Opinion: We love you, Kim. But back away from dated #Girlboss ideologies
The reality TV star’s controversial work ethic comments sent social media into a frenzy. Here, Olivia Petter discusses why they were so tone-deaf
Saturday 19 March 2022 By Olivia Petter
Listen up, female entrepreneurs, there’s a new inspirational quote coming to an Oliver Bonas mug near you. Write it in your bullet journal. Put it in your Instagram bio. Repeat it to yourself in the mirror every morning as part of your daily affirmations.
Introducing: ‘Get your f***ing a** up and work’, the new workplace mantra according to none other than Kim Kardashian, the 41-year-old billionaire who has not only spent the last 14 years starring in one of the most successful reality TV shows, but also whose hotshot lawyer father, Robert, reportedly left her and her siblings a $100m inheritance.
This is a woman who grew up in one of the most famous families in the world. A woman who has four gold-plated toilets. A woman who, in the midst of a pandemic, flew 40 of her closest friends to a private island for her birthday – and documented the extravagance on social media, telling fans she just wanted to go somewhere with her inner circle where they could ‘pretend things were normal’. And yet, here she is offering us career advice because, apparently ‘nobody wants to work these days’. At least not as hard as Kardashian.
The Skims founder made the controversial comments in a recent interview with Variety, prompting a furious backlash as people pointed out the sheer temerity of hearing this paragon of privilege that we need to quit being so lazy and get on with our work. ‘Patronising’ and ‘tone-deaf’ were among the common criticisms on Twitter, while one person pointed out that ‘everything is easier when you have millions of dollars and an army of people working for you’.
The vitriol reached new heights, however, when Jessica DeFino, reporter and writer of the beauty-critical newsletter The Unpublishable, tweeted about her experience working on the Kardashian-Jenner apps in 2015, claiming she was paid so little that she couldn’t even afford to put gas in her car. DeFino’s tweets – which also alleged how a clause in her contract prevented her from earning additional income as a freelancer – quickly went viral as many rushed to call out Kardashian’s hypocrisy.
She has since clarified in a statement issued to the media that she was not employed by the family directly, but by Whalerock Industries, a third-party media company that created the apps.
‘If immense wealth is indeed the product of hard work as Kardashian claims, it is the hard work of the lower-level employees who struggle to make ends meet while their employers reap the rewards,’ she said. ‘This is not an issue unique to the Kardashians. This is an issue unique to capitalism, and its inherent exploitation of the working class.’
For everyone in the UK, Kardashian’s comments were reminiscent of those made by former Love Island star, Molly-Mae Hague, when she said that everyone has ‘the same 24 hours in a day’ to become successful. ‘I understand we all have different backgrounds and we’re raised in different ways and have different financial situations, but if you want something enough you can achieve it and it just depends on what lengths you want to go to get to where you want to be in the future,’ she added in an interview with Dragons Den’s Steven Bartlett for his podcast, The Diary Of A CEO.
Hague might not come from the absurd generational wealth of a Kardashian, but as a millionaire influencer whose career took off after a stint on one of the UK’s most popular reality TV shows, she is hardly a voice of the people.
Aside from willful ignorance of social mobility and a belief system many would call Thatcherite, the thing that both Hague and Kardashian have in common is a distinct lack of self-awareness. How is it that two successful women are so obsessed with the idea of perpetuating a rags-to-riches story that they have become so clueless?
That is not to say that neither Kardashian nor Hague work hard. But it’s an indictment of our society – one that rewards those with a certain number of Instagram followers – that they have gone so far without recognising their own privileges and the socioeconomic disparities that will prevent others from ever being in positions remotely close to theirs.
You’d think that by 2022 we would have moved away from such #GirlBoss ideologies, the kind that died a slow, millennial pink death in 2018, along with The Wing and Lean In feminism. But the fact that we’re still here, seeing successful women relentlessly plugging individualism as if we’ve all been granted the same opportunities as them is, quite frankly, a bit depressing. Because ultimately, it’s views like these that encourage others to follow suit and mistake privilege for meritocracy. Thus, upholding the wealth gap wide and keeping disadvantaged people in poverty.
But in Hague and Kardashian’s world, things are simpler. And all that the mother working three jobs to support her kids so she can divorce her abusive husband really needs to do is get her ‘f***ing a** up and work’.