The Kardashians: inspiring or damaging to women?

By Talia Klein Perez
 Getty Images: Jason Merritt
*Updated 2020
Love them or hate them, the Kardashian family is constantly at the forefront of pop culture. Their social encounters, physical appearances, embrace of gender transitioning and transgender issues, and all-female powerhouse business empire continue to capture the world’s attention. Their looks and endeavors, both social and political, are always making headlines and prompting discussion both on and offline.
In light of the fact that after 14 years and 20 seasons, the Kardashian family has decided to end their reality TV show, Keeping Up With The Kardashians, we thought it was timely to discuss its – and their – impact. Here are three reasons why the brand set forth by the Kardashian clan is inspiring to girls and women and three reasons why it is damaging to them.


The Kardashians serve as a source of female empowerment


Redefining the meaning of power

Utilizing social media and the “selfie,” the Kardashian women have taken the reigns when it comes to expressing their selves and their sexuality. By choosing the circumstances of how to document and broadcast their everyday lives, the Kardashians have greater control over how they are viewed and perceived. They choose to advertise their personas at over $1 million per sponsored Instagram post, rather than being exploited by others. Instead of allowing the paparazzi and gossip rags to spin any story they fancy, the Kardashians are the first to break news of their goings and comings, not to mention new births, including raising awareness about surrogacy. The women, themselves, nurture and release the dialogue and stories they want to be heard.

The Kardashians are also harnessing their influence to raise awareness for political issues. Kim has been no stranger to the White House, meeting with President Trump multiple times to advocate for prison reform, a cause that has inspired her to study to become a lawyer, a career move that reminds everyone of the possibility to reinvent oneself. Her siblings have also used their platforms to shine the spotlight on various social causes ranging from homelessness to surrogacy, Planned Parenthood to the Armenian genocide.


Teaching women to overcome obstacles

Sadly, the Kardashian women are no strangers to hard times. From losing their patriarch to enduring violation in the form of “revenge porn,” robbery, pregnancy-related health issues, and cheating scandals days before giving birth, the Kardashians have a history of turning lemons into lemonade. They are stupendous models of compassion while overcoming a messy divorcelearning to co-parent and coping with loved ones’ (i.e., Kanye West) mental health issues and romantic partners’ addictions. Not to mention, their public acceptance of step-dad Bruce Jenner’s very public transition into Caitlyn Jenner did wonders for the normalizing transgender issues and raising awareness for the trans community.


Serving as the poster-women for female-led empires

Despite many breakthroughs in the female working world, corporate America is still largely a male-dominated arena. By launching and managing their careers, companies and public appearances, the Kardashian women serve as an inspiration to girls and women looking to make it up an ostensibly testosterone-filled echelon. Spearheaded by mom-ager Kris (Kardashian) Jenner, Khloe, Kourtney, Kim, Kylie and Kendall have launched and continue to run an impressive line of products, endorsement deals and ventures, with a collective net worth estimated to be worth more than $1.6 billion. If that’s not inspirational to girls and women, what is?


The Kardashians’ public image is damaging to girls and women


Unrealistic beauty standards create body dissatisfaction

Reality television shows such as “Keeping up with the Kardashians,”  the Kardashian Beauty line of cosmetics, their fashion brands, and the ladies’ individual social media accounts set high standards of beauty that are unrealistic and unobtainable by the average American woman. Failing to emulate the popular Kardashian women’s body shapes, hair and makeup regimen (who among us mere mortals can afford a $4,500 skincare routine?) and clothing choices can lead girls and women to overly focus on their exterior, developing body and self-image issues.


Promote compromising behavior

A sex tape, nude selfies, cocktails, shopping… let’s face it, the Kardashian women are not exactly the epitome of modern model female behavior. From Kim dressing her young daughter in a corset dress to her endorsing appetite suppressants to Kendall’s tone-deaf Pepsi commercial, rather than using their corporate prowess to demonstrate how women can do the same as their male counterparts, the Kardashians have shown the public how batting your eyelashes, obsessing over appearance and weight, and swishing your skirts can get you ahead in life.


Are totally self-obsessed

The Kardashians are deeply narcissistic, self-obsessed women. It’s what they built their careers on. Yet, because they are always in the public eye, the public is constant witness to and enablers of their egocentric follies. Is this the message we want girls and women to observe and internalize? That unilaterally focusing on yourself will lead to success and satisfaction? (Just look at Kim’s published book of selfie pictures.) Will such observed narcissism teach girls and women that it’s good to love yourself or that there are consequences to only look out for “Number One?”


The Bottom Line: Are the Kardashian women the epitome of the feminist movement or are they capitalizing on women’s insecurities and displaying backward behaviors, according to the feminist mantra? What do you think – do the Kardashians inspire feminism or are they harming it?

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