Previous: NXIUM, Theranos, Crypto, And Housewives: A Deep Dive Into Scams
Next: The Consumerist Trend That Is Just As Obnoxious As Minimalism



View count:174,555
Last sync:2024-05-27 14:00
In this episode, Chelsea dives into the long-term effects the Kardashian family industrial complex has had on our societal relationship with beauty standards, social media, and consumerism.

This video is sponsored by M1. Click here to get started with M1 today and begin building your wealth for tomorrow:

Kim on feminism:

Pro-Kardashian feminism example:

Kylie discourse:

The Kardashian Effect:

Join this channel to get access to perks:

The Financial Diet site:

Hey, guys.

It's Chelsea from The Financial Diet, and this week's video is sponsored by M1. And today, as promised in a previous video where we discussed cultural figures who have been incredibly toxic to our relationship with money, I mentioned that one of the figures was Kris Jenner and the extended Kardashian-Jenner clan but that the video was already so long at this point, frankly, had so much to unpack that it merited its own video.

And so here we are. And in this video, I want to particularly explore the relationship between this family and, of course, the massive media product consumerist empire they've created and our cultural understandings of things like feminism, capitalism, consumerism, body image, and basically everything else that they have touched for the better or worse-- in most cases, the worse. Now, some may point to the fact, when it comes to the Kardashians and feminism in particular, that Kim herself has taken pains to deny the title of feminist.

Although if you ask me, it's probably more of a fence-sitting PR move than any actual ideological conviction. But their presence in the culture has been interpreted as feminist for years by people from the academic and pop culture worlds alike. And it's worth starting by considering what makes them so powerful in the first place, powerful enough in this case to be considered feminist pioneers.

In short, coming from the relatively vapid, tabloid-driven aughts where Kim first became famous, initially as a Paris Hilton hanger-on and moving through the superficially feminist girlboss capitalism of the 2010s, the Kardashian-Jenners have been able to thread the needle of representing, on one hand, an extremely narrow vision of what women are supposed to look like, even going so far as to largely normalize the concept of hyper-invasive cosmetic procedures on girls who haven't even completed puberty, and on the other a glossy aspirational vision of consumerism which reframes typical exploitation as some kind of feminist pursuit. And it shouldn't be undersold the extent to which almost everything we're going to talk about today is a direct result of Kris Jenner and her all-seeing panopticon of which of her children is most famous at any given moment, which the kids have themselves attested to as her general metric for which one she's most affectionate toward at any given time. Kris Jenner actually goes often relatively undiscussed in these conversations because she takes great pains to make sure that it's her children who are the face of all of these various products and endeavors and launches and media blitzes.

But her fingerprints are all over every aspect of this cultural revolution. So while the girlboss era-- rest in peace-- was largely defined by a veritable buffet of female scammers and operational disasters-- (SINGING) Nasty Gal, Theranos, Outdoor Voices, and The Wing. We didn't start the fire.

Sorry, guys. Its astronomic rise and several-year chokehold on the cultural perception of what it meant to be an upwardly mobile woman was undoubtedly at least in part driven by the Kardashians and the specific type of entrepreneurial success they represented. There is especially a couple year period in there in which basically all of their pursuits, which had yet to have the strong negative cultural reverberations, were being framed as feminist achievements.

Now, anyone who's been lucky enough to be spared the relentless "are the Kardashians feminist" discourse of the past 10 or so years is someone I'm incredibly jealous of. But the gist is that there were thousands-- and still are, which are you guys OK, how are you still making these-- of articles and videos and even academic writings all recentering what the Kardashians do and who they are as fundamentally empowering for women. Now, again there's basically unlimited amount of these things out there.

But this 2020 Medium article sums up the gist pretty well. "The Kardashian empire of girls is one that is inherently feminist. The richest woman in the world is only the 12th richest woman-- Francoise Bettencourt Meyers of L'Oreal. But at least women are financially compensating for the centuries long lack of opportunities they had to make money.

But we have a long and meandering road left for us, which is why the Kardashian business and media empires are themselves empowering. Long gone are the macho-masculine business empires. Today, the Kardashians are showing the world that a mother and her five daughters can be worthy business moguls." Now, in general, the most important ideological foundation of this kind of talk is that women getting more money or power are inherently good things, never minding the fact that women are perfectly capable of being exploitative business leaders, let alone actual dictators.

And this framing is still one that we're struggling to free ourselves from, even with the demise of the girlboss era. Because even much of the women's personal finance space to this day is still very centered around making more female millionaires or generally asserting that more rich women is inherently a good thing for women everywhere. Despite the dearth of data showing that more rich women in a given population translates to more gender parity across the board for women or more robust social programs or benefits or really anything that benefits women overall outside of the rich ones.

And as we saw with Kim's recent ill-advised observation about how nobody wants to work anymore, which, among other things, led to an absolute outpouring of former assistants and employees and interns and collaborators talking about how terrible it was to work for that family, the framing that this assumes is that it's a lack of wanting to work hard which makes other people poor and the Kardashians wealthy, when, in reality, most people, on average, have to work longer hours for much lower pay. But it's no surprise that this perception-- that the Kardashians are successful because they work hard-- is so popular, because it in no way challenges the capitalist narratives that, A, most wealth is generated from working super-duper hard, which is not true-- most wealthy people in this country were born wealthy-- but also that, B, most people who are poor are that way because they're lazy. This is not true.

The majority of the poor in this country work and are not paid high enough wages to not rely on social programs, which effectively subsidize large corporations which don't pay living wages. And nowhere was the perpetuation of this hard-working myth more evident than in the Kylie as self-made moment. So perhaps the most striking chasm between the reality of what such enormous privilege and inherited wealth and fame affords you and how we frame the entrepreneurial spirit of the women in this family is Kylie Jenner's now notorious crowning as the youngest self-made female billionaire, largely for her cosmetics empire.

And despite the overwhelming and obvious response from the internet at large that, uh, no the [BLEEP] she wasn't for reasons that should be obvious-- such as the wealth of her family, the enormous platform she had on the hugely popular internationally syndicated reality show she'd been starring on since childhood, the humongous internet platform she cultivated as a result, et cetera-- Kylie was still pretty tone-deafly insistent that the self-made framing was true. As one Paper Magazine interview put it, "In 2018, when Forbes predicted that Jenner would be crowned America's youngest self-made billionaire within a year, the internet understandably bristled. But while Jenner definitely exhibits the blithe financial attitude that her detractors would expect-- 'I don't define myself by how much I have.

I honestly don't wake up even thinking about it--' she is able to acknowledge how certain Kardashian-related privileges gave Kylie Cosmetics and edge other fledgling beauty brands would kill for. 'I had such a huge platform, I had so many followers already, and I had so many people watching me,' she admits. Still, she's eager to assert that 'the self-made thing is true.' Her parents, quote, 'cut her off at the age of 15' and told her to start making her own way. And Jenner says that, since then, she hasn't received a single cent. 'My parents told me that I needed to make my own money, it's time to learn how to save and spend your own money, stuff like that,' she explains, taking her time to think through the statement. 'What I'm trying to say is I did have a platform, but none of my money is inherited.'" But here's the thing, when it comes to Kylie, I actually have a great deal more empathy for her situation than I do for most of this entire cultural oil spill, because despite reinforcing a lot of dangerous myths about capitalism and wealth building, she's also, in my opinion, the most egregious victim of that other half of the Kardashian coin, which is hyper-augmented and unattainable beauty standards, which, in and of itself, has also managed to be spun by many as something empowering to women.

In addition to the fact that Kylie was made a household name for opening up her personal life to national TV cameras before she could even meaningfully consent-- see our recent video on child influencers for more information on why that's so awful-- her empire was largely built on gaslighting her young, impressionable consumers about the cause of her massive shift in appearance, pretending that it was about deft makeup application and not the extensive facial alteration she underwent before she even completed puberty. The extent to which Kylie's choices were even realistically hers to make, the inevitable complication she's likely to suffer as her face and body age with so many procedures and products to maintain, the fact that her reconstructed face and body created a culture-wide preference in style which is no longer preferred feel like more of a punishment to her than we as a society could ever leverage against her for getting bull [BLEEP] press for being a self-made billionaire. But beyond Kylie, one thing that is undeniable with this family is the way their particular school of beauty has impacted the culture around them.

There is incredible evidence to demonstrate that the Kardashians, as a family themselves, individually changed our beauty standards in this country, even if it does seem lately that the reign of terror of the slim-thick Instagram-faced influencer look is starting to wane. And while the Kardashian-Jenners may have the resources to constantly be upgrading and tweaking themselves to fit their own impossible standards, most women do not. And these widespread norms and expectations, coupled with how financially and physically unrealistic they are for so many women, has led to disastrous results, such as the explosive rise of dangerous surgeries, like the Brazilian butt lift, which can and has resulted in the death of patients, especially ones who understandably go to less reputable doctors or locales to make the surgery more affordable.

This explosion in popularity can be almost directly credited to Kim herself. And with Kylie's world-famous lips that launched a billion lip kits, things like facial fillers and other dermatological interventions have become more the norm than ever before, leading many women to once again pursue dubious purveyors in order to save on costs, especially because these injectables are not permanent and generally need to be touched up on a yearly basis or even more frequently. And it's even arguable that although Kylie took this all on at the youngest age and therefore was, in many ways, the most unfairly impacted, she also arguably hasn't borne the worst of it from a sheer aesthetic perspective because she was largely still able to fit in and even redefine these harsh beauty standards.

Because the hyper-augmented Kardashian beauty brand isn't destructive for the normal everyday women who can't afford it or fit into it. It's also destructive for members of their own family who don't fit it. Kylie's older sister Khloe, despite constant surgical alterations in order to change her natural appearance, continues to struggle to be perceived in the same aesthetic league as her sisters.

And she's spoken at length about the great damage that this has done to her mental and physical health. Beyond all of that, though, even if somehow millions of young girls suddenly feeling that they needed lip fillers in order to be beautiful was somehow not a net negative for society, there is at best a wildly culturally appropriate and fetishistic aspect of these beauty standards. As an Allure mag article put it, "During the Kardashian reign, a new term was coined to describe the suddenly rampant phenomenon of racial performance on social media-- blackfishing." Stemming from the racist practice of blackface, blackfishing specifically describes when people use tools like makeup, Photoshop, and cosmetic surgery that make them appear more Black.

The term was coined by culture writer Wanna Thompson who, in 2018, started a viral Twitter thread of 'white girls cosplaying as Black women on Instagram.' The thread was retweeted almost 30,000 times; and the responses were rife with Kardashian lookalikes. In an interview discussing the term and its participants, Instagram influencer Ericka Hart explained how the Kardashians' overwhelming popularity, quote, 'can't be overlooked. They have been able to capitalize off Black bodies, and people will want to emulate that.'" Now, much ink cannon has been spilled about the complications of the beauty standards they presented to us and their very conveniently reframed brand of capitalism and consumerism that was almost convincingly able to be passed off as feminism for so long.

But where you really cannot deny the pure uncut savvy that is Kris Jenner is in the personal branding of it all. In defense of the Kardashians, people will often point out that despite the immense privileges that they're inherited wealth and the fact that they're ultimately a group of hot chicks confers on them, where they truly revolutionize something out of nothing was in the personal brands that they created and monetized in ways that had never been done before. From the initial success of the Kardashian reality show where everything from Kim's sex tape to brother-in-law Scott Disick's booze-fueled antics, including shoving literal dollar bills in an uncompliant waiter's mouth, were played as fodder to identify and sympathize with the family to the way in which they reimagined how to use platforms like Instagram and what one could do with them-- there's even compelling data that the family's particular usage has influenced the actual user experience updates of these platforms-- it's undeniable that this family has fundamentally and likely forever changed how we view and share ourselves online.

They also, more than anyone else at their particular scale, normalized and essentially mandated the use of filters and heavy photo editing, even on appearances which would otherwise be considered magazine ready. That women as conventionally attractive, surgically enhanced, and otherwise, frankly, magazine ready look feel the need to alter their photos in post-production to the extent that they do says quite a lot about the extent to which normal uggos like the rest of us should probably be doing it, right? So yes, they did revolutionize the way we use social media and the concept of a personal brand.

But is that a good thing? Uh, no. Because the data clearly seems to indicate that the way in which we are expected to share and promote ourselves for everything from likes to potential job searches has been a net negative for our mental health, particularly for-- survey says-- those same young girls who, just a few short years ago, were overwhelming checkout pages to buy Kylie Lip Kits under the false impression that it was this makeup and not extensive cosmetic procedures that allowed their idol Kylie to change her lips.

Young girls have seen immense increases in depression, anxiety, reported body image and self-esteem issues, and even suicidality, largely attributed to the rise of social media and the particular visual pressures that it puts on them. And when even Kardashian sister Khloe herself has spoken at length on the immense damage that these pressures-- largely cultivated by social media-- have done to her psyche, what chance does a normal 13-year-old girl stand? At the end of the day, there have been destructive pop culture figures and horrible appearance-driven trends for women for basically as long as those things have existed.

And in no way does all of this aforementioned bad stuff mean, for example, that someone like Kim deserves to be extensively harassed by her ex-husband, for example. But it does mean that this dance that we're constantly having to play of "is this thing feminist because a woman did it" should probably retire with all of those failed girlboss brands. Women are just as capable of being exploitative, of setting terrible examples, of creating unrealistic pressures, of damaging the culture around them.

And just because a woman is making a lot of money does not mean that money was made in a feminist way or her having it is a feminist act. As that one fantastic tweet so succinctly put it, "I don't support all women. Some of you [BLEEP] are very dumb." So let us move forward into an analysis of capitalism and consumerism and feminism that is not bogged down by a botched Brazilian butt lift.

And if you're looking to do something actually valuable with your money, I highly recommend you check out M1 at the link in our description. M1, a.k.a. the finance super app, is an all-in-one investing platform where both new and advanced investors alike can custom build the portfolio they want or use one of their pre-built diversified portfolios. By automating your contributions to either a traditional or a Roth IRA with M1, you can make investing in your retirement as painless as possible and with zero hidden fees or confusing costs.

And with an M1 community portfolio, like the M1 community pie, which focuses on groups of publicly-traded companies led by executives from marginalized communities, you have the option to invest with both your values and your financial goals in mind. So click the link in our description to get started with M1 today and to begin building your wealth for tomorrow. And as always, guys, thank you for watching.

And don't forget to hit the Subscribe button and to come back every Monday, Tuesday, and Thursday for new and awesome videos. Goodbye.