The Subtle Dig for Bones: On Trauma, PTSD, and Kim Kardashian

Two recent occurrences stick in my head, partially because they happened around the same time. News broke in early October that Kim Kardashian had been assaulted, tied up, gagged, and robbed inside her Paris hotel room. Because it’s Kim Kardashian, and many people see her (or what they believe she represents) as vapid and disposable, the criticism and victim blaming came swiftly. Much of the focus was on her ambition, “flaunting” her wealth, and questioning whether it was all too convenient that her bodyguard was away at the time.

Kim Kardashian has a unique life, as someone who has made herself into a brand, and the rest of her family fit that bill, to one degree or another. Kim has often been the most open and accessible, and due to this, there may be some changes ahead, as her sister Khloe recently hinted at in a television interview. Kim has remained silent on social media since before the incident, and with that, paparazzi are still chasing her. This, after heightened attention over the robbery and her reaction, and essentially, wanting photos of the woman after her trauma, a commodity. First pictures! “Breaks her silence!” The headlines, I see them now.

The people chasing her will continue. There’s a reward for their patience, money to change hands for evidence of the self-made woman and her humiliated, traumatized self. She knows that anytime she leaves home, she’s going to be photographed by a horde of people who are there to make money off of her, herself, her image, her body, her everything.

Sure, Kim Kardashian has made decisions to brand herself and capitalize on that, to share with her followers, and to take advantage of the privileges afforded to her by her success. But she’s still a person who deserves her dignity and humanity.

Around the same time as this, before an avalanche of other accusations were unleashed, a certain presidential candidate, speaking to a room of veterans, derided those with PTSD, implying they aren’t strong or able “to handle it”. I keep thinking of both of these things together, because of the nature of trauma. The fact that the paparazzi is out there, trying to get snapshots of Kim Kardashian after her trauma, the knowledge that people are out there.

Even if she’s not told about the backlash, the skepticism, the blame assigned to her (and I hope she hasn’t been), and even if she remains off the internet, she knows there’s going to be a crowd waiting for her. Before, they were trying to get shots of the glamourous celebrity, an image Kim fostered, but now, they’re looking for the victim. They’re looking to paint a picture of her, absent her own words and viewpoints, as an “after”. Her quick trip with husband Kanye West and their children to a waiting car was called uncharacteristic because of Kim wearing athletic clothes.

I looked at photos of this because of the nature of the setup. When it comes to trauma, the face of trauma, this is what they’re looking for now. What’s changed? What angle can I sell here? At one point or another, there may be a story that Kim Kardashian may want to tell. Or perhaps not. It is up to her to figure out her course.

The comments about PTSD and the implication that those who have experienced deep trauma not being strong, that shapes the narrative of what people are showing up to photograph when they show up to wait for Kim Kardashian now, post-robbery.

Deep down, I’m sure the candidate is not the only one who believes the notion that trauma makes you less capable. People miscategorize PTSD often. Many believe the myth that it makes you violent. Or that it’s mostly a military-related ailment. Many don’t know there are a variety of traumatic experiences that can cause it. That women are more likely to have it. Regardless of whether Kardashian’s trauma is at that level, the link is in what people believe about trauma itself.

Many believe that a person is weak or diminished by trauma. Those gawking at Kim Kardashian now wonder, somewhere, is this woman diminished by her trauma? By her pain? By her fear? Has she learned a lesson? There are people blaming her already. I imagine their glee. Some people who will look and wonder these things, if they think they see something, if they think they catch a whiff of anything that indicates her trauma might be affecting or has changed her, criticism follows. It’s not enough that there has been rampant victim blaming, blaming a woman for her own violent robbery. This is what those photographers outside are looking for. They seek bones to chew on, for a carcass, for someone hollowed, to justify being there, someone who is paying for this, impacted, affected.

They want to see the tears, the fear, a crack in poise, a flinch, a reluctance, a change. They’re not looking for strength or stoicism. They’re looking for bones. For marks. And this, along with the PTSD statement, run behind thoughts many have and many barely recognize. How others search for the way in which your trauma devalues you, what you’ve lost, and how it makes you less.

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