Image courtesy of CNN
By Margaret Adams
Arguably the biggest night in fashion, the Met Gala took place on Monday, September 13 of last week and picked up the news in pop culture. The theme of the event was “In America: A Fashion Lexicon,” which garnered numerous tributes to American icons like Marilyn monroe and, confusedly, Audrey hepburn, which is European, as well as many dresses directly honoring distinctive parts of American culture, such as jeans and Soccer.
The most eccentric and surprising look of the night went to Kim Kardashian, who walked the rug in a black dress that covered every inch of skin, including her face. The t-shirt dress was made by the creative director of Balenciaga, Demna Gvasalia, but the black face covering was an idea of Kanye West; the face cover is a West staple, which he has been doing ever since 2013 with Yeezus.
The interpretation of his gaze cannot go without explanation. According to a anonymous source, his image and the silhouette of his body are a staple of American culture. She doesn’t even have to show her face because her shape is as recognizable as apple pie, baseball, and the American flag.
“There’s no logo, no face, but everyone knows it’s her,” the source said. “Kanye gave him the courage to push people’s creativity and imagination through art. It is the ultimate confidence.
So why is Kim Kardashain’s body an American treasure? What does it say about us?
One piece of knowledge that offers answers is the fact that the sexualization and objectification of black women has a long history in the media.
“Are black women the only women in the world with prominent buttocks?” No, ”said Kierna Mayo, vice president of digital content for Ebony, during a telephone interview with the Washington post. “But has black women’s bodies – their buttocks in particular – been fodder for commerce and conversation for hundreds of years in this country? Absoutely.”
In 2014, Jordyne Blaise wrote a Times item address the appearance of Kim Kardashian in Paper journal, and its similarities to Saartjie Baartman, a black woman who worked in sideshow-type shows around the world in the early 19th century. The show that piqued the audience’s interest was her body.
“Baartman’s naked body was on display to the public, and she sometimes played instruments and performed dances native to her native Khoikhoi tribe,” Blaise wrote. “Baartman would be available for private screenings at the homes of the wealthy where, for an additional fee, clients would be allowed to touch her. “
This comparison suggests two possibilities: Kim Kardashian uses her Met Gala outfit to regain her own independence (a very American trait) by taking on the face that made her famous, or she continues to take advantage of minorities by stealing the aesthetics that come from them, like wider hips and smaller waists. While many think she is being independent, I think she continues to take advantage of minorities; after all, Kim Kardashian has a the story to steal and appropriate many cultures, especially the black community.
Hafsa Lodi, Muslim fashion writer, examined Kim Kardashian’s look is “ugly”.
“When Muslim women choose to wear skin-covering abayas and burkas, they are seen as stuffy and oppressive – the furthest thing from high fashion and glamor,” Lodi wrote. “Burkas can provide anonymity to carriers, which is considered a ‘security threat’ in many parts of the western world.”
The body Kim and Kanye call “American culture” is not his natural body; it is the work of many physicians who contributed to this idealized version of the female body, especially the black female body. Parts taken from a stereotypical ideal black or brown body are put together to form what we are told to be the product of “exercise” and “hard work.”
While she and Kanye maintain that her body is American culture, true Western beauty standards are built on black and brown female bodies, or what black and brown female bodies should look like.
Just as we live off the land that was not ours, our culture is made up of cultures that were not ours. In this sense, Kim Kardashian and her profit from minority cultures is very American.