the larger issue of Kim’s control of her image. Sure, she allows a camera crew to film her life and that of her family; sure, she broadcast her second wedding on TV for millions to see; sure, she is active on social media and takes pictures of herself constantly. But she’s in control of those images. The fact that Kim takes iPhone snaps of herself and appears in photoshoots for brands and magazines does not negate her need for privacy. These acts are not comparable to those committed by paparazzi. She is rarely seen without make-up and opulent outfits on camera, because her image is her livelihood. When that is threatened, she is allowed to be angry.
“I get I live a public life,” Kim tweeted. “I live my life on a reality show for the world to see. I love my life, but when the cameras stop, that doesn't mean I don't want a break too.”
And at the end of the day – particularly the day she became a mother – she is entitled to privacy. The breadth and longevity of the Kardashian empire means that it is without comparison and the rules are being written as their fame continues to grow. We deride the cult of reality stars for cashing in on short-lived attention, but seasons of a network-rescuing show and billions of dollars in sponsorship and endorsement are hard to scoff at. The public is still learning what to make of it all.
Kim’s pregnancy has played out – just like most aspects of her personal life – on the covers of magazines purely for the pleasure we get from seeing the beautiful and successful falter. We want to see them damaged. We hate when people are perfect and we love to kick them when they're down. We derive pleasure when we see the woman with the perfect, unattainable body expanding in front of our eyes like a sexy Augustus Gloop, and we want to sit back and count the days her partner is not by her side, spouting “I told you so”, patting ourselves on the back for knowing the girl with a slew of famous break-ups and make-ups can’t hold down Life's Most Important Thing: A Man.
Just because Kim is representative of tabloid culture, doesn’t mean that she’s neither responsible for - nor safe from - it.