On December 30, the world of those, who are amused by the personal lives of celebrities, was rocked forever as rapper and sometimes “designer” Kanye West announced to the world that his girlfriend, Kim Kardashian, was on track to become his “baby momma.” The news immediately went viral, setting our celebrity obsessed culture aflame with speculation, wonder, and excitement. The largest question obviously being: Is the pregnancy a carefully crafted PR move for the fame-hungry Kardashian and the equally ego-driven West? The second, which follows almost instantly is, how will the power couple choose to market this pregnancy and the subsequent baby? So far, Kardashian, who rose to fame via a sex tape and her subsequent reality show empire, seems to be shunning the more understated “Beyoncé method” of pregnancy. Instead, she is soaking in the press her condition has brought her with constant public outings, magazine covers and an announcement that their baby brand is, in fact, a girl.
The rules of decency dictate that we cannot really tell a woman how to display her body, pregnant or not, but Kardashian’s pregnancy has led me to wonder about the public nature of the female body. This is especially interesting when the female in question is one who has turned her life into a carnival-esque narrative that clearly favors self-promotion, rather than any objective form of quality. Accepting compensation in exchange for airing the majority of her daily life on national television (including trips to the fertility clinic), raises the question: Who really owns Kardashian’s body and image? Her, or the public who has essentially made her who she is by consuming her show, clothing lines, and even the diet pills she endorses? When and where does the public collide with the private? The creation of this baby was undoubtedly private, but its incubation period certainly is a matter of public discourse.
West has crafted a career based on his hubris and eccentricity, and, yet his talent is undeniable. The Kim + Kanye connection has been a mix of tabloid gold and tabloid nightmare. Journalists scramble to maintain West’s seriousness factor, as an artist as he pops up again and again on episodes of the latest Kardashian show, slowly chipping away at his image of untouchable rap genius. I wonder what will happen as this pregnancy progresses and the baby is born into a world that has been anxiously awaiting its arrival. In many ways, the Kimye baby is already something post-human - a brand cyborg that reminds us of the contorted reality many of us live in. One that confuses media with reality and one where idealism and the grotesque reign supreme. Either way, I extend only the best wishes to Kim for a healthy and fashionable pregnancy. Brand cyborg or merely human, the birth of this baby will truly be a celebrity event whether we like it or not. Let’s just hope that both stars aren’t suddenly inspired to start trademarking names and release collections of baby clothes. The fast fashion gods cannot be that cruel, can they?
JULIETTE ARICO is a Ph.D. student and teacher in Global Gender Studies at the University at Buffalo in Buffalo, NY. Her current work, which addresses constructions of the female body in cinema and literature lies at the intersection of critical, queer, and feminist theories. She is a regular contributor to The Monolith, where her weekly column, Fraud or Freud?, addresses issues of sexuality and cinema.