"Fear of Kim Kardashian's Derriére," Joyce Wadler's "funny" column in this week's Sunday Times, was so ill-considered that it inspired the most embarrassing Correction in years. But the paper of record quoting an unfunny satirical blog post as though it were real news wasn't the least of its offenses.
The column is, of course, about Kardashian's bare-booty Paper Mag cover, and finds Wadler "taking on" Kim's behind:
No, I'm thinking about Kim's long-term future and the terrible, unexpected things that can happen in life, even when you're married to someone as conservative and stable as Kanye West.
What if the Kardashian fortunes suddenly change and Kim and Kanye have to live in a fourth-floor walk-up? She'll need two Sherpas to get up the stairs. What if Kim has to fly tourist?
How happy do you think Kim will be with her enormous can at 80? There she'll be, trying to negotiate narrow supermarket aisles with her wheelie cart and her massive derrière, although it is true, given her talent with the champagne glass, she may be able to put a few containers of Metamucil on it.
This disembodiment of Kim's ass is totally written from the perspective of a white woman who seems to think the size of it is an outlier—as opposed to you know, a thing that a whole world of women grow into naturally, especially women of color. It's oddly objectifying in a way that's incongruous with how Wadler invokes the feminist sisterhood to tsk-tsk at Kim's decision to pose nude in Paper, writing,
True, it was not quite what the sisters and I had in mind when we were talking about women taking control of their bodies in the 1970s.
So what part of feminism encouraged Wadler to crack jokes about Kardashian needing sherpas to go upstairs because of the weight of her behind? This is body-shaming at its most acute, and the fact that it is geared towards booty—deeply politicized for women of color—is unfortunately not a surprise. Nor is it funny: it's just cliché, cheap-joke-making that one might expect from a Tosh.O, conservative-man-type, but maybe not someone who is trying to claim the sisterhood. (Or maybe that part was a joke, too?)
Okay, but it gets more offensive:
Then there's the issue of copycats. I have no interest in having a behind like Kim's — like I say, I live in a little New York apartment. But there may be impressionable women out there who right now are marching into the surgeon's office and saying, "Gimme that" — women with whom I am going to have to share a subway seat one day.
A public plea to the Kims of the world: Before you throw these pictures all over the web, think of the power you wield. The sidewalks are crowded enough. If this big-butt thing takes off, we'll be walking in the gutters.
"If" this "big-butt" "thing" "takes off" is the most offensive bullshit yet, again, not unexpected in its total cliché. Wadler is not directly invoking women of color, but she is actively writing out wide swathes of the population by acting like "big butts" are a "trend" that are simply (and perhaps only) obtainable via plastic surgery (see: Kara Brown on this absurd recent perception). Wadler then made a parallel between Kardashian's behind and Jose Canseco's amputated finger. Nice.
Wadler is a humor columnist who has most recently written about topics like aging, acid indigestion, and her "crazy" friends. Recent columns about her 87-year-old mother have been charming and important to a certain audience, but nothing about them screams "this person should write about popular culture." The sheer amount of shaming and disregard in this piece would have been bad enough, but she was being so egregious that the paper of record was forced to redact a good amount after she quoted a satirical news site as if it were real:
Editors' Note: November 22, 2014
An earlier version of this column was published in error. That version included what purported to be an interview that Kanye West gave to a Chicago radio station in which he compared his own derrière to that of his wife, Kim Kardashian. Mr. West's quotes were taken, without attribution, from the satirical website The Daily Currant. There is no radio station WGYN in Chicago; the interview was fictitious, and should not have been included in the column.
Image via Getty.