Kim Kardashian West has made a name, a brand, and an empire out of being a controversial figure. Nothing better demonstrates this controversy than her relationship to feminism. While many argue her rise to fame by flipping the script on a sex tape and owning her own image—as well as her continued success as a business woman—makes her a feminist icon, others claim that she can’t be considered a feminist seeing as she does not actively fight for equality and also profits off the trends, culture, and bodies of black women.
But in a recent essay she posted to her website filed under the hashtag #STRAIGHTUP, Kardashian West explained that she, in fact, does not label herself as a feminist. While she adheres to the main tenets of feminism, believing that “women should have the same choices and opportunities as men when it comes to education and employment, their bodies and their lifestyles,” she still does not feel comfortable with the label of feminism, because using labels to define yourself can cause divisions, when really, aren’t we all human? She writes:
But why do we have to put labels on things? You're Republican, you're Democrat, you're bisexual, you're plus-size, you're poor, you're a criminal, you're a mother, you're a feminist. I'm a human being, and I have thoughts, feelings and opinions about a lot of different things. I don't need to be defined by those beliefs, just as much as I don't want to be set apart from—or viewed as being against—those who DO define themselves by those beliefs.
It’s not particularly thoughtful to assume that labels such as “feminism” or “plus size” actually strictly define a person and reduce their experiences and perspectives to a singular ideology that stands in combative opposition to others. But her decision to be as unexceptionable as possible perfectly corresponds with her status as a pop culture icon: inoffensive mass appeal is the name of the game. She continues:
I feel that being grouped or labeled can create separation between people who do (or don't) fall into certain categories, when they may actually share many of the same beliefs and goals. It's not about he, she, gay, straight, black, white. The fight for equality is about ALL human beings being treated equally—regardless of gender, sexuality or ethnicity.
Okay. We know that everyone should be treated equally. Feminism exists because half the population has been institutionally oppressed for quite some time. By redirecting the conversation to include everybody, she’s inherently denying that inequality exists—though I doubt she realizes it—espousing an All Lives Matter point of view, which is strange because she just posted a memo last month about Black Lives Matter (also with the hashtag #STRAIGHTUP).
It should be noted here that not only is the argument that the label of feminism can isolate people not new, but Kim Kardashian refusing to label herself as a feminist is also old news. As Kenzie Bryant at Vanity Fair points out, in the last 14 months, Kardashian West has addressed the same exact issue three separate times—tripling down on her position that while she is fine if others call her a feminist, Kim calling herself a feminist would be pushing a viewpoint down other people's throats, and everyone should feel the way they want to.
So I’m not quite sure why yesterday was the day to take all that non-feminist synergy and create some online content, but honestly, I wouldn’t be surprised if Taylor Swift is about to drop a single and Kim is just being petty and kicking up some feminist dust. I truly do not know. What I do know is that the only people who earnestly believe that labels like “feminist” are harmful are those who 1) have been privileged enough to have never had to fight for their acknowledgement in our heteronormative white society and 2) are afraid of alienating a consumer base.