Dear Kim Kardashian: Showing Off Your Naked Boobs Is Boring, Not Brave

Dear Kim Kardashian: Showing Off Your Naked Boobs Is Boring, Not Brave

Kim Kardashian is fifty years late to the sexual revolution.

I don’t usually write about celebrities and culture, or who’s posted the latest Twitter photo of whom. But when I saw the topless photo of Kim Kardashian with model Emily Ratajkowski flipping the bird to the camera, only one thought came to mind: We’ve seen this all before.

I don’t mean we’ve seen these particular women in various states of undress, although that too is true. Kardashian is known for taking pictures of her unusually curvy body and plastering them across social media. People who have criticized her incessant nude selfies have been accused of “slut-shaming” and of promoting patriarchal views of women.

Ratajkowski is perhaps best known for her role in the music video for Robin Thicke’s “Blurred Lines.” In it, she wears nude-colored clothing that leaves the viewer at times unsure of what they have and haven’t seen of her body. This newest selfie clearly isn’t her first rodeo.

In reaction to this latest batch of social media self-exposure, Piers Morgan is declaring that feminism is dead. But he’s missing a more important point here. These women aren’t doing anything new. They’re just a dull echo of my mother’s generation.

Let’s Remember Why Women Rebelled

In the 1960s and 1970s, women rebelled against what they saw as a restrictive and male-dominated society. Prior to that time, the majority of women stayed home and raised a family. It’s important to remember that this wasn’t a deliberate choice they were making, as it is today. Often, women were not welcome in the workplace in anything other than educational or secretarial capacities. They were treated like fragile, not-too-bright dolls (think Betty Draper in “Mad Men”).

It wasn’t uncommon to see female protestors at rallies in the 1960s and ‘70s going topless as a political statement about their freedom and rights.

Just take a look at some of the guides for how to be a good wife from that era, and you’ll get the picture. Sage advice about always looking attractive for your husband and not burdening him with your problems when he comes home from a hard day’s work are some choice highlights.

So, women rebelled. An entire generation of women wanted to tell the world that they are here, too, and deserve equal treatment. Half of the population felt silenced in the national political and cultural arena. And a big part of that had to do with their bodies. They wanted to send a message that their bodies were their own, but also that they were sexual beings with sexual needs, just like men were.

This manifested itself in several ways ranging from the tragic, like abortion, to the more quotidian. Women began to reject the restrictive clothing of the 1950s, specifically the stiff formed dresses and, more importantly, the bras. They didn’t want to hide their body beneath the structure of this undergarment, which to them was a symbol of the restrictions of the patriarchy. So they went braless.

Others went further. It wasn’t uncommon to see female protestors at rallies in the 1960s and ‘70s going topless as a political statement about their freedom and rights. And it was truly shocking at the time. Women used their bodies and, specifically, nudity, as a tool of empowerment.

Mean Comments Aren’t Systemic Injustice

Back to today: these are the exact same arguments Kardashian makes in defense of her topless selfies. Earlier this month she wrote: “I am empowered by my body. I am empowered by my sexuality. I am empowered by feeling comfortable in my skin. I am empowered by showing the world my flaws and not being afraid of what anyone is going to say about me. And I hope that through this platform I have been given, I can encourage the same empowerment for girls and women all over the world.”

But what are the terrible injustices that the super-famous Kardashian and Ratajkowski are protesting with their ‘defiant’ act?

Yes, it’s nice to see a curvy women considered sexy instead of the usual thin-as-a-ruler model. But empowerment through sexuality? This is what the 1960s was all about. When Kim defiantly gives the camera the finger while posing topless, as if to say “I can post pictures of myself naked because ‘damn the man,’ I won’t be held down anymore,” it all feels terribly passé. She’s about 50 years late to the sexual revolution.

What’s more, what exactly is it that she’s taking a stand for? At least our mothers’ generation was reacting to the restrictive 1950s and a culture of being more or less house-bound (or severely limited in the workplace).

Whether you’re a fan of this era or not, regardless of how you feel about the tactics they used, there is an argument to be made that it was a necessary cultural pushback. But what are the terrible injustices that the super-famous Kardashian and Ratajkowski are protesting with their “defiant” act?

I’m sorry, ladies. What you think of as cutting edge and “brave” is just a hollow shell of a sexual revolution that ended decades ago. Go put your shirts back on and fight against some real injustice.

M.G. Oprea is editor of the foreign policy newsletter INBOUND. She holds a PhD in French linguistics from the University of Texas at Austin. You can follow her on Twitter here.
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