For the past decade defenders of Kim Kardashian West have had one solid retort to fall back on when naysayers claim she is only famous for releasing a sex tape or taking her clothes off.
“She’s actually a brilliant businesswoman” they all say “she’s built an empire” they argue, and until this week I had always loudly added my voice to that chorus.
The chorus of people who wanted it known that just because a woman stars in a reality TV series and posts glamorous (sometimes naked) photos to social media, doesn’t mean she can’t have outstanding business acumen.
Light and shade, people, good business people are not just old white guys in grey suits.
But this week a sponsored Instagram post has allowed our perception of Kim Kardashian and her business savvy to irrecoverably change, to shift from one of respect and awe to one of fear over the damage she is inevitably causing to millions of people already battling body image issues.
This week, the 37 year old mother of three chose to endorse an appetite-suppressing lollipop to her impressionable 111 million Instagram followers.
Posting on Instagram on Wednesday, Kardashian wrote:
“#ad You guys… @flattummyco just dropped a new product. They’re Appetite Suppressant Lollipops and they’re literally unreal. They’re giving the first 500 people on their website 15 percent OFF so if you want to get your hands on some… you need to do it quick! #suckit.”
There’s no denying this was a smart move on the part of Flat Tummy Co, to rope in Kim Kardashian to endorse their product.
In a world where traditional advertising is in flux and the power of digital influence cannot be easily harnessed and controlled, Kim Kardashian has proven to be a recognisable and reliable digital influencing force.
However, to quote an ancient and wise Spider-Man proverb “with great power comes great responsibility” and in this case the responsibility to not promote products and ideas that may harm the physical and mental health of your customers lies at the feet of Kim Kardashian, the face and owner of the business empire in question.
That’s not to say that calling out the dangerous nature of her business negates her unquestionable financial success.
Instead, what this shift in perception means is that “business mogul” can no longer be her reigning placard, it can no longer be the trump card that is pulled out every time someone questions her intelligence, her worth and her intentions.
We can no longer pretend that Kim Kardashian is the face of good business, because her actions around promoting dangerous ways for women to alter their bodies goes beyond the bounds of impressive influence and success.
Let’s not forget, this is not the first time Kardashian has added another brick to her ever increasing house of wealth by trading in on women’s insecurities and attempting to make a quick buck by spruiking, or just posting about, a questionable product.
There was the time she posted numerous photos of herself in waist trainers to her social media feeds, a practice which health experts claim does not make your body smaller but can in fact “restrict your movements, and can even make it difficult to breathe and theoretically could cause rib damage.”
There was also that long slice of time when she and the extended Kardashian family lent their faces and social media influence to promote diet regimen and supplements QuickTrim. A partnership which led to a law firm filing a $5 million class-action lawsuit against Kim, Khloe, and Kourtney Kardashian, on behalf of four customers who said QuickTrim didn’t live up to its weight-loss claims.
Until now, it seemed that we were always willing to overlook and almost excuse this behaviour by stating that her overwhelming business success and growing financial empire proved there was a smart method to her madness.
But it is time now for that narrative to come to an end, because financial success does not cancel out accountability.
As a feminist, it also feels like I am breaking an unspoken code by speaking out about Kardashian, to pull her down and call her out for her actions when her growing success should be celebrated and protected.
After all, how can women get ahead in this business if we continue to pull each other down?
But in this case, I chose to be on the side of the women who will be harmed by this, rather than protecting Kardashian’s right to profit from it.
I chose to speak up for the people who saw that Instagram post today and were triggered by it. I chose to be on the side of the women who wish to emulate this level of business success and now feel that this is the smartest and only way to do it.
And despite what her bank balance may say, she has not had the last laugh by proving her critics wrong and establishing a legacy around business and success.
Instead, she is forevermore the poster-girl for the way social media and influence dangerously warps our perceptions around body image.
Kim Kardashian has no doubt lost a legion of fans over this, and frankly, that’s just bad business.
What are your thoughts on Kim Kardashian’s business practices?