The Kardashians have been getting praised for doing the bare minimum for years, what with the rampant appropriation and the dry, overpriced lip kits that net them billion-dollar companies and the reality show that hasn’t been interesting in years and the… no you’re right I’ll stop, otherwise we’ll be here for hours. And now you can add body positivity to that list, as they *might* finally be not quite jumping on it, but carefully hovering one toe over the bandwagon, with Kourtney Kardashian posting an un-retouched butt selfie.
I know, alert the media.
Well, somebody (and I think we all know who) did alert the media —or, at least, PEOPLE magazine — which published an article entitled, “Fans Praise Kourtney Kardashian for Sharing an ‘Unedited’ Thong Bikini Photo: ‘Way to Empower”. It states, “Since [Kourtney] is no stranger to posting butt-baring bikini pics, her eagle-eyed followers soon noticed that the photo appeared to show her backside exactly as it is, with no airbrushing involved.”
I’m not sure it takes an eagle eye to notice when someone’s skin hasn’t been blurred into oblivion, although I will say the “imperfections” here are quite subtle, so I’ll give it to them. The article then included a smattering of positive comments, such as, “Way to empower the natural women body!! Love this 🙌❤️,” and “I love that the little dimples were kept! It’s so natural and so beautiful 😍.”
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Sorry, my eyes rolled back in my head so hard they got stuck and I couldn’t type coherently for a minute there.
I mean, look, is it good that Kourtney didn’t take the opportunity to Facetune her butt, as surely many people on Instagram (and her own family) do? Are there a few (barely) visible ripples in the skin of her butt cheeks? Yes and yes. But excuse me if I’m not going to take this opportunity to praise the Kardashians, a family who basically feeds off an exclusive diet of controversy and rumored butt implants, for posting a “natural” photo. They have long been accused of warped photo editing, secretive cosmetic surgery, and generally feeding into and perpetuating unrealistic and toxic beauty standards, and fans have been begging for them to get real for years. And the best you could do is not airbrushing your butt? Also, not to get too in the weeds here, but if there is one body part that the Kardashians are known for, it’s their butts. (Say butt again.) Should anyone in that family really be getting a cookie for showing off one of their best features? Progress is progress, sure, but on the road to body positivity, this is one small step made by an inchworm with a bad leg.
And why was Kourtney posting an unedited pic anyway? Notably, the photo was posted not to Kourtney Kardashian’s Instagram, but to Poosh’s Instagram, which has a fraction of her personal following. (She posted a different butt picture to her personal Instagram that is conveniently devoid of dimples.) The caption accompanying this brave photo? “Talk about an instant butt lift. We tapped Kourt’s trainer @jesseohara for her top at-home pilates moves for a rounder rear. Link in bio for her tips.”
Despite what the glowing write-ups are implying, the photo was not intended to be a celebration of Kourtney’s natural body—or anyone’s, for that matter. Rather, it’s a promotion for an “at-home Pilates moves for a rounder butt” article on Poosh. And while advertising a Pilates-induced “instant butt lift” is not on the same level as promoting appetite suppressant lollipops or flat tummy tea or a cosmetic butt lift, promoting the idea of instant results from a whopping total of seven Pilates moves smacks of the same scamminess. It still boils down to “change your body quick by doing this thing I’m promoting”.
On the one hand, every celebrity posting their cellulite can give everyday people the confidence to embrace their own, or at least to not be bothered by it. But on the other hand, context is key, and posting this with the intent of driving readers to a butt workout is really just shifting those insecurities to a slightly different focus. Like, you don’t need to have a smooth ass, but you need to have a round one. Is that really doing anyone any good?
I get that for this Photoshopped cyborg family, releasing an unedited photo might be groundbreaking, but if that’s supposed to mean something for the rest of us, then the bar really is underground. This post doesn’t help anyone other than maybe Kourtney promote body acceptance or build confidence or acceptance of their own bodies — it’s still telling you how you can “improve” a part of your body (according to standards perpetuated by this very family).
To be clear, Kourtney herself is not the one putting forth the narrative that this is a groundbreaking move — that’s all the media, who are also linking it to Khloé’s infamous leaked, unedited bikini pic gaffe with headlines such as “Kourtney Kardashian Proudly Shows Off Cellulite After Khloe Kardashian’s Deleted Photo Controversy” and “Kourtney Kardashian’s Unedited Thong Photo Is Everything Khloé’s Critics Wish She Would Post”. But is that all we want them to post? Unedited photos? Unedited pictures are the first step—a step that celebrities have already been taking. The Kardashians are so late to the game it’s not even funny. One article gushes that the picture “shows off her fitness level while still giving us an unfiltered view of what a woman’s body looks like”. This is only “unfiltered” if you are taking an extremely literal and narrow definition of the word — yeah, there may or may not be a filter on this, but that’s about as relatable as it gets. Most women don’t have access to famous personal trainers. Most women don’t look like this!! It’s correct that we get an “unfiltered” look at what “a woman’s body” looks like—a woman. This one.
Call me radical, but we can — and should — wish for more than unedited thong photos. By celebrating this as some huge win, it just reinforces that the Kardashians can continue to be applauded for failing to do anything to actually move the needle.
Images: Dimitrios Kambouris/Getty Images for Dior Men; poosh / Instagram