Panel 01: Feminist Theory and Visual Culture

Abstract Title

"Someone's #Wife & Someone's #Mom": Kim Kardashian, "Breaking the Internet," and Mediascapes of Motherhood

Start Date

13-2-2015 1:30 PM

End Date

13-2-2015 2:50 PM

Abstract

This presentation, using an analysis of the Twitter mediascape, argues that Kim Kardashian’s “Break the Internet” photo shoot violates cultural conventions of motherhood in order to reshape the archetype of the mother and provide opportunities to break down the inverse relationship between motherhood and sexuality.

On November 11, 2014, Kardashian leaked photos of herself in a spread titled “Break the Internet” for Paper Magazine on Twitter and Instagram. The photos feature Kardashian, a new mother, in a slinky black dress, balancing a champagne glass on her derrière before she gradually strips down to do a fully nude shot in the last photo of the series. The photos didn’t “break the internet” as promised, but it did light up the mediascape with criticism.

Many Twitter users focused on Kardashian’s body; however, a surprising number of them fixated on Kardashian’s status as a mother, accusing her of being a “bad mother” and a “slut” because she did a nude photo shoot. These negative responses back research showing that sexuality and motherhood have an inverse relationship—mothers are allowed to be sexual beings before they have children, but as soon as children are born, mothers are de-sexed and denigrated as bad mothers if they express themselves as sexual beings. Even with the large number of negative responses, some Twitter users responded positively to Kardashian’s photos and acknowledge the shifting image of mothers.

Kardashian’s push toward reshaping communal ideals of motherhood forces social media users to acknowledge that mothers may be sexual and still take care of their children; continued focus on the inverse relationship between motherhood and sexuality will restructure the American mediascape towards a more just depiction of mothers, allowing them to be both “good mothers” and sexual beings.

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Feb 13th, 1:30 PM Feb 13th, 2:50 PM

"Someone's #Wife & Someone's #Mom": Kim Kardashian, "Breaking the Internet," and Mediascapes of Motherhood

This presentation, using an analysis of the Twitter mediascape, argues that Kim Kardashian’s “Break the Internet” photo shoot violates cultural conventions of motherhood in order to reshape the archetype of the mother and provide opportunities to break down the inverse relationship between motherhood and sexuality.

On November 11, 2014, Kardashian leaked photos of herself in a spread titled “Break the Internet” for Paper Magazine on Twitter and Instagram. The photos feature Kardashian, a new mother, in a slinky black dress, balancing a champagne glass on her derrière before she gradually strips down to do a fully nude shot in the last photo of the series. The photos didn’t “break the internet” as promised, but it did light up the mediascape with criticism.

Many Twitter users focused on Kardashian’s body; however, a surprising number of them fixated on Kardashian’s status as a mother, accusing her of being a “bad mother” and a “slut” because she did a nude photo shoot. These negative responses back research showing that sexuality and motherhood have an inverse relationship—mothers are allowed to be sexual beings before they have children, but as soon as children are born, mothers are de-sexed and denigrated as bad mothers if they express themselves as sexual beings. Even with the large number of negative responses, some Twitter users responded positively to Kardashian’s photos and acknowledge the shifting image of mothers.

Kardashian’s push toward reshaping communal ideals of motherhood forces social media users to acknowledge that mothers may be sexual and still take care of their children; continued focus on the inverse relationship between motherhood and sexuality will restructure the American mediascape towards a more just depiction of mothers, allowing them to be both “good mothers” and sexual beings.