It's never not jarring to hear a female celebrity say she's not a feminist — particularly when, in her disavowal of the word, she rattles off a list of things she does believe in that are usually the actual definition of feminism. (See, just this week: Sarah Jessica Parker.) It's particularly jarring when that celebrity is Kim Kardashian West, whose actions say "feminist" but who, for some reason, remains resistant to using the word.
"Everyone always says, are you a feminist?" Kim said during her keynote interview at the BlogHer 16 conference in LA Friday. "And I don't think that I am."
"I don't like labels," she continued. "I do what makes me happy and I want women to be confident and I'm so supportive of women... But I'm not the 'free the nipple'-type girl."
Besides feeling disappointed when she said this, I also felt sad: Kim's impression of feminism seems to have been jacked from a men's rights subreddit. Who, exactly, is a "'free the nipple'-type girl"? To Kim, it seems, "feminism" involves things like not wearing a bra, not shaving your legs, and hating men.
To be clear: If those are your things, then great! But to imply that these are the requirements for being a feminist betrays a woefully retrograde and closed-minded view of what feminism is.
But Kim's expressed these views before — and she's never claimed to be a feminist. In fact, she said this exact thing almost verbatim at a speech last year at the Commonwealth Club of California when she told the audience of 1,000, "I guess people would call me a feminist. But I don’t really like to put labels on things... I do what makes me feel comfortable, and I never say what I’m doing is the right thing."
And yet she's comfortable with certain labels: businesswoman, mother, wife, sister, friend. She wants to own certain aspects of how she's benefited from feminism without having to claim the term; she's "having it all" without acknowledging the debt she owes to feminists, and feminism. Being able to be a mogul and the executive producer of a wildly successful TV show, or even owning your home as a woman — all of these are things that feminism has supported, and which Kim takes for granted, and maybe that’s the key. Because feminism is not just about nipples being freed.