Kim Kardashian is Flipping the Patriarchy onto Its Head, Here's How
Last week I sat in the large auditorium of my high school at 9:30am during Christian Morality class. Our teacher stood on the stage and passionately talked through the curriculum. The topic of the day: the dangers of sexuality.
Images appeared on the screen of the modest twin beds of Lucy and Desi in I Love Lucy, Prince in concert, and, finally, Kim Kardashian-West. Our teacher shared that she became famous as a result of a sex tape, reflecting how comfortable our society has become with sexuality, especially compared to the days in which married couples on TV needed to sleep in twin beds. He pointed out that the sex tape has led Kardashian to start a billion dollar make up company and successful TV show - evidence that human beings have been desensitized to sex and stripped it of the value God intended for procreation.
Essentially, women are becoming rich because of their sexualities. From Kim Kardashian to Cardi B, sex has become a launch pad to money and power. In my religion class, another side of this issue was left under-covered. As consumers watch these women's new TV episodes, YouTube videos, and sex tapes, they simultaneously shame them for "objectifying themselves." But, as famous women are blamed for sexual immorality, they are really only regaining control of - and regulating - the immoral system which men created.
Since early in history, men have oppressed women to avoid their criticism. In the words of Margaret Atwood, "Men are afraid that women will laugh at them, women are afraid that men will kill them." Men initially encouraged women to stay in the home so that they could work and hang out with friends without fearing that women would say or do something to jeopardize their masculinity. As a result, men both pressure women to remain sexually pure and create ways for men to sleep around without consequences. To do this, they shame and economically exploit women to strip women of the power they have over how men feel about themselves. From saloons of the late 19th century to strip clubs of this century, male owners are well-paid while women working for them are in low-paying, socially deviant careers which subject them to alienation and sex-trafficking.
This alienation used to keep sex workers from ever escaping poverty (it unfortunately still does in many cases). Let's just say that Cardi and Kim probably wouldn't have risen to fame in the 19th century.
Also, note that I write in the present tense in the above paragraph. Of course I am not accusing most men today of such radical behavior, but elements of this sexually oppressive system do remain today.
Today, increased openness around sexuality has simply brought into the public eye the sexualization of women which has occurred forever. Putting up a more honest face of the whereabouts of men and not completely alienating women for sexual deviance gives women relatively more safety and freedom. When women like Kim Kardashian and Cardi B profit from society's sexualization of them, they gain some control which would have previously gone to men. This means they have a chance to avoid exploitation and be heard when they notice sexual abuse - powers which used to be reserved to men.
Many people respond to this argument that women should just get real jobs. However, this is unfortunately not a choice for everyone. People who become prostitutes and sex workers are usually struggling to attain an education and make a living. Sexual freedom is a small step in the right direction which makes it possible for these women to free themselves from under the foot of powerful male elites.
Sexual freedom also gives way to other freedoms which enable women to make their own decisions as to what is safe for themselves. For instance, in Egypt, women are discouraged from walking in the streets without a male guardian to prevent sexual abuse. However, the majority of sexual abuse in the nation takes place in homes. The idea that women can not bear the streets alone does not serve to protect them but for men to exercise power over women - cloistering women while still inflicting harm on them.
Although men criticize sexualization of women in the media, it is a system which they created. The only difference is that it is now being publicized because shame is being lifted from women's shoulders. Publicity has given women some control over their sexualization. This is what people have found so upsetting.
Despite moral warnings, sexual freedom is a step in the direction of morality because it is a step in the direction of women having the sovereignty to protect themselves. As a society, we should begin accepting this step so we can further wrest the silencing shame from women's shoulders.