by Tom Burns for YourTango
This is not sponsored by Pepsi.
Now that’s an old writer’s gimmick where you say something deliberately provocative at the beginning of an article to draw people in and then you immediately walk it back with “Now let me explain…”, but I’m just going to come out and own that statement.
I believe, without an ounce of pretense or irony, that being a dad in the age of Kim, Kourtney, Khloé, Kendall, Kylie, and all the rest has taken my parenting game to the next level.
Because, like them or not, the Kardashians are COMPLEX.
They are. You might argue back “They spent an hour on their reality show griping about a broken TV last week! How is that complex?!”
But, regardless of their relative entertainment value, the issues that they bring to the table, that they flat-out represent in the media today, are layered, nuanced, and, yes, complex.
For example, earlier today, my ten-year-old daughter looked up from her iPad and said, “Some bad people took pictures of Kim Kardashian’s butt on the beach and some people say that her butt is fake and other people say her butt looks like [deleted mean comment].”
(This kicked off a very long discussion about a number of things, including new restrictions on what my daughter is allowed to look at on her iPad.)
However, I will say, more than anything, I was struck by the depth of the discussion we had. Because it wasn’t as simple as, “It’s mean to say mean things about people.”
We did touch on body-shaming and fat-shaming, for sure, because those are really vital issues to talk about with pre-teens, but our conversation went WAY beyond that.
My daughter wanted to know if Kim’s butt was “real,” which led to talking about elective plastic surgery, body image, and one’s choice to present or alter their body however they see fit. She wanted to know why Kim was mad about the butt picture because, and I quote, “I saw that picture where she sprayed champagne on her butt.”
And that was a difficult topic to get a handle on. It got into consent and whether or not one should have a say in how their bodies were presented to the world, particularly if they’re celebrities who tend to opt in for that kind of media scrutiny.
We then started talking about cyberbullying and online harassment. My daughter asked me, “Has Kim Kardashian ever made fun of someone on Twitter?”
Me: “Probably yes.” (I’m vaguely remembering some Taylor Swift shade.)
Daughter: “Well, why can she say mean things and others can’t?”
Which led to a discussion about how women are harassed online, the difference between snark and personal attacks, how you should conduct yourself on social media, and about ten other things.
That’s a long way of saying — when the Kardashians get involved in a controversy, I end up having very, VERY involved conversations with my kid. And that’s AMAZING. It really is. It’s a really good thing.
Now I can’t pretend that I’m a huge fan of the Kardashians. If I’m being honest, despite the unrelenting media coverage, I don’t know much about them beyond the headlines. I don’t watch the show, buy their products, or play their app.
My daughter doesn’t really consume their media image either. She mostly just knows the Kardashians as the shorthand for a kind of social media celebrity. Sometimes she’ll take a selfie with a friend and comment something like, “We look like the Kardashians!” without really having any basis for the comparison.
That being said, when the Kardashians make headlines, my daughter learns a lot, because, bless them, the Kardashians aren’t heroes, but they’re not villains either.
They are a zeitgeist unto themselves. They are a living sign of the times.
I’ve heard people say you either love or hate the Kardashians, but for me, as a parent, I find myself confronted with both feelings at the same time.
Because they’re strong female entrepreneurs… and yet they’ve made a lot of questionable business decisions.
Because they flaunt themselves on social media… and yet they show young girls how they can OWN their public image without an ounce of shame.
Because they inspire so much online hate… and yet most of that vitriol says more about the haters than the Kardashians themselves.
Do I think the Kardashians are role models? Personally, that’s not how I’d refer to them. But, man, they make modern parenting interesting.
And they’ve really helped me hammer home to my daughter that there are no easy answers.
The world is not binary. Things are not black or white, saints or sinners. A famous person doesn’t have to be all good or all bad. Someone can be famous and terrible and misunderstood and manipulative and culpable and a victim all at the same time.
You can have a reasoned discussion about someone’s decision to alter the shape of their own butt and still think that anyone who publicly mocks or shames that decision is an asshole.
To me, this is the best part of being a parent in the age of the Kardashians. Every week, Kim and her family act as a weird microcosm of every beautiful and ugly aspect of modern society and they force us, as parents, to sit down with our kids and say, “There are some things we should talk about…”
And those discussions have value. Those discussions are what parenting is all about.
This article was originally published on YourTango.
More on parent-kid communication:
Talking to Your Daughters About Comfort & Consent