On Thursday, the E! network shared a minute-long teaser in advance of this weekend’s episode of Keeping Up with the Kardashians. Unlike the usual mundane images of the Kardashian-Jenner women working out, or eating giant salads, or having performative conversations conducted underneath a makeup artists’ hand or over FaceTime, the clip is indicative of a larger trend. The Kardashian-Jenners’ obsession with their own weight—not just their appearance or public image, but actual pounds and how many of them comprise their fleshy form—has become an increasingly frequent focus of the show. I’m fucking tired of it.
In the preview, Kylie Jenner prepares for her first photo shoot since giving birth to daughter Stormi and voices insecurity about her “post-baby body” (typing those words, on this site, in 2018, feels like a fever... nightmare.) “Kylie, you look amazing,” Khloe assures her sister. “I’m still 158 [lbs.]” she responds, to which mom Kris Jenner jumps in, “Me too!” and high-fives her. Then Khloe says, “[I’m] 198 [pounds], right now. So do you want to fucking play this game?” At the time, she was pregnant with her first child, True.
There’s a lot going on there—a self-image so tied to the amount you weigh is extremely unhealthy (and more often than not, prevents weight loss) and as any health expert will tell you, can set off a dangerous chain of events. As clinical psychologist Stacey Rosenfeld, author of Does Every Woman Have an Eating Disorder? told Health, “Engaging in these behaviors can be a slippery slope. It’s easy, especially for people with perfectionist tendencies or a genetic predisposition, to slide across the spectrum from ‘normal eating’ to ‘disordered eating’ to ‘eating disordered.’” There are a variety of ways this can happen: counting calories and weighing yourself fanatically can make a person become so preoccupied with a number, they lose interest in other aspects of their lives. And these women have been doing it for so long.
In August, Kim Kardashian posted a clip of Khloe describing her sister on her Instagram story. In it, Khloe says, “Your hair extensions, your ass, your tits, everything, they’re heavy, ’cause she’s fucking voluptuous. But she’s anorexic here,” while pointing to her waist, “her arms are, like, pin-thin, they’re like my pinky.” Kim laughs, audibly enjoying what she took to be a compliment. In another clip, also posted to Instagram story, Kendall Jenner says to Kim, “No, like, I’m really concerned. I don’t think you’re eating.” She responds, “Whaaaat! Oh, my god, thank you.”
And in May, Kim found herself on the receiving end of spon-con spawned backlash for posting an Instagram ad of herself provocatively sucking on a Flat Tummy Co. lollipop, an appetite-suppressant a dieting aid that, as my colleague Megan Reynolds analyzed in such wonderful detail, “dropped the pretense of health and wellness... It’s emblematic of a subtle shift in a corner of the wellness space that seems to be ushering old-fashioned ideas of dieting back into the fold—rebranded for Instagram, and stripped of stigma.” The messaging, then, is that now for the Kardashian-Jenner clan, suppression—obsession over weight and dieting—at least publicly, is no longer taboo.
Maybe it should be. That the clan has yet to feel the temperature of the room says a lot about the waning influence of the Kardashian-Jenners, women who’ve determined beauty trends for the last decade. They are losing their clout, the royals once again positioned itself atop tabloid concerns (just visit People or E! or Entertainment Tonight and you’ll immediately understand) and surely, slowly, they will go the way of aughts-celebrities before them.
Of course, that’s a larger conversation influenced by a myriad of factors, but this pathology with pounds, of memorizing your weight and possessing the ability to recite it on cue (which means they are more than likely weighing themselves daily, maybe even more frequently) certainly serves to prove that this family is dictated by transparently conservative beliefs. You cannot sell an image of strong businesswomen, a family run by women, and, to borrow a phrase from Good Place actor Jameela Jamil, fulfill that role as “double agents of the patriarchy... selling us self-consciousness... [and] dysmorphia.”
For those who’ve recovered and are struggling from anorexia, whose weight and body image has been or is an issue will tell you—knowing your exact weight down to the pound at any given moment leads nowhere fast. And it’s information we shouldn’t be burdened with. I’m fucking sick of it, the way I’ve always been sick of it—from a fetishization of “heroin chic” in the ’90s, to images of bulimia co-opted by MySpace celebrities in the ’00s, to now. Surely there are more righteous women to deify.