Yesterday, because it is 2018 and we exist in the worst version of chaos, Kim Kardashian West met with Donald Trump to discuss prison reform and sentencing. Kardashian West has been especially vocal about the release of Alice Marie Johnson, a 63-year-old woman who has spent decades serving a life sentence for a first-time, non-violent drug offence. As of yesterday, a Change.org petition had nearly reached its 300,000-signatures goal, and so far the President has yet to issue a statement in regards to his plans.
Which is a bananas paragraph to type. Johnson’s sentence is bananas, the fact that Donald Trump is still president is bananas, and it is bananas that Kim Kardashian West went to the White House to speak to him about prison reform. But despite the terribleness of the aforementioned and regardless of your feelings for Kardashian West, The New York Post made it even worse by referring to Kardashian West as “Kim Thong Un,” referring to the meeting as “the other big ass summit” and including the headline “Trump Meets Rump”. Which, like, no.
Look. Nobody here is about to be like, “But isn’t it great that she met with Donald Trump for a good cause?” I mean, sure — congratulations to KKW for wielding her celebrity to tackle a system issue that runs centuries deep, but there’s a dissertation’s worth of things that warrant her cancellation that this one act isn’t going to erase. It is but a drop in a bucket already brimming with garbage, indicative that we truly are living in a timeline in which Mad Libs make up the news. It’s also easy to make fun of West’s White House visit in an attempt to keep our real feelings (of, say, fear, horror, sorrow, anger, and desperation) at bay because honestly, humour is all we have left. But then there’s a line.
When you root your criticism in toxic belief systems like sexism, your criticism is no longer valid. “Trump Meets Rump” (kill me) is a lazy means of calling out a meeting that cancels out legitimate sentiments. It reduces a woman to a part of her body and continues to sexualize her in a way that undermines her agency. And it gives permission for everyone else to do the same to every other woman they may not like, valid reasons or not. Is Kim Kardashian West’s butt a part of her identity? Yes, but it is her identity and under her terms only. Plus, that particular aspect of her identity had nothing to do with this meeting. She wasn’t debuting an update of Kimojis — she was talking about prison reform.
Which, I know. I’m still very “What is going on right now?” about all of it. But to be honest, that only means there was more room in which to thoroughly critique Kardashian West’s social and political agenda. The Post could’ve looked into next steps, into what KKW had been vocal about in the past, into the way she remained mum about her political leanings until a brief blip in 2016 (in which she mentioned voting for Hillary) before standing by her husband recently. It could’ve covered whether or not celebrity is really the only currency Trump understands, and what it would mean if he pardoned Johnson in the wake of this meeting. It could’ve asked why two people who communicate notoriously via social media chose to meet in person and why they issued their intent to meet not through @-replies but through announcements. It could’ve asked whether they’ve spoken before, or whether KKW opted to overlook Trump’s history of racism, sexism, homophobia, transphobia, xenophobia, and ableism or haven’t overlooked these things and is executing a political sneak attack we haven’t clued into yet. Or, simply, it could’ve just said how overwhelmingly bonkers this meeting was, and how it shows that social clout matters to this administration in a way that is terrifying. It could’ve said anything better, and anything less sexism-oriented. It could’ve posted the photo of the two in the Oval Office and “WTF” written across the bottom.
Because we’re not going to make progress by remaining anchored to the worst parts of ourselves or our society. We don’t have time for nonsense that we, on top of everything else, are actively trying to obliterate. It doesn’t help anyone to point out that Kim Kardashian West is a curvy woman, or to infer that she was wearing a particular type of underwear. It’s pointless. It’s embarrassing. And it takes away from a much bigger, much more important point: the President of the United States sat down with a reality TV star/entrepreneur to talk about prison reform in-between posting tweets that further allude to the fact that his presidency is morphing into a type of dictatorship. Unless you’re a celebrity who has more Twitter followers than he does.