Kim Kardashian’s Work Advice for Women Is Out of Touch and Insulting
When Kim Kardashian recently told Variety that her advice to women on how to succeed was, “get your fucking ass up and work,” it was an affront to everyday, hard-working people—particularly the ones that make up her massive audience. Despite the Kardashians’ insistence that their ballooning wealth is a result of hard work and a bootstrapping ethos, the family has benefited from generational wealth, celebrity connections and access to the inner circles of investors and VCs.
Yet Kardashian’s words were not targeted towards celebrities like herself, but to the millions of women already working hard to pay their bills or striving towards building their own businesses, albeit without access to the same leg-up Kardashian had. When she said, “nobody wants to work these days,” I think of the disproportionate number of women forced out of the workforce because of the pandemic, women with careers they had spent much of their lives crafting, only to find themselves laid off or having to make the choice between work or childcare. I also think of the young women working to unionize workplaces like Starbucks, or the ones working multiple jobs to make ends meet.
Unspoken in much of Kardashian’s “self-made” mythology are the factors that gave her family an instant advantage in the entrepreneurial world. Certainly she has built a vast empire of companies surrounding her eponymous reality show, with wildly successful side hustles like clothing company Skims and beauty line, KKW Beauty. But Kardashian has never truly struggled for money, she never had to choose between food or a gas bill or had to weigh funding her start-up with the possibility of bankruptcy. Kardashian has always had a cushion to land on if any of her projects failed, something most women in business don’t have, something women of colour particularly don’t have, if they can even get their projects funded at all.
Kardashian’s words are particularly galling considering some of the alleged treatment of employees who have worked for her brands, including a former Kardashian app editor who recently tweeted about her experience, writing: “I worked days nights, and weekends, could only afford groceries from the 99 Cents Only Store, called out ‘sick’ more than once [because] I couldn’t put gas in my car to get to the office, and was reprimanded for freelancing on the side.” Other allegations from former employees who worked on her property include withholding wages and denying overtime and meal breaks.
The offensive remarks about working women came just one day after International Women’s Day. Should Kardashian have offered up something more tangible, she might have pointed out that the most recent Global Gender Gap Report from the World Economic Forum suggests that women will have to wait another generation to reach pay parity with their male colleagues. She could have also mentioned that it will take 135 years to close the pay gap worldwide if the growth of women entrepreneurs continues at its current rate.
The problem is not a willingness to work, or the loss of a mythical bootstrap mentality in women, but structural inequality that prevents most women from accessing the same opportunities as the Kardashians. In Canada, Indigenous women earn 65 cents to the dollar compared to non-Indigenous men. Women with a disability make just 54 cents compared to non-disabled men. Women have consistently worked harder for less, often while maintaining a second shift at home, doing the unpaid labour of housework and caring for children.
In the end, while Kardashian may consider herself an expert on work, her advice is not just out of touch, it’s insulting. As actor Jameela Jamil said in response to Kardashian’s statement: “If you grew up in Beverly Hills with super successful parents in what was simply a smaller mansion … Nobody needs to hear your thoughts on success/work ethic.”