The Feminist Media Reader #7 - Plus-size models, Kiera Knightley and Kim Kardashian's donut butt

by - Saturday, November 15, 2014

Well, well, well, it's been quite the week/month for nudity hasn't it? I had resigned myself to discussing the cult of Dapper Laughs this weekend on The Feminist Media Reader, but then, of course, a certain lady came along and broke the internet. But more of that in a minute.

At the complete other end of the spectrum to Kim's curvaceous rear, this week started out with a very different body debate. In the modelling industry, thinner has always been better, to the point that it's no longer a surprise when yet another waif wafts out on the catwalk, draped in fabric with cheekbones so sharp that the designer could use their faces as a 2-for-1 fabric cutter. On the whole, this has never bothered me - fashion designers have to try their samples out on the smallest girls to save fabric and cut costs. Some models - like Kim's sister, Kendall Jenner - really are that skinny without skipping meals, and as far as I'm concerned, criticising a girl for being too naturally skinny is about as bad as taking the piss out of a curvy girl. What DOES get me though, is this: 

In what world should size 10 be considered plus? Does this women in any way look overweight to you? And in fact, would it really matter if she was? As long as someone is healthy, diminishing them down to a size classification seems to be portraying utterly the wrong message to young impressionable women. Calvin Klein is a legendary designer who makes clothes that reach retail in a size array that suits all body shapes, so why must it be news that he's picked someone a little bigger than Jordan Dunn or Cara Delevigne, but just as gorgeous? For her height, Myla is exactly the right weight, so why does the media insist on picking her out as being 'extra' instead of just celebrating how stunning she is? 

The answer is simple: high fashion (and even high-street fashion) is intended to dictate to us a vision, perfected by the designers, and uniformity is key in making sure their fabric drapes in exactly the right way, matches their original drawings. I myself am a healthy size twelve, but if I were to dshop in the likes of Hollister, H&M or even Topshop, I have occasionally been known to have to buy a size 'L' or in the case of Hollister, even 'XL', which seems frankly ridiculous. Fair play to Klein for challenging the status quo, but take a leaf out of Meadham Kirchoff's book - run a call-out for models of ALL shapes and sizes, and show how your fashion looks on every type of women. Now that is a challenge, and that is encouraging of feminism. The same goes for realistically sized mannequins - get them in stores! After all, surely you're much less likely to return a garment in bitter disappointment if you CAN actually work the outfit just like it looks on the mannequin? High fashion is one thing, but for clothes that the average girl can actually afford, it would be nice to see them sold in a way that doesn't make us feel 'large'.

Images courtesy of Interview Magazine 2014

Speaking of telling it how it is, let's chat about Kiera Knightley. The actress has received a lot of attention recently for her own topless photoshoot for Interview magazine, a protest against the photoshopping industry. You can quite clearly see that, like most women, one breast is slightly larger than the other, and they look gloriously normal rather than the perky pair you've come to know her movie posters for. A brilliantly feminist action that should see many of young girls stop worrying, and millions of young boys realise that not all boobs look like inflatables. 

However, the cynic in me is a little confused at why someone like Kiera is heralded as a modern hero, but someone like Jennifer Lawrence, who refused to apologise for her nude photo leak, is still being treated like someone shameful for refusing to apologise about taking the photos. It's like cheering on someone who's having sex in front of you, but then shunning a girl who was raped. Jennifer was a victim of a sex crime out of her control, Keira is someone who is willingly making a statement, albeit one that merrily coincides with the promotion of her latest movie. Who should we really be rallying behind? I'm wholly supportive of both forms of sexual ownership, but why are Keira's photos somehow more legitimate than Jennifer's lack of apology? Maybe I've become desensitised by the media, but as far as I'm concerned, bodies are bodies  - clothed or not clothed, if a woman is happy with her own, we should be too.

Which brings me on to the star attraction of the week. I doubt anyone on this planet hasn't encountered Kim Kardashian's krispy-kreme glazed rear, boobs and down-trou area as she attempts to break the internet. Let me first say this; is the sort of photoshoot I would do? No. Am I as hot as Kim Kardashian? DEFINITELY not. For a woman who somehow made a leaked sex tape into a million-dollar career, you have to respect how well she knows her audience, owns her body and always manages to shock, delight and enrage people merely by showing something that everybody the world over has. The criticisms of 'Kanye wouldn't like it' and 'what a bad mother' simply underline why we need feminism and sexual agency for women so badly - why on earth should we be telling a successful businesswoman how to make her money? If anything, I don't think the pictures are sexy at all - they're fun, cheeky and totally knowing, with the near on-comical photoshopping intentionally placed to make Kim a cartoon, a Jessica-Rabbit hourglass caricature of herself. 

Between Nicki Minaj and Meghan Trainor, there is no doubt that this has been the year of the butt, and once again, Kim is taking a trend and making it work for her. Kim absolutely would have okayed this photoshopping, so what makes her pictures any less worthy than Kiera's? Why is she called a shameless exhibitionist and a bad wife? Who is really the one laughing - the woman who's just injected over $40 million dollars into her daughter's trust fund, or us scornfully rolling our eyes at her ass, but still going back for a second jealous look? The racial undertones of the shoot are admittedly concerning (and will be saved for a later blog), but much like Kanye's insistence use of the 'N' word, I suspect that it was a move only too intentional. After all, as Watch The Throne once said: "it's provocative -it gets the people going."

The point of this long and extended ramble, is thus: Bodies are bodies. Boobs are boobs. How a women decides to wear hers is entirely up to her. But don't assume that the intentions of the white British actresses are necessarily more wholesome than those of the Armenian socialite. Just because you wouldn't pose in the same way yourself, doesn't mean there is a 'right' and a 'wrong' way to relate to your own body. And just because your ass doesn't look like a krispy kreme, doesn't mean it can't be worthy. Let's just all lay off each other and appreciate what we've go eh?

For further reading, I refer you to this excellent article by The Daily Dot - 'Your Hatred of Kim Kardashian Only Makes Her Stronger'

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