Image: Kendall Jenner / Wikimedia Commons
“I’ve always been super different from all my sisters,” Kendall Jenner confessed during her Vogue profile for the September issue. And that seems to be the general consensus surrounding the 20-year-old model. Even the keenest Kardashian critics seem to agree that Kendall is the least loathed of her siblings.
That’s not to say she doesn’t have her detractors. Following her appearance on Vogue’s September cover, many lamented what ostensibly signified the demise of the prestigious publication’s standards.
“Is nothing sacred anymore?” one Twitter user moaned. Because apparently a magazine that has a long history of perpetuating unhealthy stereotypes about female bodies has only just now crossed a line. Right.
By and large, though, Kendall has escaped the Kardashian witch hunt relatively unscathed. But just what is it about her that inspires, if not adoration, then at least ambivalence? Let’s look at the science.
For one, despite the fact that she’s technically the second-youngest member of the family, she looks like a teenager next Kylie, who is two years her junior but could easily pass as the bigger sis. She’s pretty in a girl-next-door way, not as femme fatale as Kim or high Gothic as Kylie, but non-threatening – like one of the teen stars of a show on Disney Channel about a musical summer camp.
What’s more, she hasn’t had any (obvious) cosmetic enhancements. That’s important, because society still doesn’t know what to do with women who hold total dominion over their bodies and sexualities, including those who aren’t afraid to show it through a visit to the plastic surgeon for lip fillers or butt implants.
Supposedly, Kendall is the classiest of her sisters, which means she doesn’t stoop to activities deemed ill-mannered or undesirable by polite society. But the problem with that assertion is we still have a long way to go before we rid ourselves of the knee-jerk attitudes and unenlightened narratives from last century.
And that’s where sexism comes into play. Because the idea that a woman’s worth is based on some intangible and elusive measure of “class” – a gendered term which has historically served to restrict and restrain women’s choices – smacks of implicit misogyny.
That means when we use words like “classy” as a compliment, what we’re actually doing is reinforcing archaic ideas of femininity and womanhood. In reality, the other members of the Kardashian clan (klan?) aren’t any less “ladylike” than Kendall just because they happen to wear their vanity on their sleeves. Anything that suggests otherwise, thereby pitting women against each other, is hardly a paragon of women's lib.
Kim, Khloe, Kourtney and Kylie – we need to think about what the
krusade crusade against them really says about us. Is the Kardashian love-to-hate syndrome actually an outward manifestation of internalised misogyny? In times like these, Kim’s five-word acceptance speech at the Webby Awards has never been more applicable: “Nude selfies till I die.” Damn straight.