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.

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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Should Blake Lively delete her Instagram account after her “L.A. face with an Oakland booty” faux pas? [MTV]

Internalised misogynoir results in the killing of black girls by other black girls:

“Why are black girls killing each other – or at least trying to? At what point does the dehumanisation of people who look, talk and walk like you become so internalised that you don’t think twice about trying to beat them into a bloody pulp…?” [Media Diversified]

I spoke to Neha Kale about embracing solitude and the single life. [SBSLife]

How Blac Chyna beat The Kardashians at their own game and all they can do is watch. [Buzzfeed]

Single women are simultaneously “trying too hard” and “not trying hard enough”. [The Cut]

Actually, real men do hit women. [Meanjin]

The LEMONADE Syllabus. [Candice Benbow]

Facebook wouldn’t publicise Cherchez la Femme’s body positive event featuring an image of plus-size model Tess Holliday out of concerns for fat-shaming, an act of fat-shaming in itself. [Daily Life]

All the ways women are deemed “ugly” an unacceptable, but Donald Trump specifically. [The Cut]

Image via Instagram.

On the (Rest of the) Net.

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In my first piece for The Vocal, I explain why the Kardashians are better than you.

The Grammys hates black women. [Kevin Allred]

Is Deadpool pansexual? [Fusion] 

Women in Zika-affected countries are writing Women on Web for abortion pills. [WaPo]

How do we talk about David Bowie’s statutory rape of Lori Maddox? [Jezebel]

Shonda Rhimes’ shows are depicting abortion in groundbreaking ways. [RH Reality Check]

Kanye West is a modern-day Martin Luther King… but also a black Donald Trump. [Vulture]

How we teach girls to be scared and why we should stop. [NYTimes]

The media is turning Kesha’s rape and legal battle into a celebrity feud between Taylor Swift and Demi Lovato. [Bust]

And enough with all the feminist in-fighting: we should be asking men to speak up about Kesha. [Junkee]

And now for the Hillary Clinton portion of the program…

Let’s not pretend that Clinton being elected as the first woman president wouldn’t be a big fucking deal. [The Establishment]

How treatment of women in the workplace and treatment of Clinton on the campaign trail intersect. [NYTimes]

Representations of Clinton in pop culture. [Broadly]

ICYMI: In the wake of Gloria Steinem’s comments about young women not voting for Hillary Clinton because we’re more interested in who boys are voting for than radical activism, I just had to write in defence of millennials.

Image via Instagram.

On the (Rest of the) Net.

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On U.S. Cosmopolitan naming the Kardashian’s “America’s first family”:

“If our first family is supposed to be an accurate representation of the American people, who’d be a better choice than this absurd, problematic and inexplicably wealthy crew of bad-rapper-enabling Instagram mavens from Hidden Hills, Calif.?” [The Root]

But where’s Caitlyn? [Go Fug Yourself]

Amber Rose’s SlutWalk changed the game for women of colour. [HuffPo]

Reproductive coercion in rap music. [Broadly]

Why do we decry artistic women for being “fake” but praise male artists for the same thing? [The Cut]

White #MasculinitySoFragile is the cause of so much gun violence. [HuffPo]

Why Kim Kardashian West’s pregnancy admission is revolutionary. [Daily Life]

And for more links from Aussie and NZ feminists, including yours truly, check out the latest Down Under Feminists Carnival. [Opinions @ BlueBec]

Image via Time.

Some Thoughts on Bruce Jenner.

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I’ve been loath to contribute my feelings about Bruce Jenner’s coming out as a trans woman to a feminist/humanist/trans rights sphere because, as a cisgender person, the last thing I’d want to do is cisplain.

However, as probably the most well-versed person on human rights in my immediate circle of friends, colleagues and family members, I’ve been throwing my two cents out there whenever the conversation inevitably veres Bruce’s way.

Because the people I’ve been talking to about him* are espousing predictably ignorant views. Things like “what’s his deal?”, “is he a she-he” and “tell me about this Kardashian who now thinks he’s a woman”.

I try not to get angry when explaining that gender is a spectrum, being transgender is a legitimate gender identity, and that it’s not for us to judge a person who’s spent 65 years keeping this secret, but I can feel my expression change as the fury bubbles up inside me.

One person I was actually able to have a tempered conversation with about Bruce wondered whether ignorance to trans issues (and, by extension, race, gender, sexuality, disability, class issues) could excuse such bigoted reactions: “You can’t fault people for not being aware,” she said.

Except you can. How do you think anyone who’s sensitive to minority issues came to be that way? Because they listened to people who are from these communities and actually deal with these things on a daily basis. Read about them in books like Janet Mock’s Redefining Realness and online. Follow enlightened people on Twitter. Watched Bruce’s interview with Diane Sawyer to understand that not everyone who falls under a certain umbrella wants to be addressed in the ways that are generally accepted as politically correct. The information is out there and ripe for the picking so ignorance is not an excuse. I actually have more respect for bigots who are informed about the issues they choose to be so bigoted about, even though I fundamentally disagree with them and think they’re horrible people.

My friend agreed, saying that watching shows like Transparent (which is problematic in it’s own right) has opened her up to trans issues. The problem she has with Bruce’s coming out though, she said, is that he lied about it: “You don’t have to come out, but when he was asked whether he was a trans woman in the past, he said no.”

Sure, there are ways Bruce could have framed his answers to be more ambiguous, but the media still would have spun it to service their agenda. It’s not Bruce’s job to make us more accepting of people who don’t fit our preconceptions.

Imagine the weight on his shoulders being a trans woman whilst also being a) held up as an American hero as an Olympic gold medalist in a sport that women can’t even compete in (thanks, Alice Eve!); and b) a member of a family comprised of some of the most famous women in the world who, whether we agree with it or not, are the epitome of femininity in many instances. (And for all the Kardashian haters who’ve made comments such as those in the third paragraph of this piece, Bruce’s family has actually come out in support of him—a low barometre of decency, but I digress—in his transition which makes them better than you.) No wonder he didn’t feel safe or accepted to come out. (Props to Bruce and ABC for mentioning the very real violence trans people face, especially trans women of colour who aren’t protected by the security Bruce has.)

Maybe it’s just because I try to surround myself with progressive people (at least online if not IRL), but the reaction to Bruce’s interview has been overwhelmingly positive. Those who actually took the time to listen to his experiences can take into account the obstacles put in Bruce’s way that have prevented him from living his truth in public. Maybe it will open their eyes to the obstacles put in the way of other trans people who haven’t been #blessed with the privileges Bruce Jenner has.

*I’m referring to Bruce by his birth name and using male pronouns as that is what he’s stated a preference for at this time and is in line with GLAAD’s guidelines.

Elsewhere: [Slate] Jill Soloway Apologises for Joking About Bruce Jenner on Facebook.

[The Mary Sue] Why Transparent Has Lost the Trust of the Trans Community.

[Jezebel] Alice Eve is Sorry She Said Bruce Jenner is “Playing at Being a Woman”. 

[GLAAD] GLAAD Responds to ABC News Interview with Bruce Jenner, Releases Tip Sheet for Journalists.

Image via ABC News.

On the (Rest of the) Net.

Measuring the success of podcasts. I’m actually the host of Outback Championship Wrestling’s first podcast, launching today, featuring interviews with former World Wrestling Entertainment Heavyweight Champion Alberto El Patron and former WWE Superstar and current TNA star Mr. Ken Anderson. I am under the impression that it’s the first woman-hosted wrestling podcast apart from Renee Young’s 30 Years of WrestleMania podcast last year. So even if you don’t like wrestling, head on over to support a sister. [Columbia Journalism Review, YouTube]

I also recapped last Friday’s show, featuring the abovementioned wrestlers as well as Drew Galloway, Ricardo Rodriguez, Scotty Too Hotty and Gangrel. [Outback Championship Wrestling]

A history of the Kardashians in magazine covers. [Jezebel]

#GiveDivasaChance in video games. [I Play Wrestling]

A partial list of the 22 women who have died at the hands of their partners in Australia this year. [The Guardian]

Shonda Rhimes on the importance of seeing your “tribe” “normalised” on TV. [Medium]

The cinematic history of Cinderella. [NPR Monkey See]

Next-generation feminist blogs you should be reading. [Musings of an Inappropriate Woman]

Gloria Steinem on Mary McCarthy’s The Group. [Reading Our Way to the Revolution]

Men don’t trust women because emotions. [Daily Life]

As The Hoopla folds and MamaMia‘s Debrief Daily and News Ltd’s RendezView launch, here are some headline ideas in case they run out. [Junkee]

“He Monica Lewinsky’d all on my gown”: the 128 rap songs her name has made a cameo in. [The Cut]

“Why Don’t Men Read Books By Women?” [Feministing]

Mansplaining is just the tip of the trolling iceberg. [Flavorwire]

Disability is a feminist issue that’s just not getting enough attention. [Disability & Representation]

ICYMI: Why do we have to celebrate the engagements, weddings and birth announcements on the road well-traveled?