Yet again, Kim Kardashian is steeped in controversy. This time, it’s over her semi-nude photo shoot with Paper Magazine that intended to “#BreakTheInternet.”
Now, I’m all for reclaiming female sexuality and body positivity. Keira Knightly, for example, posed nude for Interview magazine with the request that the photographer did not digitally enhance her body.
When so many celebrities and non-celebrities are getting their private photographs and videos spread by hackers and revenge-porn websites, a lot of women feel less in control of how their bodies are viewed.
So when I read about Kim’s new spread, I was excited. Kim has already proven that she can overcome attacks on her sexuality. I mean, she capitalized on her leaked sex tape and became a multi-millionaire and entrepreneur.
However, being betrayed by a past lover does not excuse Kim from taking advantage of other women.
In the Paper Magazine shoot, photographer Jean-Paul Goude posed Kim balancing a champagne glass on her famously large posterior, replicating his own 1976 photograph “Caroline Beaumont, New York.” The original photo, commonly referred to as “The Champagne Incident,” is almost identical to Kim’s, except that it features Caroline Beaumont, a black model.
Goude is notorious for exoticizing black female bodies. He professed his “jungle fever” and shot dozens of photographs of black models such as Grace Jones and Naomi Campbell in animalistic poses. His famous book, “Jungle Fever,” pictures Jones naked in a cage surrounded by raw meat. Goude consistently attempts to dehumanize black women through his photographs.
By recreating “Caroline Beaumont, New York,” Kim is also at fault. She appropriates and profits off black women’s bodies.
Historically, white communities have always treated black women’s bodies as entertainment. Sara “Saartije” Baartman, for example, was taken by European colonists from her home in what is now South Africa and paraded through Europe as a sort of freak show for audiences to gawk at. And, as evidenced by Goude’s dehumanizing and exaggerated photographs, the trend of exploiting black women is still strong.
While Kim gets to luxuriate in the attention and profits of her appropriation, black women, along with women of other minorities, have to live with hypersexualization and all of its negative accessories, such as the fact that one in five black women are raped in their lifetime.
Black women are objectified and ridiculed for their bodies, but when a white woman appropriates a part of black identity, the select characteristic becomes more “mainstream” and acceptable.
Take Miley Cyrus, who, during her effort to break away from the chaste Disney star persona she was known for, brought twerking to white America’s attention and has since been dubbed the “twerk queen” by many media outlets.
Contrary to Miley’s sexually provocative portrayal, twerking has been around for centuries in black communities as “a cultural expression of joy.” Miley twisted the function of a cultural dance for her own personal sexual liberation without absorbing any other attributes of black culture, such as racial discrimination.
When Nicki Minaj, on the other hand, tried to reclaim the black female body through her song “Anaconda,” she was shamed for being vulgar and attention-seeking.
There is a double standard between white women and women of color, especially with regard to bodies and sexuality.
Although all women face sexism and objectification in society, white women expressing their sexuality are more accepted than black women. And black women, in turn, are fetishized and stereotyped.
Kim Kardashian is no stranger to being sexually objectified, and, commendably, she takes many opportunities to reclaim control over the way her body is viewed. But she agreed to pose for a racially charged photo shoot and, in doing so, inadvertently perpetuated racist ideals.
Hanna Greenblott is a sophomore English language and literature major and can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.