I don’t keep up with the Kardashians. But millions of people around the world do. Whether you like it or not, what the Kardashians say and do leaves an imprint on our society, and shapes our cultural consciousness.
On Wednesday, July 5, Rob Kardashian posted a series of extremely disturbing photos on his personal Instagram page. He posted naked photos of his ex-girlfriend, Blac Chyna, and accused her of cheating on him. It took Instagram 20 minutes to take down the explicit photos. By that time, it was too late. The whole world had seen.
People tell me that I am two very different people on social media. There’s the Nian on Facebook who posts links to her feminist Crimson articles, starts fights with strangers in the comments section, and yells at misogynists. Then there’s the Nian on Instagram, who posts photos of herself in swimsuits at exotic locales, exchanges sweet pleasantries with strangers in the comments section, and—apparently—perpetuates misogyny by “objectifying herself” and appealing to the male gaze.
For a long time, I knew—or I thought I knew—that the two identities were irreconcilable. I was told that my Instagram account was not only apolitical, but actively anti-feminist. I was “contributing to my own objectification,” I was not “helping the cause,” and I was “giving feminism a bad name.” Articles about feminist Instagram users would showcase women who skateboarded and rode motorbikes and wrote code. These were the “women who lift you up,” as opposed to the Instagram models posing in their swimsuits, who “drag you down.”
In the past, I have criticized some feminists for being too moderate, too conciliatory towards men. I have criticized white feminists like Emma Watson for promoting the idea that gender inequality only exists because women haven’t extended a “formal invitation” to men—and not because men benefit immensely from gender inequality. And I still believe that feminism should, at its core, be a revolutionary, intersectional, and unapologetic movement.
But being a feminist, even a watered-down feminist, comes with repercussions. Even Emma Watson’s conciliatory HeForShe speech, where she spends most of the time talking about all the ways in which men are oppressed, triggered intense backlash. Users on the online message board 4chan threatened to leak Emma Watson’s nude photographs in retaliation for her speech. Even though Emma Watson explicitly said things like “men don’t have the benefits of equality either,” her speech was considered threatening and offensive enough to provoke men to punish her.
In my last article, I wrote about how men benefit from male privilege. I wrote about how men, on a structural level, benefit from a system that establishes male dominance at the expense of women. I wrote, in no uncertain terms, that men are and will always be oppressors.
These statements proved to be extremely controversial. Men, especially those who consider themselves feminists, were angry that I called them oppressors. They invoked the “not all men” argument, and brought up all the ways in which they have supported women’s rights. Many men seemed to consider my statements a personal attack, and became defensive. If all men are oppressors, then what were they supposed to do? Was there nothing that men could do right? Was I simply advocating for male genocide?
Recently, Saturday Night Live produced a skit called “Girl at a Bar” where a woman sitting alone at a bar is repeatedly approached by self-proclaimed feminist men—“not gross guys trying to hit on you or anything”—who make it clear, through their pussyhats and their feminist T-shirts, that they are not one of those “skeazy guys” at a bar. However, after successfully convincing the woman of their feminist credentials, these men use the opportunity make a sexual advance. And when she gently rebuffs their advances, these men become angry, calling her a “bitch” and complaining that “it’s not fair.”
This is the “woke misogynist” that Nona Willis Aronowitz wrote about. This is the self-proclaimed feminist man who proudly attends the Women’s March and reads Judith Butler and casually throws around terms like “gender performativity,” but who also harasses, talks over, belittles, and sexually assaults women.