Surviving Feminism: Sheryl Crow and Kim Kardashian at BlogHer16

by Nadya Okamoto

Photo Creds: SheKnows Media

Today I spent my early afternoon at the BlogHer16 conference, a three-day conference uniting female bloggers. This turned out to include mostly middle-aged women who write independent blogs about pregnancy and parenting. In the hour leading up to the afternoon keynotes with Sheryl Crow and Kim Kardashian West, I spent my time exploring the Expo, which consisted of rows of vendors and ad agencies. Every few steps I was stopped by another representative from an ad agency and asked, “Are you a writer? Would you like to monetize your blog? Sign up and you will win money just by displaying these ads!” This was just the beginning.

The start time of the afternoon keynotes was delayed by two hours, as that was how long it took for what seemed like thousands of women to find seats in the expansive ballroom of roundtables. Latham Thomas, whose blog Mama Glow (for “hip expectant and new moms to explore optimal well being and celebrate pregnancy and motherhood”) was up first to interview singer-songwriter Crow. Because we were at a conference about using technology to empower the female voice, I was, however, surprised when the focus of the conversation seemed to be around Crow’s experience with being a mom and limiting the use of technology for her kids and herself. She said that she doesn’t think that “kids should have to know everything bad going on in the world,” which is why she limits their screen time (and therefore their exposure). The crowd celebrated Crow’s ten-year-anniversary being breast cancer-free. I was touched by Crow’s answer to Thomas’ question concerning what it means for women to be empowered. Crow powerfully began to speak about survival, asking the cancer survivors in the room to raise their hands. She expanded upon how self-care should be a priority for all women, which is why she has stopped touring for the first time since 1987. She did, however, announce that she is working on a record with “some dear friends,” including Stevie Nicks and Willie Nelson, which should be released early next year.

Next up, Elisa Camahort Page (co-founder of BlogHer and Chief Community Officer of SheKnows Media) interviewed Kim. As someone who isn’t tuned into reality television, I tend to judge those who make a career out of being a reality star. I underestimate the amount of work put into it and find myself having less respect for the exposing lifestyle they live, which often seems to be purely for media attention. Kim’s answers on this panel made me question, and even eradicate, those judgements. She outlined the different projects and jobs she is currently working on, acknowledging that she is filming full-time for Keeping Up With The Kardashians but working part-time on “all of my apps.” She says she also works “full-time finding artists” for her app Kimoji. Her lifestyle app also takes up “half of the day,” as she works on fashion posts and writing about “what is important” to her. Lastly, she explained how she works on her Kim Kardashian Hollywood app, which follows her real-life experiences in game-form for players to navigate themselves.

I was actually really happy for Kim as I watched her up on stage. As an audience member, I realized that the woman who sat before us has a really impressive work ethic, something I think she is not given credit for. Also, cheers to her for achieving her lifelong career dream at an early age! Kim talked about how when she was younger, all she wanted to be when she grew up was a contestant on the reality show The Real World, a showcase of “immaturity and irresponsible behavior.” It seems that she was built for the life of a reality star, since she spoke about enjoying living in the public eye, and how she is very comfortable with publicity (unlike her husband, Kanye West, who tends to be on the more private side). She said, referring to her social media account (and her nude selfies especially), “I don’t post things to get a reaction, but because I genuinely like the photo.” She added that world knows “85% of my life,” and the other 15% is her kids (she doesn’t want to focus on her kids and often encourages the film crew to avoid their faces).

The most memorable line of Kim’s, which continues to ring in my ear and prompt reflection, is the following:

“Everyone always says, ‘Are you a feminist?’ And I don’t think that I am. I don’t like labels; I do what makes me happy and I want women to be confident and I’m so supportive of women…But I’m not the ‘free the nipple’-type girl.”

My first thought after hearing this was something along the lines of, “Do you know what feminism is? It’s the push for gender equality, the belief that men and women are equal. If you believe that men and women are equal, you would then be a feminist.”

My second thought was that it takes a lot of privilege to be able to make a statement like that. To ignore the need for the label of “feminist,” means that you may not be aware of the world we live in, where women are still struggling to fight for equal rights.

What does it mean when the keynote speaker of a conference about empowering the female voice declares she’s not a feminist? I don’t know. This was a lot harder to answer than whether or not I was a writer who wanted to monetize my blog. But I do know that, after hearing the unconventional route that lead Kim to being at the front of the day’s stage, I walked away from BlogHer with a broader understanding of accomplishment, success and empowerment, which — gender aside — were what we were all here to gain, anyway.

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