STEREOTYPES

03.10.16 2:12 AM ET

Kim Kardashian, Ayesha Curry, and the Toxic Madonna-Whore Complex

The Internet loves reducing women to whore-slut binaries. But remember, trolls: Needlessly pitting women against each other won’t change the fact that you are going to die alone.

Are you a Kim Kardashian or an Ayesha Curry?

Odds are, you’re just a regular person trying to live your life and don’t identify strongly with basketball wife Ayesha Curry or professional Kardashian Kim Kardashian. How convenient of you to forget that every woman has to situate herself firmly on a binary between wife and mistress, because no matter what you do or say, your entire being can always be reduced to either a modest homemaker or a rebellious slut. It’s not International Women’s Day anymore, ladies!

Lost? So were we when we saw that Ayesha Curry, wife of NBA MVP Stephen Curry, was the No. 1 trending topic on Twitter Wednesday afternoon. While the Twitter algorithm works in mysterious ways, this inexplicable trending topic stuck out like Kylie Jenner at a book club. Luckily, some of our colleagues in chronicling celebrity minutiae entered the Twitter rabbithole and emerged with a tenuous link between Curry’s newfound popularity and the nude selfie that Kim Kardashian posted on Monday night. 

Before Curry entered the mix, Kardashian’s NSFW selfie had already done the full Internet rounds, from backlash to feminist counter-backlash to all around apathy. So what makes this selfie-based Kardashian news cycle different from all other selfie-based Kardashian news cycles? 

First of all, there’s the language that Kardashian used to clap back at her haters. For whatever reason, Internet trolls figured that Kim would take well to a public smackdown. One of those trolls was none other than 19-year-old Chloe Moretz (whyy, Chloe?!), who tweeted at Kim, “I truly hope you realize how important setting goals are [sic] for young women, teaching them we have so much more to offer than just our bodies.” Kim swiftly replied, “let's all welcome @ChloeGMoretz to twitter, since no one knows who she is. your nylon cover is cute boo,” referring to Moretz’s own semi-nude cover shoot. Say what you will about Kim Kardashian, but she (her assistant) did not come here (to this Twitter mobile app) to play games.

After that slam dunk, Kardashian went for the three-pointer, publishing a selfie manifesto for International Women’s Day. While a selfie-based politics might not be what the founders of International Women’s Day envisioned, Kardashian made some good points, writing, “I am empowered by my sexuality. I am empowered by feeling comfortable in my skin. I am empowered by showing the world my flaws and not being afraid of what anyone is going to say about me. And I hope that through this platform I have been given, I can encourage the same empowerment for girls and women all over the world.”

To honor Kim’s ongoing commitment to the feminist cause, Twitter decided to put on an educational morality play—don’t worry, 21st century morality plays include memes—and act out the Madonna-whore complex across a worldwide platform. Here’s where Ayesha Curry comes into play. 

Back in December, Curry famously tweeted “Everyone’s into barely wearing clothes these days huh? Not my style. I like to keep the good stuff covered up for the one who matters.” This group of characters that Curry mindlessly sent off while flipping through a fashion magazine was enough to crown her as the new queen of celebrity-land modesty. Apparently, dudes on Twitter had been hardcore thirsting for a respectable, lady-like figure to (respectfully) add to their spankbank. Tweets and memes started to, with random dudes proclaiming that Ayesha Curry was their ideal mate. Finally, they pronounced, a lady who knows how to treat her man right

So on the heels of Kim’s newest nude, Curry and her last-season comments got pulled back into the mix. Enter meninist heroes gracing our Twitter feeds with their unnecessary shit-stirring:

And let’s not forget about the women who think you have to embody a certain outdated gender norm in order to score a ring or raise a child:

So what we have here is miscellaneous misogyny disguised as a celebrity feud. Ayesha Curry and Kim Kardashian have no problem with each other; in fact, Curry is all like “Regardless of if you like my ‘style of clothes’ or not (which I don’t care) please do not tear women down and degrade them... Not cool peeps.” Kim Kardashian and Ayesha Curry recognize that they’re just two women trying to live their lives. Sure, they might have millions of Twitter followers and bodies built by Barry’s Bootcamp, but that doesn’t mean they deserve to be reduced to a point on a respectability binary. Asking whether someone is an Ayesha Curry or a Kim Kardashian already flattens these multi-dimensional women into types based purely on their physical attributes and public appearance. 

While this is a particularly eye-roll inducing example of the Madonna-whore complex, the insidious rubric that’s been hard to shake. From a really young age, girls are taught that they have to look and act a certain way to get the guy. Just ask Taylor Swift, who’s spent a decade marketing herself as the girl who wears Chucks and T-shirts, as opposed to the cheerleader who rocks miniskirts and high heels (see: “You Belong With Me”). Sure, Swift tells her rapt fans, the cheerleader might be a fun lay, but it’s cool, modest girls like her who ultimately score that happily ever after. Meanwhile, celebrities like Amber Rose and Nicki Minaj are consistently chided for their unapologetic body positivity. The racial irony is unescapable—while women of color like Amber and Nicki are openly and non-consensually fetishized as sexual objects, any attempt to reclaim their own sexuality is deemed vulgar and unladylike.

The irony, of course, is that Ayesha Curry and Kim Kardashian are miles above their artificial Twitter “beef.” Kim Kardashian started an entire career by harnessing the earning power of her own body. Her brand is her job, and she’s better at it than anyone—even her “visionary” husband, Kanye West. Kanye’s narcissism is considered the mark of a true genius, while Kim’s ardent aestheticism is still routinely dismissed as just another thirsty girl posing naked for a selfie cam. Still, no matter how intensely the Internet might be trying to make Kim cover up, she’s not about to stop making her paper. After all, Kim is the financially solvent one in her marriage; so let’s hear it for a wife and mother who’s wearing the pants by taking hers off.

And while I’m more of a “publishes a book of her own selfies just because she can” kind of girl myself, Ayesha Curry is killing it too. Curry’s public presence is all about celebrating her man and staying cute. Whether this is the “real” Ayesha Curry or not isn’t really our business; clearly, it’s working for her, and she seems to be enjoying both her marriage and the limelight. The fact that two different women comport themselves and live their lives in two different ways shouldn’t be breaking news. 

Not feeling like you have to choose between being a wifey Madonna or a sexy whore should be a fundamental girl right, like refusing to join Taylor Swift’s girlsquad or allowing yourself to be un-ironically attracted to Justin Bieber. At the end of the day, Internet trolls, I don’t care how ardently you claim to be searching for an Ayesha Curry type—if Kim Kardashian came knocking on your window, you would trade your MacBook, action figures, and gaming console just for a shot at first base. Remember, needlessly pitting women against one another won’t change the fact that you are going to die alone.