Uncomfortable though it may be, many women across the globe stifled sighs of relief when a leaked photograph of Khloe Kardashian surfaced online last week, confirming what we already knew to be true about Instagram. Untouched, unedited and lacking in filters, the world was introduced to the fresh face of the third eldest daughter of the most influential family on the planet.
Though the Kardashian sisters are no strangers to bikini-pics, the now infamous photograph of 36-year-old mother of one, Khloe, circulated online like wildfire, setting ablaze the latest hot-topic debate of women's bodies and the minefield that is Instagram culture. Despite the regular swimwear content uploaded by Khloe dominating her Instagram account, the unintentional publishing of the candid photo of this worldwide influencer in a leopard print bikini became one of the most talked about topics on Twitter in the last week. Even though she looked objectively happy, healthy and beautiful, Khloe frantically sought to have the image removed from social media. In a relatively bizarre, and dare I say dramatic, twist Khloe released a statement regarding the photograph, writing that: "My body, my image and how I choose to look and what I want to share is my choice. It's not for anyone to decide or judge what is acceptable or not anymore."
Although it is undoubtably sad that Khloe Kardashian has spent years behind the shadows of her sisters, I would argue that this rarely seen image of a Kardashian woman, without the magic of photoshop, could have been an opportunity for Khloe. Had she owned the photograph and celebrated it for what it was, an authentic female body, many of her 136 million Instagram followers may have felt reassured and comforted by her truth. Instead, by attempting to hide an image that felt safe and familiar for women across the globe, Khloe confirmed to the world that nothing but perfection is acceptable on social media - perpetuating an unrealistic standard of beauty and damaging the welfare of young women already struggling with body confidence in 2021.
"Khloe Kardashian wants us to buy into the idea that her false perfectionism is reality because she seems to genuinely believe that having flaws is a failure of personhood."
The pressure to present the very best version of yourself online is a contemporary phenomenon that is demolishing the mental health of young people globally. The National Eating Disorder Association recently did a study on women between the ages of 18 and 25 which "showed a link between Instagram and increased self-objectification and body image concerns, especially among those who frequently viewed fitspiration images". It very much seems that Khloe Kardashian, like many of us, has fallen victim to these impossible expectations for women to appear flawless-yet-effortless, slim-yet-toned, natural-yet-made-up all at the same time.
However, it cannot be ignored that she has been caught in a web of her own making. The Kardashian clan is undoubtably responsible for creating, maintaining and perpetuating these impossible standards of beauty. Each Instagram post that makes it onto their grids have been carefully crafted with the help of editing, touchups, studio-lighting, personal trainers, plastic surgeons and expensive nutritionalists. The vast majority of the hundreds of millions of followers shared between the Kardashian sisters are ordinary hardworking women aspiring to scale a slither of the heights of these idealistic celebrity lifestyles - at the cost of their mental-wellbeing and body confidence. By continuing to post these unobtainable depictions of perfection, the Kardashian and Jenner brood are irresponsibly challenging their followers to conform to their ideas of beauty.
The disgust and shame expressed by Khloe at the release of a genuinely lovely image of herself is saddening, but we must recognise that the manic cover-up of this photograph is damaging. Khloe Kardashian wants us to buy into the idea that her false perfectionism is reality because she seems to genuinely believe that having flaws is a failure of personhood. In begging the world to forget this photograph, she is confirming to little girls and young women alike that they are right to be insecure about their rolls, dimples and cellulite. Despite years of hard work by body positivity campaigners, Khloe has demonstrated to her fans that we should be hiding away our ordinary bodies, rather than celebrating them.
"if one of the richest women in the world... is still so unhappy at the sight of herself - what chance do the rest of us have?"
Ultimately, as genuinely sad as Khloe's deep self-shame of her body appears to run, we as consumers of the Kardashians' content cannot ignore the responsibility that Khloe and her family own in helping to create a generation of young women that are unhappy with their bodies. Young women that don't have access to the expensive professionals whose job it is to get this famous family to as close to perfect as humanly possible. Because if one of the richest women in the world, who is able to perform every trick in the book, is still so unhappy at the sight of herself - what chance do the rest of us have? It seems that creating a flawless and edited persona online comes at a price - both literally and at the expense of your mental health.
The Kardashians have made their bed and are laying in it - and that's all fine and dandy, except we too are being dragged under the sheets. They created their own standard of beauty and are paying for it: that is the Kardashian Paradox. The true offence is that we, too, are casualties of their crimes, dreaming to achieve the surgically perfect backsides without the surgery. Khloe's shame is contagious and reminds women on social media that their authentic selves are not enough, when that couldn't be further from the truth.