Humor Magazine

The Paradox of Being A Good Mother (Through The Lens of Kim Kardashian’s Butt)

By Katie Hoffman @katienotholmes

I don’t have any children yet (unless you’re one of those fur baby people who would count my dog, step-dog, and joint custody cat as little ones), but I understand that everything changes when you become a parent. For a while, life becomes a dizzying frenzy of extra laundry from all manner of munchkin voids and mornings that begin at 12:12 AM, and again 1:42 AM, and again 3:26 AM. After that, you’ll spend the rest of your life wondering if you’re doing the right things—if you should’ve bought the temper tantrum-inducing toy or let them stay out past curfew. Without discounting the role of the fathers in a child’s life, it’s hard to deny that when a woman becomes a mother she’s expected to measure up to a long list of expectations barreling her way from in-laws, society, and her own (sometimes deluded) imagination, polluted by Rory and Lorelai’s relationship on Gilmore Girls.

And this is the point of the article that I start talking about Kim Kardashian’s ass.

Like everything else Kim does, everyone’s talking about her new cover of Paper magazine (NSFW), in which she’s holding what appears to be a sequined gown (or a shiny garbage bag?) just below a full moon. It might not have broken the Internet, but it certainly pissed it off. I’m less shocked by this image (Kim isn’t exactly known for her modesty, especially when it comes to showing off this particular part of her body), and more surprised by how much her rump looks like a pair of glazed doughnuts. A lot of people who were outraged by this cover, Glee’s Naya Rivera included (no word on why she came out of the woodwork), were echoing similar sentiments that this picture wasn’t appropriate because Kim is someone’s mother now.

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Initially, I cosigned the shade. It’s a bad look for a mom. I would die if I discovered my mom exposed her cheeks like that when she was younger. Likewise, I would never show my bare ass on a magazine cover when I know that someday my impressionable spawnlings will be able to Google my entire existence. I have this very vivid image of a group of mean kids huddling under the slide at the playground laughing at the picture of my anaconda-immune ass while my son or daughter tries to put on a brave face and act like they aren’t completely mortified by the choices I was too selfish to realize could affect him or her someday. I get it.

But(t), and I don’t just say this because I’ve confessed in the past to being fascinated by the Kardashians and their lives, what are we really saying when we tell a woman how to behave once she procreates? Something that’s troubled me for a long time now is the freedom with which some women share images on social media of themselves breastfeeding their children. It has nothing to do with me thinking breastfeeding is totally gross or that a woman’s nipples should be covered at all times—it has to do with the child in that image who’s being captured while doing something that is completely natural, but also feels incredibly intimate. I don’t know how I’d feel if my mom had posted a picture of me nursing on her Facebook timeline for all her excommunicated high school peers and forgotten college classmates to ogle. Why is there no conversation about that? How is that intrinsically acceptable, but Kim Kardashian doing a nude photoshoot inspires rage? Moreover, what about those beautiful mostly-nude photographs of pregnant celebrities that appear in magazines? It’s clear those pictures aren’t overtly sexual in the same way that Kim’s cover is, but is that not still the image of someone’s mother? Does the baby have to have already been born for that type of pictorial to be considered lewd or inappropriate?

This is all bullshit. Seemingly, it’s okay to be nude or exposed if the pictures capture a woman’s pregnancy glow, or she bares her belly and/or breasts to show how magical motherhood can be. That’s awesome, but it isn’t any more “moral” or “better” than what Kim Kardashian has done for this Paper shoot (or any of her other scantily clad photo shoots and Instagrams she’s posted since having North).

There’s a double standard here, and we’re choosing to ignore it because Kim made a sex tape once upon a time, her fame hinges on being in the media, and everyone’s decided that she’s replaced Nickelback as public enemy number one. I’m not advocating that all moms should grease their asses, but maybe we (myself included) need to accept that the pristine Madonna (not the Material Girl) image mothers are meant to uphold is something every woman needs to define for herself. In other words, if you wanna grease up your ass, you should be entitled to do so without people saying your children should be taken by child protective services. I think we all (woman and men) have lots of ideas about what a woman should do when she becomes a mother. In some families, it means staying home to be a full-time mom. In others, it means you stop drinking so much wine on the weekends. Some women feel compelled to wear longer-length dresses or cover their cleavage. It’s different for every woman.

In Kim’s case, if the issue is simply that the photos are immodest at best and pornographic at worst, how is that any different than an actress filming a full-frontal nudity sex scene? Say what you want about Kim’s talents (or lack thereof), but appearing on and in magazines is part of how she makes a living. It may not have the same prestige as appearing in the buff on the big screen (or any other less-greasy capacity), but we shouldn’t feel entitled to accuse her of not behaving how a proper mother should behave just because we don’t respect her fame. I mean, if Blake Lively did this same cover a year from now, would anyone be mad? There are plenty of women (Heidi Klum, Gisele Bundchen, Miranda Kerr, the list goes on…) who have worn lingerie or appeared nude on a beach, in a magazine, or a runway–where’s our disdain for them?

It should also be said that nothing, I repeat, nothing gives anyone the right to make derogatory comments about North, a one-year old child who isn’t automatically guilty of something just because people love to hate her parents. Kim’s choice to pose nude doesn’t have any correlation to North’s probability of making her own sex tape in the future, becoming a stripper, or dabbling in prostitution. She’s a baby, and people are already sexualizing her in the future tense because they don’t like seeing Kim’s ass. What in the fuck? Is the air so thin up on everyone’s high horse that no one realizes saying that kind of stuff in the same breath as, “Kim’s a bad person!” might call their own character into question? (By the same token, Kris Jenner doesn’t need to part of this conversation, either.)

The question of, “Is that appropriate for a mother?” is hardly new, but it’s only getting more complicated thanks to Twitter, Instagram, and everything else to come. Most mothers (and future mothers) will never have to decide if they want to pose nude to be photographed by some famous photographer for a magazine no one’s heard of, but it’s still difficult to walk that line between appropriate and inappropriate. I’m sure everyone could scribble a list with things they think mothers shouldn’t do, including all the obvious red flags pertaining to proper childcare, but what’s really perplexing is the expectation that once a woman has a baby all her decisions—whether they pertain to motherhood or not—should be filtered through the lens of her role as a parent. Not to drag men into this mess, but fathers aren’t put on that same shaky pedestal. If Kanye showed up on that cover with his buns blazing, everyone on Instagram would be too busy saying he’s gross or calling him an asshole for that Taylor Swift debacle rather than reprimanding him for behaving badly as a dad. I’m not sure which is worse, but it stands to reason that dads most often come under fire for shirking their responsibilities as a father when it pertains to finances. In some ways, this whole fuss over Kim’s ass boils down to the archaic breadwinner/virtuous housewife balance… but mostly it’s just because everyone loves to hate Kim.

You’re entitled to find Kim’s photo shoot distasteful for any reason that you like (the Photoshopping of her waist, perhaps?), and if you’re a mother, you should feel totally free to continue abstaining from posing nude, but I don’t think we should be so quick to judge what “good” mothers should or should not do. A lot of us women who aren’t mothers yet are going to be someday, so does that mean we should skip the extra cocktail? Never be photographed in the low-cut dress? We shouldn’t completely define our lives based on who we are to other people (mother, daughter, wife, girlfriend, etc.); we should be allowed to make decisions that are purely for ourselves.

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