Kim Kardashian West, app entrepreneur and reality television show star, stirs up controversy with everything she does. Tuesday night, she stirred up buzz and critique over her photo shoot for the cover of Paper magazine. She appears inside of a trash bag with her ass on prominent display.
As expected, people commented on Kim's body and whether or not her butt was enhanced by lighting and make up. Also as expected, people slut-shamed her. The most notable of these people appeared to be Glee star Naya Rivera, who was reportedly responsible for an Instagram comment that has since been deleted:
Rivera's comment has not been confirmed by her camp, and Kardashian has not responded. But the message behind this comment is one women hear over and over again. Women are told how to be pregnant, how to lose weight after they give birth, and how not to. Once a woman becomes a mother, her body becomes subject to public discussion.
#KimKardashian is disgusting. She is a mother now. Her first thought should be how is what I am about to do going to affect my child— MelissaB (@miss_red_mel) November 12, 2014
One of these many messages thrown at new mothers is that they are no longer allowed to be sexual (in public) because they are a mom. Kim Kardashian West isn't alone in receiving these critiques. Beyoncé heard similar comments when she created the visual album Beyoncé, because her videos were too sexy. She was also slammed for her Grammy performance.
How come Beyonce (a mother) can dress like a slut and we think the highest of her, but any other artist does it and they're vilified?— Pauly Walnuts (@PaulyWalnuts95) January 27, 2014
Comments like these are the reminder society creates unrealistic expectations for women. Acting like a mother, these comments seem to say, means hiding sexuality at all costs. Men, even those who have posed for centerfolds and later become politicians, never hear the same level of critique.
We ask mothers to be everything
The photographs for this issue of Paper were shot by Jean-Paul Goude, a French photographer known for his high-end advertising work. There is also an alternate cover in which Kim balances a champagne glass on her ass, which Kim joked about:
Since the beginning of her career as a famous person, Kim Kardashian's image has been wrapped up in her sexuality. From the infamous sex tape to her book of promiscuous selfies, Kim has marketed, made money, and been heavily critiqued for displaying her body.
But now that she's a mother, that too can be used as a weapon against her.
When women become mothers, the expectation for them to curb their sexuality increases dramatically. "You're someone's mother," Rivera's comment says, as if no one who is a mother could also have a butt that they are proud of and want to display. "You're someone's mother," it says, as if having a child should strip all sexuality from a woman and take her body away from her. "You're someone's mother" it says, but no one ever says "You're someone's father" about anything. Ever.
If women are expected to be everything, women who are also mothers are expected to be even more. "Motherhood is no longer viewed as simply a relationship with your children, a role you play at home and at school, or even a hallowed institution," Heather Havrilesky wrote in an op-ed for The New York Times. "Motherhood has been elevated — or perhaps demoted — to the realm of lifestyle, an all-encompassing identity with demands and expectations that eclipse everything else in a woman's life."
Unlike fatherhood, motherhood becomes a woman's primary identity, and yet another way for society to police her behavior. Channing Tatum recently became a father, and his male-stripper movie Magic Mike has a sequel planned for 2015. No one will tell him that he can't strip naked because "he's a father."
These criticisms use Kim Kardashian West's role as a mother as an excuse to shame her for posing provocatively. If she wants to flaunt her body, that's no less her decision because she has a daughter.