Kim Kardashian has been known to seem a little out…of touch. And Kardashian’s recent interview with Variety may confirm that hypothesis. During new interviews for the magazine, parts of which refer to her “$95 million private jet that’s customized with cashmere walls,” the billionaire felt called upon to share some very (un)helpful advice for all the overworked, underpaid and mentally unwell female workers just figuring out how to survive a global pandemic amid the threat of nuclear war. “I have the best advice for women in business,” Kardashian told the magazine. “Get your f—— a–- up and work. It seems like nobody wants to work these days.”
“I will definitely try that,” said nameless working mothers everywhere, as they pressed mute on their Zoom calls to clean up toddler puke.
“Have a good work environment where everyone loves what they do, because you have one life. No toxic work environments, and show up and do the work,” Kardashian continued, unironically. There are a lot of words that could be used to describe the reality working women have faced in the past two years. The pandemic has wreaked havoc on our personal and financial lives, and may set women back an entire generation. “Toxic” doesn’t even begin to describe it. (It is worth noting, however, that “toxic work environment” has been used to describe what it’s like to work for Kardashian and her family. Allegedly.)
Following up on her sister’s comments, Khloe Kardashian — whose pantry is so large it resembles your corner grocery store and who recently shared a photo of her toddler wearing an outfit reportedly worth more than $6,000 — added, “If you’re the smartest person in that room, you’ve gotta go to another room,” prompting a new wave of social media rage.
In reality, there is no such thing as a “self-made billionaire” when you have generational wealth. According to a 2015 report by Oxfam, half of the global wealth owned by billionaires is “non-meritocratic owing to either inheritance or a high presumption of cronyism.” And it is undeniable that the extended Kardashian family got a big leg up, thanks to family patriarch Robert, and Kris Jenner’s other famous ex, former Olympic superstar Caitlyn Jenner.
For Kardashian to allude to any kind of meritocratic social order in which the women who work the hardest amass the most wealth, is at best ludicrous. More likely, this type of thinking is harmful. If we believe in the myth that those who work hard are inherently more successful, we also imply that those who have the least are to blame for their misfortune. The psychological harm on low-income people who are told poverty is somehow their choice or their fault can be even more disastrous than the economic hardship they face.
This is not to say that the Kardashian family hasn’t worked very hard. Its members have — and they get a lot of credit for that hard work. But having a safety cushion of cash pays dividends—literally. In America, the rich and very rich are subsidized by our government through bailouts and preferential tax codes. More recently, pandemic relief has been called “one the largest transfers of wealth in history.”
During the early days of the pandemic, Ye West, a fellow billionaire and Kim’s husband at the time, received millions in governmental subsidies while other, smaller businesses complained that they never received a penny.
The galling inequality cultivated by American capitalism is self-perpetuating — money begets more money. One could call it “neo-feudalism,” a term defined by Joel Kotkin as “reprising the kind of society that existed in medieval times, characterized by declining social mobility and greater concentrations of power.”
Billionaires like the Kardashians have become a new feudal elite, part of a narcissistic aristocracy. See: Donald Trump, Elon Musk and the countless other super rich people whose names we don’t know, but who nevertheless wield impressive influence due to their socioeconomic status.
When pressed by Variety on her critics, Kardashian was dismissive. “Who gives a f—. We focus on the positive,” she said. “If that’s what you think, then sorry. We just don’t have the energy for that.” Kim is so privileged, by nature of her incredible wealth, that she has the luxury of focusing on whatever she wants to — that’s the point. But it would be nice if she focused less on perpetuating outdated myths about “bootstraps” and more on learning about what (and who) makes her wealth possible. Now that would be valuable work.