Let’s not deny women the right to be sexy too

opinion March 12, 2016 01:00

By Veena Thoopkrajae
The Nation

98,878 Viewed

I’m neither a fan nor a hater of American celebrity Kim Kardashian West

Yes, she tweeted a nude photo of herself to “celebrate International Women’s Day”. The sensational bits were modestly covered, but her 41.3 million followers still got an eyeful. Let’s focus here, though, on her statement to those who criticised her for posting that picture – the likes of singer Bette Midler, actress Chloe Grace Moretz and talking head Piers Morgan. 
Frankly, when I first saw Midler’s reaction on Twitter, I laughed my head off. It was sharp, very witty: “If Kim wants us to see a part of her we’ve never seen, she’s gonna have to swallow the camera.”
It was all delightfully comical, but before I signed up for Team Bette, like so many other people, Kardashian got me thinking with her own response, an “open letter” to her detractors. “I don’t do drugs, I hardly drink, I’ve never committed a crime,” she wrote, “and yet I’m a bad role model for being proud of my body?” 
Kardashian said people who fret about what others choose to do with their lives leave her bewildered. She declared that she feels “empowered” by her sexuality and her body. “It’s 2016. The body-shaming and slut-shaming – it’s like, enough is enough. I will not live my life dictated by the issues you have with my sexuality. You be you and let me be me.”
Well, the social media are never forgiving when someone makes a perceived misstep, and there was no exception when it came to near-naked Kim. Piers Morgan, who was born outspoken, kindly offered to buy her some clothes, but he still couldn’t resist firing off a slew of mocking tweets. Moretz felt that Kardashian had tripped up decades of efforts to prove that women are more than just bodies.
The battle lines were clearly drawn and the Internet was divided – or at least the debate on women’s rights was. On one side was this admirable attitude of being empowered by one’s body and comfortable with one’s sexuality. On the other we have the struggle to lift society’s gaze from boobs to brain, from sexual talent to talent in higher fields of endeavour.
Who’s right and who’s wrong? In my humble opinion, at least Kardashian hit home where it matters most. By law as well as by ethics and morality, a woman has the right to live her own life in the way she feels most comfortable. Without specifically mentioning her sex videotape that was leaked to the public 13 years ago, she pointed out that “I lived through embarrassment and fear and decided to say who cares – do better, move on.” Clearly she’s made peace with that painful segment of her past, whereas too many women continue to suffer society’s judgmental scorn.
It’s hard enough being a woman without being in the spotlight all the time, as Kardashian has chosen to be. If you take too long getting married you’re called a spinster. If you get along with men you’re a flirt or, worse, a slut. If you’re overly cautious about men, you’re uptight. 
And if you spend time agonising over what other people think, you probably don’t have a life at all.
Kardashin appears to live her life to the fullest. If she feels like being sexy, she flashes some skin for the photographers (or her own camera-phone). And she’s okay with it, so who are we to judge her? It’s a safe bet that a lot of the men criticising her love watching porn (nothing personal, Piers). But of course that’s done in private. It’s only when you bring sexual activity out into the open that it’s seen as reprehensible. The right to get your clothes off or otherwise be sexy is hardly the pith of the intellectual debate on women’s rights, but it’s worth debating nonetheless. 
When Kim’s chosen path to empowerment is judged wrong, a very basic right of women is being denied. 
Kardashian, as has been noted since she first became a TV personality, was not born with any particular talent, but she’s deemed quite attractive physically. How can she possibly be blamed for trying to monetise her situation in her own harmless way? 
She ended her open letter to the belittling crowd: “I am a mother. I am a wife, a sister, a daughter, an entrepreneur and I am allowed to be sexy.” I don’t agree with every girl “empowering” herself by going naked, but I will argue until I drop that Kim Kardashian West has the right to live her life as she wishes.