It's all very well for Kim Kardashian to toddle around in see-through clothes like the model Bella Hadid just did at the Cannes Film Festival. If I had to do that to assert politically on-track feminism I'd need those sign-boarded cars that go ahead of extra-wide vehicles to warn other drivers.

I don't think it's fair on children to show them what time, childbearing and surgery does to the appearance of the female body. They might not want to grow up.

Kim is beloved of intellectual feminists for showing that she's, "in control of her body", as they put it, and because as Harriet Hakim of English think-tank Civitas says, the Kardashian thing is about "not being controlled by men, not subjugated by men or thinking they are inferior to men".

It probably helps that they're rich enough to do as they please, initially thanks to Kim's father, the deceased celebrated American lawyer, and more recently thanks to their choice to live their narrow, narcissistic lives on camera to the delight of millions. Botox and plastic surgery help, too.


When female narcissism translates as empowerment I am both amused and confused. Whose gaze are such women courting when they expose so much pampered, surgically enhanced flesh if not males? If their intention is to attract female attention their only possible purpose could be to annoy, and cause older women to wonder how they deal with going to the bathroom, let alone cold weather. Blue goose-bumped skin has yet to take off as a fashion trend, but they could yet make that fashionable I guess.

These new-style feminists are not displaying ordinary, imperfect bodies, but bodies that conform to traditional pin-ups from men's magazines, small-waisted, big-breasted, with rounded buttocks and flawless legs, in Kim's case an old-fashioned hourglass figure that formerly called for a tight corset. They wouldn't do it otherwise, though I did see two see-through skirts on Wellington streets this week on sturdy young women boldly asserting their redefined feminism in wintry conditions. That took courage. As Harriet Harman, former deputy leader of the British Labour Party, gushes about the Kardashians, "there's a bravery and a pioneering spirit in them".

If Kim Kardashian got stretch marks or varicose veins from pregnancy, she'd have plastic surgery immediately. And she is a role model. She is also a role model for making a fortune out of a leaked sex tape of her own performance. No wonder very young girls are taking their clothes off online to entertain boys; but we mustn't worry because they are "exploiting their sexuality for their own ends". Which seems to say it is now absolutely okay, and great feminism, if you get paid heaps for it, but possibly less so if you do it for free. I need guidance on this point.

There is also feminist applause, admittedly, for women who show off bodies that fall well short of Kardashian standards, but I am uneasy about this. It is still centring on women as physical objects rather than thinking human individuals. Kim does share her vast wealth, I gather, giving 10 per cent of all the money she earns to charities. In keeping with her main interest in life, she encourages other celebrities to give their cast-off clothes to charity auctions, and also donates clothes she is bored with to the Dream Foundation, a charity that helps adults suffering from life-limiting illnesses. Remember her recent nude selfie on Facebook, captioned, "When you're like I have nothing to wear LOL"?

Why am I less than impressed with her generosity? For starters because she is a key ingredient in the global self-loathing of women who cannot be empowered by their bodies because genetics made them the same shape as every other woman in their families, and lack of funds makes them unable to pay for the surgical enhancement it takes to be so congratulated. These are the women who feature in magazine articles for their "miracle weight loss", then put all the weight back on again.

Kim's 18-year-old sister Kylie Jenner has reportedly already spent $2 million on cosmetic procedures, and - again reportedly - is considering having her bottom ribs removed so she can replicate Kim's unusual waistline. At which point I guess feminists will gush over her empowerment of the surgeon's knife to render her even more artificial, and hold her up as another feminist icon.

Oh pass the sick bucket.

- Rosemary McLeod is a journalist and author.