This post has been self-published on Youth Ki Awaaz by Youth Ki Awaaz. Just like them, anyone can publish on Youth Ki Awaaz.

Why We All Need To Keep Up With The Kardashians

More from Youth Ki Awaaz

By Meredith Jones:

Kimposium!, an academic symposium I organised about all things Kardashian, sold out. And why would it not, given the levels of interest that this family generates?

But there is some dismay at the idea of academic attention being paid to these celebrities. It seems that some people love to hate the Kardashians as much as they love to hate academics. Responses have been predictably vicious, as a cursory glance at comments on a Daily Mail article will attest:

Total waste of funding for a fat, pompous, self narcissistic trailer trash woman. (Cuffs357, Charlotte, United States)

Rescind the obviously worthless credentials of any “academics” who attend. (MarkD, Syracuse)

Dumbing down of edikashun has hit a new low. (penshner007, United Kingdom)

When energy is spent declaring that something is not worth serious consideration, I know it is important. Because when people devote time and space to condemnation, it immediately makes me wonder what social fears or cultural desires might lie beneath the aggression. This is why these sorts of comments make me more, not less, focused on studying the Kardashians. I am interested in what this family can teach us about ourselves, about our cultural concerns, about how our societies are changing, about our fears and horrors.

The Kardashians can teach us about racism. Kim has had two black husbands and has a black child. Khloe has never dated a white man and Kylie’s current boyfriend is black. Kris, their mother, is dating a black man. There’s no nice way to say that for white America this is still taboo, as a quick glance at the Twittersphere will attest. Their youngest sister, Kylie, has been accused of co-opting a black “look”, much as Michael Jackson was accused of trying to be white. The Kardashians represent an evolving United States, one in which black/white relations are volatile and central. Inside this family, racial boundaries are being blurred. The Kardashians can teach us about femininity and gender. Decades before Judith Butler showed that gender is a learned performance, French psychoanalyst Joan Riviere wrote:

Women who wish for masculinity may put on a mask of womanliness to avert anxiety and the retribution feared from men.

In other words, women who want power may choose to present as uber-feminine as a form of self-protection. Is it a coincidence that one of the greatest song writers of our time, Dolly Parton, performs her femininity with a vengeance? The same can be asked of the Kardashians. Powerful self-made business women, could they have gained their power without their glamorous embodiments of womanhood combined with their unthreatening little-girl voices? And how does all this relate to Caitlyn Jenner (who has been appearing on Keeping Up with the Kardashians since 2007), for whom the performance of femininity will determine her future success in mainstream media?

Former Olympian Caitlyn Jenner REUTERS/Carlo Allegri
Former Olympian Caitlyn Jenner REUTERS/Carlo Allegri

The Kardashians can teach us about bodies and images. Elizabeth Wissinger, the keynote speaker at the Kimposium!, writes about “glamour labour”. Glamour labour is what models do; it involves physical work on the body (dieting, grooming, gym, cosmetic surgery) as well as careful management of a “look”. But it’s no longer just for models. We are all, especially women, now obliged to do glamour labour, to consciously present a visual self. This is most evident on social media, particularly Instagram, where selfies are lovingly curated. The Kardashians glory in their glamour labour, performing their cosmetic surgeries, their workouts, their facials, their makeup, their “waist training” for all to see. They are all surface, all bodies. Their skins, buttocks, breasts, eyes, vulvas, hair, legs and waists circulate via many thousands of tweets and Instagram posts.


These women are the queens of a world of images where bodies are brutally judged – but where there is also a certain democracy that means beauty is available to anyone with the time, money and inclination to do glamour labour.Scholarly analysis of popular culture is crucial because popular culture is about far more than entertainment and fashion – it influences cultures, politics and knowledge. The Kardashians are the biggest popular icons of our moment and their power is evident at the highest levels. Kim alone has 37m followers on Twitter and recently took a selfie with Hilary Clinton:

Clinton of course benefited, knowing that Kim is a conduit through which to communicate to voters who might not otherwise engage. Kim’s husband, musician Kanye West, has declared he will run for president in 2020. Don’t laugh. Remember Ronald Reagan. Then imagine Kim as First Lady.

Superficial, apparently talentless and famous for being famous, the Kardashians are accessible and in some ways ordinary. Their sibling rivalries, their sad divorces, their pregnancies, are all played out on our screens in lurid detail. One of the most fascinating things they do is blur public and private. We never know what’s being performed and what is “real”.

In a world where we increasingly perform our own everyday lives on social media as well as quietly living them, this most unprivate of families shows us what we have become. They show how to live between real and virtual worlds, between representation and sensation. The Kardashians show us ourselves.

Meredith Jones is Reader in Gender and Media Studies, Brunel University of London.

This post was originally published here on The Conversation.

You must be to comment.

More from Youth Ki Awaaz

Similar Posts

By Pranidhi M

By Payoja Bhakre

By kriti jain

Wondering what to write about?

Here are some topics to get you started

Share your details to download the report.

We promise not to spam or send irrelevant information.

Share your details to download the report.

We promise not to spam or send irrelevant information.

An ambassador and trained facilitator under Eco Femme (a social enterprise working towards menstrual health in south India), Sanjina is also an active member of the MHM Collective- India and Menstrual Health Alliance- India. She has conducted Menstrual Health sessions in multiple government schools adopted by Rotary District 3240 as part of their WinS project in rural Bengal. She has also delivered training of trainers on SRHR, gender, sexuality and Menstruation for Tomorrow’s Foundation, Vikramshila Education Resource Society, Nirdhan trust and Micro Finance, Tollygunj Women In Need, Paint It Red in Kolkata.

Now as an MH Fellow with YKA, she’s expanding her impressive scope of work further by launching a campaign to facilitate the process of ensuring better menstrual health and SRH services for women residing in correctional homes in West Bengal. The campaign will entail an independent study to take stalk of the present conditions of MHM in correctional homes across the state and use its findings to build public support and political will to take the necessary action.

Saurabh has been associated with YKA as a user and has consistently been writing on the issue MHM and its intersectionality with other issues in the society. Now as an MHM Fellow with YKA, he’s launched the Right to Period campaign, which aims to ensure proper execution of MHM guidelines in Delhi’s schools.

The long-term aim of the campaign is to develop an open culture where menstruation is not treated as a taboo. The campaign also seeks to hold the schools accountable for their responsibilities as an important component in the implementation of MHM policies by making adequate sanitation infrastructure and knowledge of MHM available in school premises.

Read more about his campaign.

Harshita is a psychologist and works to support people with mental health issues, particularly adolescents who are survivors of violence. Associated with the Azadi Foundation in UP, Harshita became an MHM Fellow with YKA, with the aim of promoting better menstrual health.

Her campaign #MeriMarzi aims to promote menstrual health and wellness, hygiene and facilities for female sex workers in UP. She says, “Knowledge about natural body processes is a very basic human right. And for individuals whose occupation is providing sexual services, it becomes even more important.”

Meri Marzi aims to ensure sensitised, non-discriminatory health workers for the needs of female sex workers in the Suraksha Clinics under the UPSACS (Uttar Pradesh State AIDS Control Society) program by creating more dialogues and garnering public support for the cause of sex workers’ menstrual rights. The campaign will also ensure interventions with sex workers to clear misconceptions around overall hygiene management to ensure that results flow both ways.

Read more about her campaign.

MH Fellow Sabna comes with significant experience working with a range of development issues. A co-founder of Project Sakhi Saheli, which aims to combat period poverty and break menstrual taboos, Sabna has, in the past, worked on the issue of menstruation in urban slums of Delhi with women and adolescent girls. She and her team also released MenstraBook, with menstrastories and organised Menstra Tlk in the Delhi School of Social Work to create more conversations on menstruation.

With YKA MHM Fellow Vineet, Sabna launched Menstratalk, a campaign that aims to put an end to period poverty and smash menstrual taboos in society. As a start, the campaign aims to begin conversations on menstrual health with five hundred adolescents and youth in Delhi through offline platforms, and through this community mobilise support to create Period Friendly Institutions out of educational institutes in the city.

Read more about her campaign. 

A student from Delhi School of Social work, Vineet is a part of Project Sakhi Saheli, an initiative by the students of Delhi school of Social Work to create awareness on Menstrual Health and combat Period Poverty. Along with MHM Action Fellow Sabna, Vineet launched Menstratalk, a campaign that aims to put an end to period poverty and smash menstrual taboos in society.

As a start, the campaign aims to begin conversations on menstrual health with five hundred adolescents and youth in Delhi through offline platforms, and through this community mobilise support to create Period Friendly Institutions out of educational institutes in the city.

Find out more about the campaign here.

A native of Bhagalpur district – Bihar, Shalini Jha believes in equal rights for all genders and wants to work for a gender-equal and just society. In the past she’s had a year-long association as a community leader with Haiyya: Organise for Action’s Health Over Stigma campaign. She’s pursuing a Master’s in Literature with Ambedkar University, Delhi and as an MHM Fellow with YKA, recently launched ‘Project अल्हड़ (Alharh)’.

She says, “Bihar is ranked the lowest in India’s SDG Index 2019 for India. Hygienic and comfortable menstruation is a basic human right and sustainable development cannot be ensured if menstruators are deprived of their basic rights.” Project अल्हड़ (Alharh) aims to create a robust sensitised community in Bhagalpur to collectively spread awareness, break the taboo, debunk myths and initiate fearless conversations around menstruation. The campaign aims to reach at least 6000 adolescent girls from government and private schools in Baghalpur district in 2020.

Read more about the campaign here.

A psychologist and co-founder of a mental health NGO called Customize Cognition, Ritika forayed into the space of menstrual health and hygiene, sexual and reproductive healthcare and rights and gender equality as an MHM Fellow with YKA. She says, “The experience of working on MHM/SRHR and gender equality has been an enriching and eye-opening experience. I have learned what’s beneath the surface of the issue, be it awareness, lack of resources or disregard for trans men, who also menstruate.”

The Transmen-ses campaign aims to tackle the issue of silence and disregard for trans men’s menstruation needs, by mobilising gender sensitive health professionals and gender neutral restrooms in Lucknow.

Read more about the campaign here.

A Computer Science engineer by education, Nitisha started her career in the corporate sector, before realising she wanted to work in the development and social justice space. Since then, she has worked with Teach For India and Care India and is from the founding batch of Indian School of Development Management (ISDM), a one of its kind organisation creating leaders for the development sector through its experiential learning post graduate program.

As a Youth Ki Awaaz Menstrual Health Fellow, Nitisha has started Let’s Talk Period, a campaign to mobilise young people to switch to sustainable period products. She says, “80 lakh women in Delhi use non-biodegradable sanitary products, generate 3000 tonnes of menstrual waste, that takes 500-800 years to decompose; which in turn contributes to the health issues of all menstruators, increased burden of waste management on the city and harmful living environment for all citizens.

Let’s Talk Period aims to change this by

Find out more about her campaign here.

Share your details to download the report.

We promise not to spam or send irrelevant information.

A former Assistant Secretary with the Ministry of Women and Child Development in West Bengal for three months, Lakshmi Bhavya has been championing the cause of menstrual hygiene in her district. By associating herself with the Lalana Campaign, a holistic menstrual hygiene awareness campaign which is conducted by the Anahat NGO, Lakshmi has been slowly breaking taboos when it comes to periods and menstrual hygiene.

A Gender Rights Activist working with the tribal and marginalized communities in india, Srilekha is a PhD scholar working on understanding body and sexuality among tribal girls, to fill the gaps in research around indigenous women and their stories. Srilekha has worked extensively at the grassroots level with community based organisations, through several advocacy initiatives around Gender, Mental Health, Menstrual Hygiene and Sexual and Reproductive Health Rights (SRHR) for the indigenous in Jharkhand, over the last 6 years.

Srilekha has also contributed to sustainable livelihood projects and legal aid programs for survivors of sex trafficking. She has been conducting research based programs on maternal health, mental health, gender based violence, sex and sexuality. Her interest lies in conducting workshops for young people on life skills, feminism, gender and sexuality, trauma, resilience and interpersonal relationships.

A Guwahati-based college student pursuing her Masters in Tata Institute of Social Sciences, Bidisha started the #BleedwithDignity campaign on the technology platform, demanding that the Government of Assam install
biodegradable sanitary pad vending machines in all government schools across the state. Her petition on has already gathered support from over 90000 people and continues to grow.

Bidisha was selected in’s flagship program ‘She Creates Change’ having run successful online advocacy
campaigns, which were widely recognised. Through the #BleedwithDignity campaign; she organised and celebrated World Menstrual Hygiene Day, 2019 in Guwahati, Assam by hosting a wall mural by collaborating with local organisations. The initiative was widely covered by national and local media, and the mural was later inaugurated by the event’s chief guest Commissioner of Guwahati Municipal Corporation (GMC) Debeswar Malakar, IAS.

Sign up for the Youth Ki Awaaz Prime Ministerial Brief below