There’s a meme that has been making the rounds on my Facebook newsfeed. “In a world of Kardashians,” the meme says, “be a Diana.” I’ve seen a few variations of the meme. “Be a Stevie [Nicks]” says one. “Be a Rey [from Star Wars]” says another. There are probably others out there, telling people to be whatever type of woman the meme author finds better than the Kardashians. And it’s one of those memes that annoys the fuck out of me.
Those pseudo-uplifting ideas that are meant to promote individualism, but only a very specific kind of individuality. Much like those Real Women Have Curves and When Did This Become Hotter Than This memes, the idea is based on promoting one standard of beauty at the expense of another. And like those memes it’s poison. Because when you base your self-confidence on tearing down another’s, you are participating in the same destructive rhetoric that society uses to enforce conformity and to punish those who don’t fall into the narrow definitions of what it means to be a woman.
Just as bad is the inherent sexism in the meme. Like the other mentioned memes, it is always aimed at women. If Kim Kardashian was instead Kevin Kardashian, the memes would be very different. Kevin would be considered a smart business man, a trendsetter, the head of a corporation that influences media, fashion and technology. The memes would be comparable to ones extolling the virtues of The Most Interesting Man in the World or Overly Manly Man. But instead, despite being a successful entrepreneur and having a net worth of $85 million, she’s held up as the wrong kind of woman to aspire to.
I realize that progress has been made on so many fronts: body acceptance and positivity, body diversity, rejecting harmful beauty standards, celebrating and encouraging differences and individuality. And I recognize this is just a phase in that progression. But I will be very happy when we move beyond this grade school attitude that in order to celebrate what makes us special we have to tear down those who might find their own specialness in the status quo. Or, as I put it on Facebook: