entertainment

Is it fair to compare Kylie Jenner to Nobel Peace Prize recipient Malala Yousafzai?

Completely unnecessary. And a little bit icky.

I’ve been seeing it a lot on my Facebook feed lately. Shared around as a generally condemnation of how shallow we all are in our media consumption habits. And how especially shallow one young woman is. It’s this post:

Oh! Such a great point! Why WAS only one of those things reported as breaking news? Doesn’t that say something awful about us all?

Well… No. I’m sorry. No it doesn’t.

Of all the things Malala Yousafzai has done, turning 18 is just about the least remarkable and commendable. Malala’s birthday is not news in much the same way Nelson Mandela’s birthdays were not news, or Jeremy Corbyn’s or Angela Merkel’s.

Nelson Mandela made news by fighting to end apartheid. Jeremy Corbyn is making news for becoming the most left wing leader the UK Labour Party has seen in a lifetime, and Angela Merkel makes news for setting economic agendas, and agreeing to open Germany’s borders to hundreds of thousands of refugees.

Malala Yousafzai makes news by winning the Nobel Peace Prize. She makes news by opening schools in refugee camps so that young women fleeing the conflict in Syria can get access to education.

In other words, she makes news through her actions and her achievements.

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Kylie Jenner, on the other hand, makes news through her Snapchats. Why? Because she is not a leading human rights figure. She is a reality TV star. And as a reality TV star, she has made her very existence newsworthy. Let’s think for a second why a reality TV star turning 18 might be breaking news.

First of all, when you follow the exploits and adventures of someone else’s life for entertainment, the relative freedom that comes from legal adulthood means that their life may well get a whole lot more interesting. Kylie Jenner’s 18th birthday has implications for her role on Keeping Up With the Kardashians. It has implications for the quality of her future Snapchats.

Malala Yousafzai turning 18 has implications for… nothing. She was doing amazing work, and she will continue to do so.

The second reason Kylie Jenner turning 18 is breaking news is because her birthday signals to men everywhere ‘It’s okay! You’re allowed to think she’s sexy now! You’re allowed to want to f-ck her!’ Is that gross and cheap and sleazy? Hell yes it is.

But the same thing happened when Emma Watson and the Olsen Twins turned 18. The same thing happened when Kylie’s sister Kendall came of age. Kylie Jenner, like all of her big sisters, and many other young female celebrities, is positioned as a lust object. I’m not saying she’s a victim. She’s complicit in that positioning. She’s making money from it. And as long as she’s comfortable with it, I don’t think she should be judged for it (…the significantly older men who find her attractive are a whole other box of frogs).

@kittengalore @terryrichardson this was the last shot on my way out!

A photo posted by King Kylie (@kyliejenner) on

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You know who isn’t, and shouldn’t be, positioned as a lust object? You know whose 18th birthday men everywhere shouldn’t be invited to celebrate? Malala Yousafzai’s.

Kylie Jenner and Malala Yousafzai occupy very different positions in our cultural landscape. People will always enjoy gossip. Enjoy light entertainment. Enjoy a bit of salaciousness. Right now, Kylie Jenner is putting her hand up to be a flash-point for our more tabloid instincts.

These instincts aren’t going away. Lusting after underage girls might be creepy. But a bit of trivial gossip is fine. We shouldn’t judge ourselves for being interested. We’re naturally social creatures who itch for personal information about those in the public eye.

If anything, Kylie’s doing us all a favour by actively volunteering to scratch that itch. She’s not asking to be a role model. She’s not asking us to take her seriously. She’s offering to let us in on the fun of being Kylie Jenner. We shouldn’t be judging her for letting us take voyeuristic peeks into her fabulous life – 18th birthday included. We should be thanking her.

Because imagine the alternative? Imagine if we got our celebrity gossip fix from women like Malala. Imagine if her 18th birthday was breaking news. Imagine if reporters thought it was socially appropriate to ask her about her boyfriends, what she’s wearing and nothing else.

Isn’t it better that we live in a world where we don’t have to bother a Nobel Peace Prize winner with that kind of attention, because someone else actively put their hand up to take it?

Everyone who says ‘stop making stupid people famous’ misses the point. If we weren’t talking that way about the Kardashians, we’d want to talk that way about someone else. And that someone else might have other things to do. Like opening schools in refugee camps.

Comparing Malala Yousafzai to Kylie Jenner is like dipping a brussel sprout into a pot of melted gummy worms. It’s weird, it’s gross, and it does a disservice to two things that are perfectly acceptable without each other.

Do you agree? Do you have room on your radar for Malala and Kylie?

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