Keeping up with the critics

As it has been an issue before in my writing for the Record, I want to be clear: The following opinion piece is not satire. I recently experienced a disturbing revelation: There are people who do not like the Kardashians. In fact, there are many, many people who hate Calabasas’s most famous clan. I am not a religious watcher of their eponymous reality show, nor do I follow their personal exploits particularly closely, but I love the Kardashians. My admiration has nothing to do with their designer clothes or their gaudy homes but rather is rooted firmly in the fact that they are some of the most positive female role models on television today.

Several consistent arguments dominate the reasoning behind people’s hatred of the family’s success. Namely, that the Kardashians are a bunch of uneducated and crass faux-tialites with no talent who do not ‘do’ anything. Despite having been famous for many years, none of them have had any sort of lasting career in film or music. But this argument is, simply put, a myth. While due to their financial success, none of these women could be considered typical working women, all of them have multiple jobs overseeing the various businesses that have flourished due to their fame, not to mention time-consuming paid appearances and photo shoots for the products they endorse. A charmed life? Absolutely. But one that comes with its own set of challenges.

In addition, only one of the main female characters on the show has a college degree (Kourtney has a bachelor’s degree from Arizona State College). At the College, we are well aware that the cost of a four-year degree from a prestigious private college can be prohibitive, even with financial aid. Clearly, lack of funds to attend a university is not the Kardashians’ problem—it was and continues to be lack of desire. And that is just fine. College has become a standard step on the path of life in polite society, so it is no surprise that many would prefer to see female role models in the media who have degrees and work white-collar jobs. But this cannot be the standard to which we hold women or anybody else. School isn’t for everyone, regardless of ability to pay, and furthering the notion that a degree is a prerequisite for a healthy or productive life is both harmful and simply incorrect.

Discussion of sex and sexuality is frank to the point of vulgarity on the show. And of course, how could we forget Kim’s infamous sex tape. It is the specter that still haunts the show, the ultimate marker of her shameful ascent to fame, and the reason people are still mad she made the cover of Vogue. If you haven’t seen the tape, let me assure you—it’s exactly what you think it is (just a little too much). Personally, I do not think sex tapes are anything to be ashamed of, but that is a topic for another op-ed. Regardless, the family handled a public embarrassment over something that many people—even at Williams—do every day. While the show may claim to depict reality, their open discussion of each other’s sex lives may be the most real thing about the program.

Keeping Up with the Kardashians is a show that features financially independent, career-driven, successful businesswomen who feel no need to apologize for their affluence. On the show, their careers take the front seat, as it chronicles their various endeavors in expanding their businesses and personal brands. Even more significantly, the women on the show—from strict “momager” Kris to recent it-girl Kendall—are portrayed as the family breadwinners, while Bruce plays golf in retirement and Rob seems unable to get his professional or personal life off the ground (despite his business degree from the University of Southern California).

But who am I to be telling women whom they should admire? If you think that Olivia Pope from Scandal is a more fitting female role model, then by all means watch her and encourage others to do the same. But tearing down one woman’s (or family’s) success is not the answer.

William Gutiérrez ’16 is an English major from Bethesda, Md.  He is currently studying abroad in Amsterdam.