The Kardashians Are Better Than You.

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This article was originally published on The Vocal.

The Kardashian family burst onto the scene in 2007 with their groundbreaking reality show Keeping Up with the Kardashians. What began as a vehicle to spin Kim Kardashian’s career into something other than being famous for a leaked sex tape has evolved into a global brand, parlaying itself into fashion and lifestyle, multi-million dollar mobile games and sold out lip kits. We’re often quick to write the family off as fame-whores with no discernible talent, but the Kardashians have proved in recent years, especially with the coming out of Caitlyn Jenner as trans, that they’re compassionate people with human problems rather than money-hungry robots. And here’s how that might just make them better than you.

Despite a few stumbles in the early seasons of Keeping Up with the Kardashians, Kim and her family have seldom expressed shame at having one of Kim’s most intimate moments caught on camera and distributed for the world to see. Instead, Kim uses her oft-discussed visage as a commodity, raking in money not only from the sex tape and the reality show but from Playboy shoots, “breaking the internet” for Paper magazine and as an avatar in her very own video game, encapsulating all aspects of media.

The release of the sisters’ mobile apps last year further cemented the Kardashian brand, allowing unprecedented access to their lives even more so than KUWTK and Instagram provides. Youngest sibling Kylie routinely makes headlines with her risque Snapchats, revealing app videos and the aforementioned lip kits in perhaps a testament to the effects of fame on young Hollywood.

But Kendall and Kylie’s professional acumen at such a young age is more likely a byproduct of coming from a family of such strong business women. Kim has spoken about how she never stops working and Kris is depicted as always commandeering some business venture or another. Even when getting their makeup done for a photoshoot or being filmed hanging out at home on KUWTK, the Kardashians are still working to promote their brand. Perhaps we’re hesitant to see it as work since our own working lives so scarcely resemble that of the Kardashians. Or maybe we devalue their empire because it’s one helmed by women and women who simultaneously uphold (perfect makeup, hourglass figures, flowing hair) and tear down (revealing the work that goes into looking flawless, Kim speaking about her ambivalence towards pregnancy) many aspects of modern femininity at that.

Instead of applying credit where credit is due, those who denounce the family are quick to remind us of Kim’s beginnings as if having, enjoying and filming sex is unspeakable and, furthermore, that everything she’s done since then hasn’t eclipsed it.

Similarly, as if sex and compassion were mutually exclusive, Kim and the rest of the Kardashians have proven to be more compassionate than many of their detractors when Caitlyn Jenner, their put-upon, ignored and shuffled-to-the-side dad came out publicly as a trans woman in April 2015.

Making the revelation to Diane Sawyer in an interview with 20/20, Jenner said she identified as a woman and would begin transitioning, which was further explored in a two-part Keeping Up with the Kardashians special, “About Bruce” (when she was then going by her birth name and male pronouns).

When Jenner posed for the cover of Vanity Fair that June, asking to be called by her preferred name and female pronouns, the response from the general public was mixed. Some assertions I heard around the watercooler and read in the news about Jenner were that she was “actually pretty” or “hot for a guy” (:|) while others were more overtly transphobic, continually deadnaming her and who can forget the time In Touch Weekly photoshopped Jenner’s face onto the body of another woman before her coming out. Think pieces abounded from the likes of Orange is the New Black’s Laverne Cox, who urged us not to focus on Jenner’s looks and provided the necessary balance missing from the commentary.

Meanwhile, the Kardashians eventually went on talk shows and took to social media, as Kardashians are wont to do, explaining how they came to terms with Jenner’s coming out. Khloe was perhaps the most obviously unsure as to how to proceed, which was a large focus of seasons ten and eleven of Keeping Up with the Kardashians and Jenner’s subsequent reality show, I Am Cait. Jenner is still often called “Dad” in clips from the Kardashian konglomerate’s shows, again illustrating that if anyone needs time (and privacy!) to come to terms with Jenner’s transition, it is her family, not the peanut gallery.

The argument can be made that when the Kardashians invited us into their lives nine years ago—and with their continued exposure via their apps and social media, as well as the situations they choose to get themselves into on screen—they forfeited their right to privacy. But I’m not sure the Kardashians want privacy. Instead, they choose to be strategic about what gets shown, how it gets shown and when.

Everything they’ve done since 2007 has been measured and adhered to a strict timeline. It either addresses the big issues like Caitlyn’s coming out or deals with Kanye’s Twitter rants and Rob hooking up with Kim’s ex-best friend and Kylie’s boyfriend’s ex Blac Chyna (phew! hard to keep up there) in their own time and way. There is a reason for Caitlyn revealing herself as trans via a series of media appearances and that is for maximised impact and to ensure the rest of the family can address it. History shows the Kardashians will wait to address Rob’s new relationship and Kanye’s social media references in future episodes of KUWTK. The media can have a frenzy over these things as much as they like but they’ll have to wait to get the official word from the main source itself, which gives them a kind of power.

With their wholehearted embrace of fame comes things like role model status, however tenuous, and the buzzed-about “visibility” for the trans community that many other trans people don’t have the luxury of. This is evident in some of the interactions between Jenner and the trans women she meets during the first season of I Am Cait, like Blossom and Chandi, who are marginalised because of their race and financial and trans statuses, things Jenner is still coming to terms with and will hopefully be addressed further in the show’s second season.

Jenner’s acceptance by her family is yet another luxury trans people often don’t have. If the Kardashians are indeed as shallow as we often prescribe them to be, then they could have shunned Jenner upon her coming out and it might have been expected of them, especially thanks to the shallow and vacuous stigma often aimed at reality TV celebrities. Instead, they flip those expectations on the head and choose to accept Jenner and embrace her coming out. Of course, they do so knowing they have a huge financial juggernaut and brand empire to cushion them from the stigmas other families with trans members might face, showing their immense privilege in this situation, but it’s still a step in the right direction.

It’s important to understand the things Jenner has access to as a rich, famous woman, which I Am Cait attempts to do at a surface level. Look at the way Jenner is sequestered in her own Malibu mountaintop fortress, where her friends and family come to her lest she risk going out and being hounded by the paparazzi. Jenner was able to undergo facial feminisation surgery before her Vanity Fair cover, as discussed on “About Bruce”. She’s able to take road trips to trans activist centres and camps along the West Coast to learn more about gender identity and what it means to be a role model. She’s been named Glamour’s Woman of the Year and one of Time magazine’s People of the Year despite saying less than inclusive things when promoting these accolades. Considering trans people are four times more likely to be living in poverty than cis people in America, and 41% of trans and gender non-conforming people have attempted suicide, Jenner’s privilege is far removed from much of the community she’s become an overnight spokesperson for. With I Am Cait, we can learn from Jenner as she navigates these stumbling blocks.

For those who understand the adversities faced by the general trans community, it’s clear that Caitlyn Jenner and the Kardashians aren’t the most representative example of their reality and experiences. But, as is evident in the abovementioned transphobic responses to Jenner’s coming out, not many people are, in which case America’s first family is an important touchstone to understanding transgender issues with empathy and acceptance.

So, instead of deriding the family for every magazine cover and Instagram post maybe we can watch a few episodes of KUWTK or actually listen to what’s coming out of Kim’s mouth when she’s interviewed.

Whether we like it or not, the Kardashians are representative of the state of fame and power in our culture and, in using their popularity for a good cause, they just might be better than you after all.

Elsewhere: [The Vocal] The Kardashians Are Better Than You.

[Ad Week] After Conquering Reality TV, Kim Kardashian is Taking the Mobile World by Storm.

[Entertainment Tonight] Kylie Jenner’s Lip Kit Sells Out in Seconds, Now on eBay for 10 Times the Price.

[MTV] Kylie Jenner Clears the Air on that ” High as F__k” Snapchat Video.

[Style Caster] Kylie Jenner Reveals Lip Kit Packaging on Her App—And It’s Predictably Suggestive.

[YouTube] E! News: Kylie Jenner Admits to Doing What to Her Lips?!

[YouTube] Ellen: Are Kim & Kanye Going to Have More Kids?

[Complex] In Touch Magazine Photoshopped Bruce Jenner to Look Like a Woman.

[Laverne Cox] Caitlyn Jenner Cover of Time Magazine.

[Cosmopolitan] Khloe Kardashian: “It’s Hard When, You Know, Dad’s Wearing a Dress.”

[Complex] Waiting on the Jenners: What Happened When Kendall & Kylie Came to Melbourne.

[Think Progress] What Bruce Jenner’s Interview Means for Trans Visibility.

[Time] Caitlyn Jenner on Privilege, Reality TV & Deciding to Come Out.

[The Advocate] Trans Americans Four Times More Likely to Live in Poverty.

[Vocativ] Transgender Suicide Attempt Rates Are Staggering.

[The Root] Cosmo Was Right: Why the Kardashians Are America’s First Family.

Image via TKM.

On the (Rest of the) Net.

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I’ve started writing for Paste Wrestling about quotas being the only way World Wrestling Entertainment will diversify, that supporting WWE financially may mean supporting the Trump administrationwhy they need a women’s Royal Rumble match and the inequality that still remains in women’s wrestling.

I also wrote about shine theory in WWE. [Intergender World Champs]

And I attended Donald Trump’s inauguration and the Women’s March in Washington D.C. and wrote about it for SBS Life.

I’m at Writers Bloc musing about the guilt that comes when the work isn’t and the obligatory leaving New York essay. 

How Carrie Fisher became the face of the Women’s March. [Vanity Fair]

Women filmgoers are largely responsible for Passengers flopping. But has Hollywood stopped to realised why we’re sick of rapey storylines and how we express satisfaction with our money? [Bibliodaze]

Beyonce, Kim, Taylor and Trump: how celebrity changed in 2016. [The Ringer]

Patriots Day is the first movie of Trump’s America:

“Such films are perfect vehicles for a Trumpian understanding of the world, one in which there are clear winners and clear losers, where environmental concerns disappear and the virility of the male ego (and, by extension, the American self-image) matters above all else. Where root causes of conflict go unaddressed; where nuance and reading and knowledge are denigrated as the provenance of intellectual sissy fools. These films ‘flatten journalism into a GIF,’ Nicholson argues. ‘They frighten me.'” [Buzzfeed]

Finding solace in the Final Girl as an abuse survivor. [Birth Movies Death]

How My Favorite Murder grants courage to survivors of violence. [Buzzfeed]

Image via Twitter.

On the (Rest of the) Net.

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I wrote about why Lorelai Gilmore is a Cool Girl. [Bitch Flicks]

Is America’s Next Top Model relevant in 2016? [Buzzfeed]

Though I wish she was in the White House and not the wild, I really relate to photos of Hillary Clinton out and about as a post-election salve. [Daily Life]

Why Hillary going makeup free in the wake of her defeat signals a return “to an earlier iteration, reclaiming her identity as the accomplished, aggressive lawyer Hillary Rodham, who pursued success while rejecting the rules put forth by the patriarchy.” [Quartz]

I’ve been thinking about what Catherine Deveny refers to as “financial abortion”—where a biological father legally opts out of an unwanted pregnancy—for a while so I’m glad someone is finally giving voice to this notion. [ABC News]

A history of famous men taking off their shirts. [Buzzfeed]

“The Art of Lobbying Ivanka Trump.” [Jezebel]

Could her rumoured appointment to a First Lady-like position shake up the role traditionally put aside for the President’s spouse? [WaPo]

How a new breed of TV shows are dealing with rape as a plot device. [Variety]

“The Year They Stole Kim Kardashian.” [MTV]

A thoroughly modern Disney princess. [Buzzfeed]

“The Feminist Legacy of The Baby-Sitters Club.” [New Yorker]

Jackie O the Scammer. [MTV]

This is what having a miscarriage is like. [Medium]

Women built Standing Rock. [Jezebel]

How Scream reflects the small-town mentality of America, 20 years after its premiere. [MTV]

Why did rape allegations derail Nate Parker’s career but Casey Affleck is an Oscar contender despite alleged sexual misconduct? [Buzzfeed]

More reading material can be found at the latest Down Under Feminists Carnival. [Zero at the Bone]

ICYMI: My favourite books of the year.

My piece for Calling Spots‘ last issue about navigating kayfabe in the reality era of wrestling is now live.

Image source unknown.

My Favourite Articles That I Wrote in 2016.

2016, it’s fair to say, was a pretty shit year for humanity in general. For me personally, though, it was pretty good. I’ve published the most freelance work I ever have, and I’m writing this from New York City, where I’ve been seeing out the apocalypse (the Mayans were wrong: 2016 is the end of their calendar and, thus, the world) for the past two months. Here are some of my favourite things I’ve published this year.

“Beyoncé Makes Us Want to Be Better People” & “The Kardashians Are Better Than You”The Vocal.

Some of the most fun I’ve had writing was for The Vocal and I think these were two of my best pieces. I love writing about controversial issues and controversial women, and these two subjects certainly tick those boxes.

“Kim Kardashian: Our Modern-Day Monroe”, The Big Smoke.

Similarly, what’s more controversial than comparing perhaps the most reviled woman in contemporary culture with the iconic, though equally disdained, Marilyn Monroe?

“In Defence of Eva Marie”Calling Spots.

And in the wrestling world, who is more controversial than Total Divas star Eva Marie? I wrote in defence of her for Calling Spots magazine.

“Whorephobia & Misogyny in Wrestling: Still Real to Me, Dammit”, Harlot.

Short-lived feminist site Harlot let me write about what a travesty it was that woman wrestler Chyna wasn’t inducted into the World Wrestling Entertainment Hall of Fame. She died a month later.

“The State of Women’s Wrestling”SBS Zela.

Writing for SBS’s now-shuttered women’s sports site Zela was one of the defining moments in my career. A writer and editor I’ve long admired (but who I thought didn’t even know I existed!) recommended me to Zela editor Danielle Warby to cover the women’s wrestling renaissance. My favourite piece was an overview of the year in women’s wrestling up to that point in one of my last articles for the site.

“Nia Jax: Not Like Most Girls”, “Smack Talker! Daniel Bryan’s Tiresome Vocal Misogyny” &  “A Woman’s Place Should Be in the White House—And in the Cell”Intergender World Champs.

With Zela and Harlot shutting down, I was without a place to write about women’s wrestling for a time. Then along came Intergender World Champs, for which I’ve written an assortment of things.

“Why Celebrities Prefer Empowerment to Feminism”Daily Life.

I’d long been thinking about “women’s empowerment” and what it even means, and I got to write about it for my first piece for Daily Life, an outlet I’d been trying to crack for years.

“Trading in the Beauty Economy”feminartsy.

I’d been pushing words around in this piece for ages and feminartsy allowed me to publish it.

“The James Deen Allegations: How Porn Sets the Example for Responding to Sexual Assault”Archer.

My first piece for Archer was a look at the rape allegations against James Deen and what mainstream industries can learn from porn’s response to them.

“This is the Most Devastating & Political Season of Orange is the New Black Yet”Junkee.

Getting paid to write about things you enjoy doing is a pretty good gig.

“Women of The People VS. OJ Simpson, The Big Smoke.

Ditto.

“Why An Australian Woman Felt Compelled to Go Door-to-Door Campaigning for Hillary Clinton”Daily Life.

Though not my last published piece for 2016, what better way to cap off a tumultuous year than by writing about volunteering for Hillary Clinton?!

On the (Rest of the) Net.

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I wrote about the damaging notions of “most girls” and “real women” in wrestling for a new intersectional wrestling site. [Intergender World Champs]

I also wrote about blogging nostalgia and why I no longer identify as a blogger. [Writers Bloc]

I’m at F is for Feminism writing about being child-free by choice.

And my latest piece for SBS is on white writers telling black stories.

The catch-22 women who experience depression from taking the pill face when they have no other options. [Daily Life]

“I’m a woman wrestler and a survivor of intimate partner violence.” [Motto]

The frightening similarities between Election and the current U.S. presidential race. [The Cut]

How women’s magazines repositioned themselves to be major players in the political press. [Vox]

Elena Ferrante’s outing and Kim Kardashian’s robbery are two sides of the same privacy coin. [The Cut]

Couples with Down syndrome don’t need to be sterilised, they need to be supported. [Daily Life]

Birth of a Nation gives its women characters the short straw. [Vulture]

“Pussygate” was the final nail in Donald Trump’s presidential coffin, and women voters will make him pay for it at the ballot box. [NYTimes]

Trump’s abhorrent misogyny has brought to light the Republican party’s view of women as extensions of the men who own them. [The Cut]

Image via SE Scoops.

On the (Rest of the) Net.

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I wrote about celebrity feminism and whether it’s helping or hindering the movement. [Feminartsy]

Just over a year out from the so-called “Divas Revolution”, I examine the state of women’s wrestling. [SBS Zela]

Kim Kardashian isn’t a feminist but she is empowered. I wrote about the difference for Daily Life a few weeks ago. [Kim Kardashian West]

Harley Quinn and the problem with Crazy Bitch Syndrome. [Quartz]

Hollywood hates queer girls. [Buzzfeed]

Maybe we should be apologising to Katherine Heigl for sexistly dismissing her as a diva and subsequently ruining her career. [The Cut]

In praise of fat, black, sex-positive female musicians. [Medium]

Boys do worse than girls at school because patriarchy. [Daily Life]

The domestic abuse suffered by Lindsay Lohan and the “perfect victim” narrative. [The Frisky]

Why trans women love chokers. [Mic]

Olympic swimmer Fu Yuanhui talking about how having her period affected her performance was groundbreaking. Now let’s normalise it in everyday life. [Daily Life]

The treatment of South African Olympian Caster Semenya’s body is sexist. [Daily Life]

Women Olympians are supportive of each other even as they’re competing against each other. [The Cut]

Women’s sport should be up there with men’s sport, however the shuttering of SBS Zela unfortunately proves that they’re not.

Image via Zeteo.

On the (Rest of the) Net.

Why didn’t we hear about the killing of 19 disabled people in Japan, the country’s largest mass murder since WWII? [Daily Life]

We should stop listening to Sonia Kruger. [Junkee]

Barack Obama is a feminist. As if we didn’t know that already. [Glamour, ThinkProgress, Time]

Renee Zellweger is the latest celeb to pen a scathing op ed on her treatment by the media. [HuffPo]

On Korryn Gaines’ death and why we should #SayHerName. [Fusion]

Without dead women, there is no online feminist movement. [Jezebel]

Kim Kardashian benefits from feminism without having to claim the term. [Buzzfeed]

The Olympics offers a reprieve from men’s sport. [Daily Life]

Further to that, how to write about female Olympians. [The Guardian]

SBS Zela has had its funding cut. Save the site so Australian women’s sport gets the coverage it deserves. [Change.org]

The inherent sexism of method acting. [The Atlantic]