Body shamers have been comparing Kylie Jenner to Malia Obama. Here’s why that’s no different than date rape.
So over the past few days I have seen this image creep around my Facebook timeline:
The caption that heads the post is always the same,
“These two girls are both 17. Do you see the difference?”
I have to cringe when I see posts like this mostly because of the comments that follow beneath.
“…One has plastic surgery and looks like she is 25-30 years old,(her sisters and the medias influence),and the other one is and looks like a normal 17-year-old high school girl!…”
“Left trollop. Right class.”
“I have to say the classy teenager wins….”
” One still a virgin the other is not!!!”
The real difference between these two young ladies? One woke up and decided to wear a cute little red dress and contour it up and the other decided to pair an adorable vintage-inspired blouse with a high-waisted skirt and a fresh natural look. That’s it. The problem is we apply a rule to age in our society and if someone does not abide by that implied rule, we ridicule them in some attempt to ensure chaos doesn’t break out in the streets.
I think people are forgetting that at 17 years old – you feel pretty grown – especially as a woman. You’re old enough to have a child, you’re about to be done with primary education and enter college, you may be sexually active and feeling very in charge of yourself. Another thing people are forgetting? Kylie and Malia both own their bodies – no one else. Their parents don’t own them, their boyfriends don’t own them and shifty Facebook commenters definitely don’t own them. But we’ve grown accustomed to telling women what they can do with their bodies, and shaming them into feeling over or under-dressed is just another way to oppress our fellow sisters. Let me challenge some of these rigid stereo types and hit you with a few facts:
“Shaming” someone is simply the act of making your private opinion about their business a public statement. You’re putting negative energy into a space where it’s not needed. No one is physically attacking you. No one is hurting you. Yet the hostility evoked by a simple OOTD side-by-side is making you equate another human being to the lowest possible denominator – their appearance. Just because you feel a certain way about something does not mean you have been handed an invitation to break someone down according to how you feel the world should operate.
As women, our bodies will make you nervous. This is not our problem. If hips on a 14-year-old make you feel some type of way – seek counseling. But her hips are there for a god-given reason and should she bear them to a mirror, a boy or a camera by her own choice, then so she shall.
There is no quotient of fabric that constitutes promiscuity. In the bush of Africa and the jungles of Papua New Guinea women bear their breasts and men wear nothing but bone sheaths over their penises – this is not considered “trashy” or “slutty”. It is not what we see but the meaning we inject it with. Our words and our condemnation is what fuels the very thing that creates fear in you when you think about your daughter or sister turning 16. Don’t feed the beast.
Understand that shaming a women (or girl) for how she looks teaches our boys to do the same. It applies the exact same logic of date rape and it’s the reason so many young men grow up with the miseducation that women’s bodies are theirs to protect, invade or comment on.
A woman of any age can give her body to a man of any age if she deems him worthy. Not because he is raping her, not because he is influencing her and not because she is trying to prove something. But because she is intrigued by her body and his and wants to have a sexual experience. This is her right. This is her magic.
Malia Obama may not want to wear a ton of make-up, hair extensions, a bodycon dress and rock lip fillers but what if she did? If the second her father is out of the office she decides to hire a full-time glam squad and date a rapper would that mean she would lose the respect of the nation? Would that shit on all the things we believe her to be? Would she lose her “honor”? And if Kylie suddenly dropped the glam, went to art school and dated some geeky 18-year-old would we praise her and decide she can suddenly be a positive role model? The problem isn’t what these ladies look like or what they do with their time. The problem is how we perceive them solely by what we SEE.
Realize the Bottom Line
The problem is we’re surrounded by opinions these days. We all live in a very diverse country – there is no uniculture here. It’s both a beautiful and a scary thing. What it ultimately means is that you have to decide what you stand for and realize what that comes with. Me, I stand for equality and human rights. I also stand for a lot of other things that make me feel like I would rather not see a bunch of 17 year olds who wear a ton of make up and dress provocatively because maybe they really aren’t as mature as Kylie Jenner and will attract attention they aren’t actually ready for. However, that’s what comes with self liberty. That’s what comes with allowing women to own their bodies and make their own decisions about those bodies. If I say Kylie is somehow less than or worse than Malia because of her appearance I am actually supporting the same logic that says women cannot choose to abort their own embryos, that date-rape victims were asking for it, that some black people should be considered shooting practice, that gay people should exist outside of their own communities.
I don’t have a daughter. I have a son. But if I did have a daughter and she came to me and expressed that Kylie Jenner was one of her idols I would first remind her that her only idol should be herself. Then I would ask her what about Jenner she admires. Then I would take a little time and find out what Jenner is about (which I did to write this post). I would tell my daughter that I hope she admires her for being athletic and adventurous, buying her own home before she turned 18 and supporting her father as he transitioned from one gender to another – which takes empathy and bravery. I would remind my daughter that we don’t idolize or criticize women for what they look like, because it’s an attitude that comes back and hurts us every day in our own lives. Frankly I would say the same to my son.