So first I want to say this, I am not a fan of the Kardashians. The fact that I am now writing an entire posed inspired by one of their antics kind of makes my stomach churn a little. I don’t actually know any of them so I can’t pass judgment on their real characters or personalities, but they do not entertain me and generally have not offered anything of substance to the world that I personally feel justifies their level of fame or idolism. All of that said, I wouldn’t be writing a post about this except that the whole fiasco brought up some very good discussions about women’s body image and body shaming, particularly for post partum women.
Last week I opened up the internet and was bombarded with headlines along the lines of “Kim K Posts Post-Baby Nude Selfie on Instagram.” I saw these and my first reaction was to roll my eyes a little and move on to other news sites and other articles. Then one of those other news sites included the thumbnail of the picture with its headline. “Really,” I thought to myself as I glanced at it, annoyed that someone posting a nude photo of themselves would garner so much front page media attention. My other thought when I glanced at it was, “tasteless.” The next day, though, my interest started to get piqued. I started seeing little headlines about social media feuds that were happening as a result of her selfie. Celebrities such as Better Midler, Pink, and Chloe Grace Moretz had posted on social media chiding her about the photo, and then Kim K responded with an essay I knew I had to read, defending her nude photo as empowering.
I am incredibly torn with this. My instant, gut reaction is along the lines of the other celebrities – tasteless, inappropriate, etc. However, when I read her essay I have to agree that she has some valid points. I am a huge supporter of promoting positive body image to women and girls. I am a huge supporter of promoting acceptance and love for one’s body after giving birth. So it feels hypocritical to judge and criticize a woman for her own personal display of pride in her body.
I try to be very careful around my daughter. I don’t talk about disliking any part of my body. I don’t even own a scale, so she will never see me obsessing over little numbers. I tell her that I love her belly, and her smile, and strong legs – I also tell her that she’s smart and kind and that I love her determination when she’s trying to do something herself. I don’t talk about diets or losing weight. Instead we talk about eating healthy and being active and healthy. My hope is that I can raise a girl who loves her body more for what it can do for her and less for what it physically looks like.
I myself struggled with body image for a long time. I used to obsessively weigh myself, and if the number on that little scale went up at all I would feel huge disappointment. I knew when I was pregnant that it would be important for me to get back in shape as quickly as possible. So we hired a personal trainer that I worked with once a week for 12 weeks and he got me back into better shape than I was before I got pregnant. Then life happened, we moved across the country, my post partum depression took greater hold of me, and then I started a new job taking away a lot of the free time I had gotten used to having. All of this has led me to a place where I’m not in the physical shape I want to be in, but as I have become more involved working with pregnant women and maternal health issues, I’ve come to have a greater acceptance for my body.
Having a baby changes a woman’s body for forever. There are some changes that are physically impossible to undo, and there are some changes that with effort can be reversed. But that effort takes time and dedication, and I know from experience that the time and energy available to a woman to pursue that effort once she has a child, or two, or three, to chase around – and especially if she has a job outside of being a mom – will ebb and flow. There is a lot of pressure in society for a woman to look a certain way, and there is some crazy false belief that if a woman can’t get back to her pre-baby weight and look within a matter of months, then she is just lazy. The fact is every woman’s body reacts to the changes of pregnancy differently. Some will look like they’ve never been pregnant a day in their life almost instantly, and some will take years to find a new normal for their body. Neither situation is wrong, and both types of women should be applauded and encouraged to love and take pride in their body as it is during each stage of change – they grew a person with it after all!
And so I come back to the Kim K nude selfie, which is supposedly post giving birth to her second child (how long post birth I don’t know, and honestly I don’t care enough to look up). I can’t help but think some of the vitriol surrounding the posting of the photo has more to do with who posted it and who it is of, than the fact that it is a nude photo. And to that end, I can’t join in criticizing it. If a woman feels confident enough in her post-baby body (or pre-baby body), and loves the way she looks enough to take a nude photo and post it for the world to see – and as long as it is completely her choice to take and share such a photo – I don’t think she should be shamed about it. Could the photo have been taken in a more tasteful, artsy way, absolutely, but that doesn’t mean she be shamed for feeling good enough about herself to post it.
However, I still dislike the photo, something about it leaves a bad taste in my mouth. After thinking it over for a while, I think I’ve finally figure out what my lingering issue is. The caption she included with it. “When you’re like I have nothing to wear LOL.” This is what keeps me from being able to fully get behind her posting of it. This caption to me indicates that at the time she posted it, it wasn’t about saying “hey I love my post-baby body!” Instead, that caption gives me the impression that in the moment, it was posted purely in an attention seeking way. Only afterward when she had to defend herself did she come out with the idea that posting it was about feeling proud and empowered with her body. I just don’t for one second actually believe she posted the photo to make a powerful statement about confidence or empowerment. So Kim, I’m glad you love your body and all, but to take a saying from Trevor Noah, don’t feed me crap and call it pizza.
This then leads to another question: is it ever empowering for women to publicize nude photos, or even nearly nude photos, of themselves? This is a difficult one. We unfortunately live in a world where women, and unfortunately even girls, are hyper sexualized. We are bombarded with messages that our worth and value is tied to our bodies and our looks, and the more perfect they are the more worth and value we have as a person. This creates a dilemma. On one hand, posting nude or nearly nude photos can be viewed as helping perpetuate this concept that women are objects to be ogled; on the other hand, if a woman who doesn’t fit the society standard of perfection posts a photo like this it can be viewed as standing up to say that she is worth just as much with her imperfections as a woman without obvious imperfection. Ultimately, for me, it comes down to the purpose of the photo. The 4th Trimester Bodies Project is a beautiful example of how these types of photos can be truly empowering and can counter the notion that women must look a certain way. The project combines stunning photos of mothers along with their stories of their births – or losses. The idea of the project is to celebrate all women, and the journey’s their bodies have taken them on in the effort to create and bring life into the world. I am beyond excited that I myself get to participate with a session I have booked next month.
To wrap this whole post up, I personally am not a fan of the Kim K photo. I don’t believe it was posted with the intention of promoting self confidence or empowerment for women. However, I appreciate that the incident brought these discussions to light. In the end I can’t say that nude photos are never empowering for women, but I will say that I believe whether or not they are really, truly depends on the purpose for which they are taken and shared. I don’t ever want my daughter to believe it is appropriate or necessary for her to share such images as a way of seeking attention or getting approval from others; however, if she were to ever (legally) post one with the intention of promoting self confidence and positive body image, there is no way I would be able to criticize or chastise her – after all she would only be demonstrating the lessons I am trying to teach her. Although if she ever does decide to publicize nude photos of herself, I really hope she will have learned something from me about good lighting, framing, and angles when it comes to photography.