No longer “keeping up” With dangerous body ideals

Ella Schuellerman, Arts & Life Editor

E’s Editorial by Ella Schuellerman


2020 has given us many blessings: “Tiger King,” whipped coffee, giant pandas are no longer on the endangered species list and “Keeping Up With The Kardashians” has been cancelled. The latter “blessing” is one that has been on my mind lately because I’ve realized the traumatic impact the Kardashians have on beauty and body standards.

As a kid, I remember hearing so much about what was going on with the Kardashians. Kim’s sex tape, Kim’s 72-day wedding, Kim losing her diamond earring in Bora Bora, Kris Jenner dating younger men, Kourtney’s nude photos leaking, Khloe photoshopping her body all the time, Kylie having a baby at 20 years old and the list goes on. 

I have seen the Kardashian name on the cover or first page of every trashy, exaggerated tabloid I’ve ever read. When I heard the reality show was ending after the 20th season and 17 years on air, the first thought that came to my mind was, “I hope their damaging body ideals get cancelled too.”

I am currently in the process of writing a book on body positivity and the lifelong struggle women have of loving their bodies for what they are. For years, the status of the Kardashians as “body image icons” has perplexed me.

For starters, multiple Kardashian sisters have come under fire for promoting appetite-suppressing lollipops, photoshopping fails, cosmetic surgery and waist slimming trainers. 

I am not totally innocent concerning the Kardashian allure. When I was 16 years old, I bought a waist trainer on my parents’ Amazon account because I saw Kourtney and Khloe posting about the restrictive shape wear to their millions of followers. I also remember finding a video of Kim telling her sister Khloe she looked “skinny” and “anorexic.” Khloe thanked Kim for the kind words. 

I find the Kardashian family’s distorted body image messaging dangerous and confusing. With teens and young adults valuing pop culture and social media, the Kardashians, if they choose, have the opportunity to use their platforms for good. 

Celebrities are people too; they are entitled to do what they want with their bodies. However, they also have a responsibility to the millions of people who look up to them. The job of promoting body positive messaging to young women is not all on the Kardashians’ laps, but if people have the opportunity to promote body positive change, they should be using it for good. 

Instead, the Kardashians continue to perpetuate unrealistic beauty and body ideals. One of the most extreme issues I have with this dangerous portrayal of beauty is Kim’s corset for the 2019 Met Gala “Camp: Notes on Fashion.” 

In a Harper’s Bazaar interview with reporter Erica Gonzales, Kim said, “I have never felt pain like that in my life. I’ll have to show you pictures of the aftermath when I took it off — the indentations on my back and my stomach.” The two questions I’d like to ask Kim: Why would you even wear it in the first place? Why would you openly and purposefully harm  your body?

In June, Kim posted a throwback video on Instagram wearing a replica of her Manfred Thierry Mugler corset, zooming in on her astonishingly restricted waist. As someone who has dealt with body dysmorphia and recovered from an eating disorder, I found this video to be the most triggering post I have ever seen on Instagram.

This woman has over 188 million followers on Instagram, so I know I am not the only one who felt extremely upset to see a 19th century, out of date and dangerous fashion trend being highlighted on one of the most influential people today. Despite hundreds of first-wave feminists starting the Victorian Dress Reform, Kim couldn’t think of the repercussions of her wearing one. 

I am not a fan or advocate of cancel culture. Just because one of the most iconic reality shows in history is retiring the cameras does not mean I believe the entire Kardashian family should be cancelled. What I do hope for, however, is that the Kardashian clan can change the dangerous narrative they have chosen to share thus far. 

I am not the only one catching on to the dangerous messaging this family is sending. I hope other people begin to realize that what this family does can be dangerous and harmful to young women. Think about it. Even the name of their show, “Keeping Up With the Kardashian’s” insuates we should be updated constantly on what the family is doing, what they are wearing, what they look like and all the drama in between.

In a dream world, the momentum of the body positivity movement will overshadow the family’s dangerous practices. The body positive movement has been skewed for years by the Kardashian family. This is a reminder that all bodies are normal, loved bodies. You do not need to shrink your body, you need to love it and remind yourself it does not need to change. You do not need a waist trainer or an appetite suppressing lollipop or try to look like anyone, except yourself.