Ask A Feminist

Too brash? Why our clique called feminism won't accept Kim Kardashian's naked selfie

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Anna Brech
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Ask A Feminist is Stylist.co.uk's regular column tackling issues on feminism, sexism and womanhood in a real-life, 21st century context. This week, stylist.co.uk editor Anna Brech looks at how the reaction to Kim Kardashian's naked selfie has exposed a very real double standard of feminism - where a self-important clique decides what's "empowering" or "trashy" when it comes to getting naked...

It’s International Women’s Day today - a time when we should be celebrating the goddamn greatness of what it is to be female.

Instead, we’re leaping on the latest Twitter ‘spat’ between three famous women, with all the rapacious glee of a shoe-starved Carrie Bradshaw.

We’re horrified – (obvs, we’re feminists) – but we’re also delighted, because it gives us a legitimate opportunity to roll out the sly semantics of our very favourite women-on-women language.

Bette Midler “has her claws out” for Kim Kardashian West’s naked selfie, Chloe Moretz joins in the “slamming”, while a “feisty” Kimmy “unloads” on her enemies.

The whole thing plays out like a poor man’s version of Mean Girls.

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"We don’t have the right to cast judgement on who can get naked and who can’t"

And yet, really it’s just a bit sad.

It’s sad because these women feel the need to snark at each other in such a very public way. It’s sad because we can’t disguise our panting enthusiasm to amplify their dialogue on the altar of Women Get Bitchy.

And it’s sad because Kim Kardashian’s choice to get naked has exposed a very real double standard in the way we talk about ourselves as feminists.

For some people, feminism is a clique with complicated rules of belonging and behaviour.

When Amy Schumer got naked for Pirelli, we applauded it as “empowering” – because well, it was shot by Annie Leibowitz and Amy isn’t one to be braggy about her body. 

Just like Kim, Amy has aired her boobs on social media before but because she was making an educated point - she was protesting Instagram’s anti-nipple policy - again we celebrated her.

Lena Dunham pushes nudity and sexual explicitness to the forefront of her hit show Girls; something she echoes in real life with topless shoots and candid I-feel-a-bit-shit Instagram shots.

And yet we (rightly) hail her as a feminist icon

Amy Schumer: the "empowering" kind of nudity

Amy Schumer: the "empowering" kind of nudity

Actress Emily Ratajkowski might have been criticised for degrading women in her role in Robin Thicke’s Blurred Lines video but when she – regularly – appears naked on Instagram, she’s hailed as “body confident”.

We positively swooned when Kate Hudson bared her bottom on Instagram, in this snap posted by her stylist Sophie Lopez. She’s so classy! And athletic! And intelligent! The same rapture greeted Beyonce, when she offered up a glimpse of herself naked, baby bump in tow ("heartwarming" being the verb of choice).

So why the pursed lips when it comes to Kim K?

Is she just too brash about it? Has she done it too much? Can we just not accept the fact that she has a nice body and is flaunting it – without any particular cause apart from herself?

There’s some dormant jealousy playing into the disapproval yes, but also snobbery. Kim K cut her teeth as a reality TV star, therefore she's sort of trashy, and we can’t abide her screw-you-this-is-me approach.

She should be more humble, more self-deprecating. Otherwise, her nudity falls right from liberating-empowering-celebratory into the tasteless, bad-example category we’ve designated it – and we become sanctimonious.

It’s a swift, subtle and nasty cast-off and it’s everything feminism should not be.

We don’t have the right to cast judgement on who can get naked and who can’t. Or how they should do it.

And please don’t give me the role model line. Kim Kardashian has a platform yes, but kids are exposed to a lot worse than her “shameful” tits-out confidence in this great game of life.

She isn’t saying you be me, she’s saying this is who I am and I’m not sorry. Young girls can take from that what they want, just as they do with everything else.

Today, on International Women’s Day, let’s accept that feminists come in all shapes and sizes, and in all forms of dress or undress.

We have Rosa Parks, we have Eleanor Roosevelt, we have Lena Dunham, Bette Midler and Kim Kardashian.

They’re all women doing their thing, advocating their own form of womanhood. Let’s not cut it down or decide between the “right” feminists and the bad 'uns.

Let’s just defend the concept itself, in all its inclusiveness and myriad of meaning. 

Do you agree with Anna that the reaction to Kim Kardashian's naked selfie exposes a double standard of feminism? Do we celebrate some women being naked and not others - and if so, why? Or do you think that disapproval of her is entirely justified - and is the same no matter who it is? Let us know your thoughts in the comments section below #AskAFeminist

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Anna Brech

Anna Brech is a freelance journalist and former editor for stylist.co.uk. Her six-year stint on the site saw her develop a vociferous appetite for live Analytics, feminist opinion and good-quality gin in roughly equal measure. She enjoys writing across all areas of women’s lifestyle content but has a soft spot for books and escapist travel content.

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