Content warning: rape mention, victim-blaming
During the robbery last week, Kim Kardashian West was held at gunpoint, tied up, and has since reportedly said that she was afraid the men were going to rape her. However, much of the media’s response has not been one of sympathy or horror. Instead, it has been teeming with sexism.
A swathe of scepticism permeated many reports, with claims that it was all a money-making hoax. Alongside this, much of the reaction was peppered with sometimes subtle and sometimes explicit victim-blaming, none more so than in Piers Morgan’s response in the Daily Mail.
Morgan’s article aptly illustrates the wider problem with the response to Kardashian West’s robbery. He leaps on the robbery, this violent and terrifying experience, and uses it as a reason for Kardashian West to “re-assess everything”. He paints a picture of her enjoyment in thinking that she “had it all” right up to the moment when she is in bed in her hotel room and the armed men broke in. Morgan then gleefully details how that enjoyment was taken from her.
Morgan’s delight in Kardashian West’s ordeal can be directly linked to her success and the opportunity. He has the audacity to tell her to stop being the “coarser and snarkier” version of herself and instead to be the “true version” – the version he seems to think that he knows better than she knows herself.
There are legitimate criticisms and problematic aspects of Kardashian West and her actions, but the time to launch into them is not immediately after, and certainly not because of, her experience as the victim of an extremely threatening crime. To do so in the way that Morgan and many others did last week has comes far too close to suggesting that she deserved it. It is a thinly-veiled celebration of the attack as a comeuppance for Kardashian; indicative of the furore of focus that society always pays to the character, choices and actions of women who are victims rather than to the actual agents of a crime.
Furthermore, the joy that the male-dominated media take in tearing her down arguably stems directly from the deviant form of womanhood that she represents. Society expects a perfect femininity and when women do not conform they are policed and punished. Kardashian West’s femininity was one of overt sexuality and of nakedness, of taking up space in the world with her body, of expressing joy and pleasure at her own wealth; not the modest and demure femininity that society conditions people to expect.
When some of that wealth is taken from her, her body is violated, and the threat of worse held over her, it is the long-awaited opportunity to tear her down from grace. The perfect time to punish her for all the ways in which she has not conformed, and tell her that this is why she has suffered.
But all women suffer when this kind of terrifying ordeal is turned into a way to punish and police; restrictive ideals of femininity are upheld and our victim-blaming culture continues. Criticisms of Kardashian there may be, but she is a woman who needs space and time to deal with what has happened. The responses to the attack should have been sympathetic, they should have allowed her space. But most of all, they should have left her lifestyle, her choices, and her success alone.
Image Credit: Huffington Post