Yesterday, Rolling Stone seemed to piss off a lot of its fans, subscribers and social-media followers when by revealing that its latest issue, which hits stands tomorrow, features Kim Kardashian West as the cover story.
In a post on the magazine's Instagram account, the cover girl was described as a "reality-TV juggernaut, selfie queen, actress, model, mother, brand ambassador, Internet-breaker, entrepreneur, and video game subject." But as I continued to read and learned that her story would cover topics such as "scandals, family, and feminism," I also read that the cover photo was taken by Terry Richardson. Typically, I try to avoid comment sections at all costs, but on this occasion I immediately went to read them — though probably not why you'd think.
You see, given the recent media circus surrounding Caitlyn Jenner's decision to undergo a gender transition in the public eye, I can understand why Rolling Stone would try and land an interview Jenner's stepdaughter, Kardashian West. But despite the fact that Kardashian West could mean the magazine landed a scoop on Jenner, that doesn't negate the fact that the socialite had plenty to discuss about her own life — including her recently released book, Selfish. Sure, that may just be a book of selfies, but it's reminiscent of Madonna's own book of images, Sex. And depending on who you ask, it might even be a little more family-friendly.
But to be quite honest, I wasn't as shocked by the magazine's decision to work with the person in the photo as I was by its decision to pay the person who took the photo. Richardson, who has become known for his flash-filled, candid portraits of celebrities, was the center of a scandal last year when a model accused him of trying to exchange sexual favors for booking her on a photo shoot, and it wasn't the first time that Richardson's professional reputation has been challenged.
Needless to say, it was fascinating to sit back and watch the comments flood in on the Instagram post, where one user commented that their cover-story choice was "a new low" before calling the magazine a "sell out" whose "credibility just sunk big time." Some decided to argue that the publication needed to return to placing "worthy musicians" on the cover, while many used the time to question how Kardashian West could possibly have anything relevant to say in a discussion on feminism.
"The feminism part did it for me," said Instagram user tanishasankhyan. "If you mean equal rights for women by changing how they look physically and using your body in a dramatic and wrong way, then I'm sorry. It makes me sad that people, especially women, actually idolize this and mentally and physically change themselves."
And this, of course, is exactly why Kardashian West's cover story is so relevant and timely.
I know, you're probably rolling your eyes reading this, but hear me out. Although Rolling Stone became famous for its music coverage, it has become equally famous over the past 48 years for its voice in pop culture and politics. It's the same magazine that got backlash for featuring a naked, blood-splattered True Blood cast, and the same magazine that has run cover stories on the likes of President Obama, Pope Francis, and Dzhokhar Tsarnaev, otherwise known as the "Boston Bomber."
So, although Kardashian West became a household name after a personal sex-tape with singer Ray J was released in 2007, that doesn't make her influence on pop culture any smaller. More importantly, what many seem to have forgotten is that the sex tape was released without her consent, which is no different than the violation that many A-list celebrities suffered when their private, mostly nude photos were released in last year's 4chan hackathon known as "The Fappening."
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Which is precisely why I wonder it is that we condemn someone like Kardashian West, yet defend celebrities like Jessica Alba and Jennifer Lawrence. All three women are hard-working celebrity figures who had their bodies exposed without permission, so is it really fair that one of them be shunned for the fact that she was born with such a voluptuous set of genetics? And if you are one of the many who feels that Kardashian West is "famous for doing nothing," would a sex tape or magazine spread really make her any different than models, whose only job is to look better than pretty much everyone else in the world?
Sure, Keeping Up with the Kardashians showcases a family that is far, far removed from the rest of America, so I completely understand how easy it is to dismiss them. That said, it's still important to defend Rolling Stone and its decision to continually cover whatever makes the American public tick, especially if it helps kick-start a discussion on feminism in today's society.