Sisterhood Is Powerful” was the title of a book of feminist essays published in 1970, and the phrase became a theme line, with marching orders, for the women’s movement that followed. It meant that anything was possible, and that women could really help each other transform their roles and the culture.
Amazingly, 42 years later, after all that feminist politicking -- not wanting to be objectified here, and demanding equal rights there -- who could have predicted that the sisters who are powerful now are the Kardashians?
And that, like Kim, having an excellent rear end, and not being afraid to market a sex tape, could not only get you a TV show, and a Klothing Kollection at Sears, but also make you a role model to young girls?
OK, you say, it’s not like they haven’t been the um, butt of jokes before. They are supersized in their makeup, wardrobes, and egos, and when it comes to blind, money-based ambition, Kris, the “Momager” is unbeatable. And poor stepdad Bruce Jenner has been on the receiving end of some drubbing too, with his dominant wife and uber-lifted lady face. Why keep writing about the Kardashians?
Because there was no avoiding them this month, when they entered the very core of the culture, blatantly standing for what’s wrong with the media’s depiction of women, and what’s wrong with us. And it’s only getting worse.
I hate to be Debbie Downer, especially when there are so many other important things to worry about, like how terrible it is that Kate Middleton was photographed in a bikini with her top off! And every media outlet in the world had to weigh in what a disgrace it was! And run those grainy photos with a black box over her perfect naked breasts for days! ! And days! And then she laughed at native breasts that were bared in Tavinipupu, so that had to be covered too, and the grainy shots had to be pulled out again!
Sorry to leave that exalted topic for more Kardashian-watching, but let’s walk through the month from Sept. 11 to the 16th, and examine three major K-based events.
Let’s start, sadly, with the 11th anniversary of 9/11. Say you were watching NBC at 8:46 a.m., the time the first tower was hit in what seems like a long time ago. On every other network, the moment was observed somberly, with silence. But the “Today” show had the madam, I mean the matriarch, of the klan on as a guest. The talk shows love Kris, and revere her, and treat her like she’s visiting royalty. And I guess the “Today” producers felt her explanation of why she needed to get her breast implants redone was too important to cut to the ceremony at Ground Zero. (Hey, 1989 was a lifetime ago in breast implant technology, we learned, and the implants age in dog years. Gotta re-up!)
Never mind William and Kate’s visit to Kuala Lumpur. On Sept. 14, at 4 p.m., Kourtney, Kim, and Khloe Kardashian visited the Sears stores in the Cross Country Shopping Center in Yonkers, N.Y., and the natives went crazy!
They were celebrating the first anniversary of their Kollection. (It’s really spelled that way, and the products now include clothing, shoes, home fashions and prescription eyewear.) The first 200 people in line who had bought their merchandise could meet them and get an autograph. Fans lined up the night before; some slept in their cars in the Burger King parking lot across the street, and others camped out in the Sears lot.
By the time the sisters arrived at 4 p.m., thousands of people were waiting to see them, including TV and print reporters. Mothers brought their daughters. Everyone screamed when they arrived. They were bigger than the Beatles. One young girl said she loved them because they were “beautiful and a family.” Many younger girls called them “role models.” A few teens said they wanted to be like them because they are businesswomen. (What business are they in, exactly?) Later, the mayor gave them a proclamation.
Cut to Sept.16, with the airing of the last episode of season seven of E’s “Keeping Up with the Kardashians.” Drawing 3.6 million viewers, this was hard core, the highest rated episode of the season. It also ranked as one of the Top 25 most watched E telecasts ever.
Just as scripted TV series often end with a birth or a wedding to ramp up the ratings, the Kardashian klan made it happen in real life for the cameras, no fooling around. Kim, if you remember, had the camera-ready wedding of the century, for a hugely rated E special, and then, after two episodes, when the obvious lack of chemistry between the couple got boring, a quickie divorce. For this season’s finale, Kourtney gave birth to her second child, with the entire family, and the E production crew, in the delivery room. The piece de resistance, however, came in the final stages of labor, when Kourtney pulled out her own baby girl, right on camera. She had done this previously, with the birth of her son.
“Kourtney just loves pulling out her own children,” quipped Khloe at the time.
Again, nothing is too personal that it can’t be performed for 3 million fans. Kourtney now sets the bar for delivery scenes. And again, with her comfort with having her outstretched legs filmed, a Kardashian is exactly on-trend. There’s a new book out by noted feminist writer Naomi Wolf called “Vagina, A Biography.” I actually first thought it was a joke, a piece The Onion came up with to satirize the sudden outpouring of the use of the v-word. (Earlier episodes showed one of the sisters waxing Khloe. The camera never came in for a close-up, but the sisters spent plenty of time describing the results.) Wolf’s point is that anatomy is destiny-- a perception that is exactly what the women in the ‘60s and ‘70s were fighting against.
In the Madonna documentary “Truth or Dare,” from the long-ago ‘90s, Warren Beatty accused The Material Girl, who was then touring with a show, of wanting to live on camera. Beatty had no idea then of how bad it would get. With the Kardashians, who do not sing and dance, there is absolutely no line between public and private. They use their bodies to get ratings -- Kris talking about her dead breast implants, Kourtney giving birth on command. They’re like a parody of a TV family, doing whatever it takes to stay in the business.
The Kardashians just outperformed the other hot reality series, “Here Comes Honey Boo Boo,” in the ratings this year, but they have to be looking over their one-shouldered dresses with apprehension.
Remember when Americans were exposed to the practices, and popularity, of elaborate toddler pageants in the late ‘90s, via the tragic death of JonBenet Ramsey? Most were shocked. Now, with reality TV, the whole deal is normalized.
So is she next? Honey Boo Boo offers pigs as pets, flatulence jokes, and all the same obsessions with hair, makeup, clothing, and being sexy.
She’s only four. Imagine the possibilities.