The White House on Wednesday received an unlikely visitor in the form of Kim Kardashian, who had come to meet with President Trump to discuss prison sentencing reform. She specifically argued for the pardon of Alice Marie Johnson, a great-grandmother who is currently serving a life sentence without the possibility of parole for a nonviolent, first-time offense.
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) May 30, 2018
The meeting was the reported culmination of Kardashian’s several months of behind-the-scenes work advocating for clemency for Johnson, 63, who will die in prison if the president doesn’t grant the pardon. According to Mic, when Kardashian learned about Johnson’s story she said she’d do “whatever it takes to get her out.”
While the mega-famous mother of three was attempting to use her celebrity for good, many people were more focused on making lewd comments about her White House visit. Social media erupted with mixed reactions, with no shortage of sexist remarks.
Unpopular opinion: I’m proud of Kim Kardashian and what she’s trying to do with prison reform.
It may not be the norm but if someone is trying to put their best foot forward to help vulnerable populations, why criticize and hate the activism?
— NATENDO94 (@Tenny_Jiao) May 31, 2018
Media outlets also jumped on the sexist bandwagon. The New York Daily News released an explicit cartoon featuring the words “Prison Reform” written on Kardashian’s derriere, with the president staring into it. The caption? “Kim Kardashian visits White house, gets president to focus.”
Thursday’s New York Post front page, meanwhile, read “The Other Big Ass Summit” and described Kardashian as “KimThong Un.”
— New York Post (@nypost) May 30, 2018
Karrin Vasby Anderson, an associate professor of communication studies at Colorado State University whose research has documented the “pornification” of U.S. media, tells Yahoo Lifestyle that she is not surprised by the reactions to Kardashian’s White House visit.
“Under the guise of humor, Kardashian’s political agency was blunted by framing that highlighted her body in a particularly crude way,” she says, referencing the New York Daily News cartoon. “In his image, both Kardashian and Trump are sexualized, but Trump’s depiction calls attention to his documented objectionable behavior — a long history of objectifying and harassing women — whereas Kardashian’s conflates a serious political issue, prison reform, with her butt.”
She adds, “It’s troubling, as well, that the issue being raised by Kardashian, prison reform, is one that disproportionately affects black men, and that issue is being trivialized in a racist, sexist manner.”
Anderson advises social media users to let news outlets know that they will not frequent websites that trivialize politics and women’s political agency in this way, and even suggests canceling subscriptions to end the cycle.
Many online agree with Anderson’s take, as several commenters took to Twitter to call out media outlets for their sexist content.
— Brian Kosciesza (@BrianKosh) May 31, 2018
I’m not the biggest Kim K fan, but this is in poor taste and sexist.
— Amineh (@ZanesMyBae) May 31, 2018
As for Kardashian, she chose to stay out of the fray, graciously tweeting, “I would like to thank President Trump for his time this afternoon. It is our hope that the president will grant clemency to Ms. Alice Marie Johnson who is serving a life sentence for a first-time, nonviolent drug offense. We are optimistic about Ms. Johnson’s future and hopeful that she — and so many like her — will get a second chance at life.”
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