This Is Why We’re Blaming Kim Kardashian For Her Own Robbery
By Caitlin Murphy
By now, you’ve no doubt heard that early Monday morning, Kim Kardashian was robbed — at gunpoint — of about $10 million worth of jewelry. You’ve probably read about all the lurid details of the heist, so there’s no need to go over them here.
I don’t Keep Up With The Kardashians, but despite my standard-issue, very low exposure to celebrity gossip, I was still flooded with news of the event on social media and the news outlets I do follow. Aside from my feelings of general inundation, which is typically unpleasant in any medium, the thing that stuck in my craw were the outlets blaming Kim for her own robbery. She was being held hostage — literally and metaphysically — by her own social media usage.
In the days since, this blame has become a recurring theme in the event’s coverage; a variety of news outlets including Reuters, Associated Press, CNN, and others have run stories centering on Kim’s seemingly compulsive social media use. One article in Daily Mail included an interview with an “ex security guard” who says she needs to stop or slow down on social media for “her safety.” Even designer Karl Lagerfeld weighed in, saying, “You cannot display your wealth, then be surprised that some people want to share it.” Parisian police themselves are also hinting that she was targeted — and perhaps more easily located — because of her extensive social media presence.
There is no real evidence that Kim’s social media usage is the cause or the deciding factor for the thieves marking her for a robbery; in fact, there are plenty of reasons to have reasonable doubt about such an assertion. For one thing, this is hardly the first instance of a high-profile jewelry heist in France in recent years. The New York Times reports tens of millions of dollars of jewelry stolen from a luxury hotel in Cannes in 2013; in 2014, the Place Vendome suffered a rash of “smash-and-grab” robberies; and last year, thieves assaulted two armored vans and made off with jewelry worth an estimated $10 million. While this is the first time in a good while that a high-profile celebrity was taken hostage and robbed, insisting Kim Kardashian was targeted because of social media usage strains credulity.
So why does the public, and the media, insist on victim-blaming Kim K and her public solipsism as the source of her suffering? It may be that the police statements are just an attempt to alleviate the blow this could deal to France’s already-languishing tourism; the country as a whole has seen fewer visitors since terrorist attacks in Paris in 2015 and again this summer in Nice. A high-profile and violent crime like this could potentially impact visitation by the rich and famous who so often grace the country’s luxury shops and restaurants.
Or could the source of the victim-blaming be a more classic — if dark — societal impulse, one that demands that we destroy our demigods as fast we create them?
There’s no question that people love to talk about the middle Kardashian sister’s social media presence. Being as savvy as she is, Kim has seemingly stoked those flames by “breaking the internet” multiple times and recently claiming to have taken “6,000 selfies” on a four-day trip to Mexico (which Mashable breaks down here), a claim that can realistically only be read as self-satirizing or of sending a tongue-in-cheek eff-off to those who critique her selfie proliferation.
I’d wager that Kim’s courting of controversy around her social media usage is also a successful business model which draws eyes — and money — to her. Forbes ranks the star as the 42nd most wealthy celebrity, with a net worth of $51 million garnered from reality TV and her mobile game. Kim knows how to keep the hype going, and has continued to build on it since coming into the limelight as one of Paris Hilton’s friends and stylists in the early 2000s.
Celebrities are expected to be available for public consumption, but the public, and the media, are incredibly touchy about the mode of that availability. If the celebrity is enjoying the attention too much, it’s cause for disdain. If they take control of their publicity, using social media and other tools available to them, they attract ire for their “vanity.”
Commonly accepted forms of celebrity consumption are often non-consensual, such as the prying lens of the paparazzi, or digging through people’s garbage for anything worth selling on eBay. With Kim, we’re happy to consume these images of her body and riches — whether they were consensually shared or not — starting with the leaked sex tape that jettisoned her into the public eye. The public and the media are also more than happy to voraciously consume the abuse she has suffered in the past and up to this incident, unable and un-wanting to look away. Taking people’s images, experiences, or even used toothbrushes and using them for profit is more than acceptable. Someone not only willingly showing their image but enjoying it, on the other hand, is apparently inviting reproach.
An image that has been kicking around on the internet lately shows a screenshot of a Tumblr post next to an image of a marble statue depicting a nude woman, which someone has photoshopped an iPhone into, transforming what was just a naked traipsing woman into a woman taking a selfie. The original post reads:
“The thing about this is that sculptures like these in art history were for the male gaze. Photoshop a phone to it and she’s suddenly seen as vain and conceited. That’s why I’m 100% for selfie culture because apparently men can gawk at women but when we realize how beautiful we are we’re suddenly full of ourselves . . . ”
The second commenter quotes John Berger, from Ways of Seeing: “You painted a naked woman because you enjoyed looking at her, put a mirror in her hand and called the painting ‘Vanity,’ thus morally condemning the woman whose nakedness you had depicted for your own pleasure.”
Kim Kardashian is painted by us as “Vanity,” because what else can we call her extensive social media presence, which we so willingly lap up for our own pleasure? As has been done throughout history, images of women across social media are perceived to be for the male gaze whether or not they are intended that way. While men soak up these images they feel entitled to, they also feel the need to denounce them as sinful, just as the painter did in calling his subject “Vanity.” The public clamors for Kim’s social media presence because they want to step into her larger-than-life existence and her riches, and wear these images like virtual reality goggles — a fit of escapism, and also of lust. We are eager to gaze upon her body, but not wanting to blame ourselves for the voyeurism we partake in, we villainize her.
She knows what she’s doing; she’s not unintelligent. But rather than just giving people what they want or letting it be taken from her, she has chosen to tread those waters willingly and seemingly for her own pleasure, the ultimate sin.
We are culturally obsessed, it seems, with vicariously living through the experiences of the rich and famous, feeling simultaneously entitled to their experiences and also resentful of those providing them.
I don’t know whether Kim’s extensive documentation of her life played a role in the robbery, or whether being more discreet would have avoided the incident; no one can know. But the victim blaming inherent in saying “well if she just X-ed or didn’t Y” leaves a sourness on my tongue. We can discuss her ostentatious shows of wealth, her privilege, her history, her wastefulness all on another day. For now, let’s just let her recover from what was likely a very traumatic event and stop blaming her for it.
Lead image: Instagram