Is it news when Kim Kardashian posts a nude photo of herself? Well, this time…yes.
In the grand tradition of Demi Moore, Cindy Crawford, Christina Aguilera and a red carpet’s worth of other celebrities (ever think you’d see the day where Kim Kardashian is mentioned amongst those women?), America’s foremost selfie expert has posted a photo of herself nude while pregnant with her second child on her Instagram account.
An accompanying caption signals that this isn’t the normal #breaktheinternet cry for attention from the greatest hazard to the World Wide Web’s stability, but instead an act of body image empowerment, attacking those who have attacked her fluctuating weight while pregnant and even accused her of faking the pregnancy altogether.
The proof, Kardashian says, is in the baby bump.
As she writes, people have been dissecting photos of her that they perceived to be skinnier or fatter than others, coming to the conclusion that the inconsistencies in body size meant she was faking her pregnancy. (The perils of being among the most famous women in the world: the already offensive celebrity rumor mill spins even more despicably when you become pregnant. Right, Beyoncé?)
She addresses reports that she’s really using a surrogate and padding herself to make her look like she’s the one carrying the child. “I think you all know me well enough to know I would document the process if I got a surrogate,” she writes. This is the woman who published a book of 352 photos of herself. She has a point.
And give Kardashian credit where it’s due: No one is as skilled at using titillation as a means for legitimization. In this case, she’s using it as bait to say something actually important. Come for the booty shot, stay for the powerful message: “Everyone’s body is different, every pregnancy is different!” she writes. “I’ve learned to love my body at every stage! I’m going to get even bigger & that’s beautiful, too!”
Kardashian, much to the chagrin of many of society’s buttoned-up curmudgeons, is a person with many fans. Her reach is massive. These people, many of whom have felt shame about their own bodies while pregnant, might need to hear this. Maybe they’ll read this and smile. Maybe they’ll just look at her photo and admire a pregnant woman’s body—a radical act in and of itself.
Well done, Kim! Here’s her full message:
First they say I'm too skinny so I have to be faking it...Now they say I'm too big so I have to be faking it...SMH! Some days I'm photographed before I eat & look smaller, some days I've just eaten & I look bigger. It's all a part of the process. I think you all know me well enough to know I would document the process if I got a surrogate. Everyone's body is different, every pregnancy is very different! I've learned to love my body at every stage! I'm going to get even bigger & that's beautiful too! I'm blessed to even be pregnant & even luckier to not have preeclampsia as far as I know, so I don't have the swelling issue this time! They also say your body carries a boy different than a girl! Whatever the case may be I'm grateful to God for this miracle & no matter what rumors or comments you throw my way this time they truly don't affect me! #NoFilter#NoPhotoShop #GoodLighting
Celebrities posing naked while pregnant began as a fiercely defiant and provocative stunt. Demi Moore’s 1991 Vanity Fair cover—an undeniably confident woman fully nude, cradling her pregnant belly—was progressive in its mere existence: the overt sexualization and celebration of a body image that the American public had, generally, been taught not to think of as sexy.
It was a transgressive moment in its controversy (in 1991, many more conservative people were none-too-pleased to see a nude pregnant woman staring at them from the shelves of the grocery store cashier aisle), but also in how it paved the way for the image to eventually become uncontroversial almost entirely; to be normalized.
(Go figure something as natural as a pregnant woman’s body needs to be normalized. Humans are awful.)
In the decades since Moore’s cover, the nude pregnant photo has almost become a rudimentary rite of passage for celebrities, especially those whose careers were built on—and at times exploited—their sexuality. Christina Aguilera, Jessica Simpson, Britney Spears, Nia Long, Cindy Crawford, Claudia Schiffer, Mariah Carey, Monica Bellucci: the nude photo shoot evolved from progressive act of rebellion to an essential part of the Pregnant Celebrity Publicity Tour. As essential, even, as the “Check Out My Post-Baby Bod!” photo shoot that would typically follow.
It’s easy—and at this point lazy and unoriginal—to attack any news Kardashian makes as a shameless ploy for more press. The fact of the matter is that Kardashian has built a career as an expert manipulator of a reality TV genre that’s mandated that media take its stars seriously, because the many fans of these shows already do.
She’s an aficionado of branding, a polarizing fashion maven, and, after years in the public eye, a bona fide cultural influencer.
As such, Kardashian’s treatment of her celebrity spotlight has matured along with our perception of her influence. She’s no longer the girl made famous by the sex tape, but a person with a platform who is given a megaphone to speak about feminism, sexism, sexualizing, and, god help us, real things.
There’s something sort of admirable about this evolution.
Kim Kardashian posts a photo of herself nude while pregnant? It would be more shocking for her not to. But Kim Kardashian uses that post to publicize a statement against body shaming and also to comment on the celebrity news culture that has made her famous—the perils of the constant rumormongering and the incessant tendency to turn insults and takedowns of the rich and famous into headlines, sans guilt and sans any sort of moral responsibility. That she’d do that is shocking, and admirable.
Does that make Kardashian’s pregnant photo as groundbreaking as Demi Moore’s? Probably not. But it does make it important.
Welcome to 2015: Kim Kardashian’s nude pregnancy photo is important. Resistance is futile.