Just when you thought that perhaps the sun was rising on a new dawn of gender equality, you open the Internet are blindsided by…
Kim Kardashian’s bottom.
And that’s not all. Two days after ‘Paper Magazine’ in NYC released the picture of Kim balancing a champagne glass on her naked derriere as an arc of bubbly went from bottle to, well, bottom, they pushed things a step further and released the full frontal nudity shot.
To say my mouth was still hanging open after the first picture wouldn’t be quite the full story. I think I was mostly sighing in despair for the massive step back it felt we as women – as society – had taken. Especially in light of recent news coverage of Emma Watson’s speech to the UN on behalf of the HeforShe campaign. While her speech was widely criticised even by many self-identified feminists, I felt that it was most definitely a solid, positive example of a young woman using her celebrity to give voice to a cause that affects all of us.
For many men, even some I know and greatly admire, feminism is more about ranting and scary women than an issue that affects people they love. I’ve even had conversations with some of them who are genuinely confused and a bit clueless that inequality is even still an issue. Yet Kim Kardashian’s bottom has received far less negative backlash than Emma Watson’s speech to the UN. How is this possible?
I think it is because, as much as we may want to embrace the idea that we are in this third wave of feminism, perhaps we aren’t as far along as we hoped we were.
I recently spent significant time abroad working in a particularly unequal culture – one where women did all the work both in the fields and at home, raised the children and still had to walk behind their men and know their place. It was part of my role there to write and pilot an education course on gender equality. I trialed it with a group of both male and female indigenous students.
One thing that really struck me as we went through the course, was that they were all open and honest about the source of the inequality. They knew it was a huge problem that they wanted to find ways to change.
Coming back to the UK I found it fairly depressing that we aren’t so honest. We claim to have more equality than many of these developing nations. In actual fact, we (un)dress up our inequality in a popular culture that tries to pass itself off as art.
It can often feel like we are taking one step forward and ten steps back, especially when celebrity women still so often insist that getting naked is the path to female empowerment. But before we throw our hands in the air in despair or resignation, maybe there’s something we can do.
In fact, I believe there are many things we can do to make a real difference in the fight for equality. It’s pretty simple: be kind to yourself – when it comes to how you look, perform, think and interact – do it on your own terms and try not to buy into the stereotypes we’ve all grown up with that demand some kind of perfection.
When it comes to other women in your life – encourage them, build them up, champion them. They are not your competition. You are in this together.
And when it comes to the men in your life? Have the hard conversations, challenge the #everydaysexism and be patient – their experience is not the same as yours but if they love you, they will want to understand and act.
It only takes one person to start a quiet revolution in their everyday and just maybe that person is you!
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