With the recent release of Kim Kardashian's nude Paper magazine photo shoot, the reality TV personality has received a lot of backlash via social media and online journalism. With responses ranging from the potential damage to her brand, the perpetuation of female objectification and the hypocrisy of a star like Kim being lauded on a magazine cover when Nicki Minaj was criticized for the same imagery, perhaps the most apparent backlash has focused on her figure as a mother.
Soon after Kardashian posted the semi-nude photos to her Instagram account, a comment was allegedly left by Naya River that stated, "I usually don't. But you're someone's mother..." Many users on social networks agreed with this sentiment, as Kardashian's parenting skills have often been criticized in the media as she traveled on the Yeezus tour in support of husband Kanye West and allegedly forgot daughter North West in a hotel room abroad.
But the critiques of Kim Kardashian's parenting skills raise an ever-present question, just as Nicki Minaj's artwork and Rihanna's Lui photos did: Is it any woman in the media's responsibility to be a role model for anyone other than her own children? Because the negative response is never solely about a star's own children, but about all of society's children who may idolize her as well, despite having parents of their own.
Is it fair to charge these women with the moral responsibility of raising our children because they are in the public eye? Some say yes, because of the amount of influence these celebrities have over children and adolescents' daily behaviors and life aspirations. In a time when children are not only exposed to traditional media such as television, film and music, but have constant access to the Internet with cell phones, tablets and computers, some argue that parenting has largely been passed off to Hollywood. Those who believe in the African proverb "It takes a village to raise a child" will certainly be up in arms about Kim Kardashian and other young starlets promoting risqué imagery when they know teens admire them to the point of imitation. Social learning theory, according to psychologist Albert Bandura, finds that children learn which behaviors are acceptable from viewing the actions of and reactions to others. In the cases of the women mentioned above, nudity equals more money and fame. But with cases such as Montana Fishburne's sex tape release and studies on the increasingly negative behaviors in adolescent girls who watch reality television, one could argue that the imagery these women display in popular media is leading America's children down a path that is only beneficial to people who have security in the entertainment industry.
However, some would argue that rather than criticizing these women, parents should do a better job of distinguishing between who is a good and bad role model as well as what actions are acceptable in reality and only in the entertainment industry. In the case of Nicki Minaj's Anaconda artwork, the owner of AllHipHop.com penned an open letter to Minaj about his disapproval on the basis that it would give his daughter the wrong idea about what kind of woman she should grow up to be. Several online journalists responded to this with the assertion that his daughter is just that -- his daughter, not Minaj's, and if his daughter is that susceptible to negative influence, he should do a better job of regulating his child, not a grown woman whose career is to entertain. Rihanna, Miley Cyrus and Jennette McCurdy have all declined the controversial title of "role model" in interviews. Most of the female celebrities that are critiqued for being bad role models are women without children of their own, nor do they endeavor to maintain a predominantly adolescent audience.
Kim Kardashian's parenting skills are not for us to judge, but are at our disposal to do so more than others'. The mother who dresses provocatively when attending the school pep rally is met with the same response; not only because she is perceived as a negative influence on her own children, but because she will undoubtedly be seen by the other children as well. But we must put into perspective what these different children's lives may be like. When your parents are Kim Kardashian and Kanye West, both of whom constantly push the envelope in media, you are not expected to maintain a decent image so as to get hired for a good job. Children who are not North West, Blue Ivy Carter or a host of other children born into fame and fortune will have to develop a different kind of work ethic, professional image and skill set to succeed in the world.
That said, celebrities are not here to raise your children or be their role models. You are. While celebrities can be charged with this responsibility because of their powerful influence, the fact of the matter is that their purpose in society is to provide good entertainment. If we decide to co-parent with the entertainment industry, then we have to accept responsibility as well.