Khloe Kardashian’s “Revenge Body” Show is Fatphobia Disguised as Empowerment
Yesterday, Khloe Kardashian announced her new show, Revenge Body with Khloe Kardashian, in which the Strong Looks Better Naked author discusses her lifelong struggle with her weight and body image. The show’s premise assigns trainers and medical professionals to help 16 contestants achieve their weight and body goals in spite of their haters, who have shamed them or hurt them.
Kardashian says the first season of Revenge Body would include “makeovers of scorned exes looking for the ultimate transformation, inside and out.” The concept of a “Revenge Body” is that “looking good is the best form of revenge” in retaliation to haters, toxic people or an ex who has wronged or harmed you. The venomous nature of this notion is based in reaffirming that fat and bigger-bodied women and femmes should alter our bodies and selves for the sake of desire and consumption. And in order to be desirable, we must prove our value through performing and embodying unattainable beauty standards to avoid trauma, pain, heartbreak and lovelessness.
Our perceptions of our bodies and worth are deeply informed by media and the beauty expectations perpetuated to us. Diet culture, workout culture and promoted weight loss as a health standard are destructive and violent, but profitable and marketable. Khloe Kardashian is exploiting that. The ways in which we see women and femmes expected to promote detox teas on Instagram, how we’re targeted for weight loss media and how the #RevengeBody is expected to be a movement primarily for us but not specifically for men or masculine folks, is a reminder that we are expected to maintain obedience and distraction for the purpose of servicing white patriarchy and being silenced.
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#TeamStillFat. Because before and after's are most often triggering and a means of reminding people that happiness/ your future should revolve around losing weight or fitting lethal white, thin, and able body beauty standards. Diet culture and weight loss as a health standard are destructive and violent. There is no thin person inside of me waiting to get out. There is no health condition that is inherent to fatness. There is no logical excuse for why fat people shouldn't be respected or humanized. We can do what we want, wear what we want, and live how we want. If your first response to seeing a fat person is to question their health/ well being – you're the problem. If your first response is to feel entitled to our autonomy and time by wanting to talk to us about our bodies (or health concerns) – you're the problem. If your first response is feeling uncomfortable because our body represents something you don't want to look like/ don't want to sexualize/ don't want to humanize – you're definitely the problem. Leave us alone. Stop promoting healthiness as thinness. And stop perpetuating violent beauty standards that maintain racist, ableist fatphobia. #beblessed ✌🏾️
Earlier this year, I posted a “before and after” picture denoting no change in my body, for the sake of defending that we can honor our bodies at all sizes and stages within our life. We don’t need to relegate fatness to “before” pictures. Often, before-and-afters remind people that happiness and your future should revolve around losing weight or fitting lethal white, thin and able-body beauty standards. There is no thin person inside of fat people waiting to get out. There is no health condition that is specific solely to fat bodies. There is no logical reasoning for why fat people shouldn’t be respected, desired, loved or humanized. So our #RevengeBody can embody however we look to begin with, because our bodies are always valuable no matter if we change, alter or adjust it.
But amazingly, on the special preview, Kardashian states, “It’s not about a weight number, it’s how you feel.” So why are all of the contestants visibly fat and seemingly being told that their weight is either going to kill them or prevent them from achieving said revenge? Why is there a shared understanding that being valuable, attractive and in a position to get revenge is contingent upon being thin?
Capitalism and beauty standards are intertwined. There is a billion-dollar industry in maintaining that fatness is inhuman, disgusting, unhealthy, unlovable and undesirable. The reason why we do not see as many avenues and availability of plus-size clothing is because fatness is disobedient, and not aligning with what is seen as beautiful or valuable. The more we can invest in maintaining that thinness is what to strive for, and what to ultimately die for, it maintains that billions of dollars will be invested in how to sell worth by manufacturing access to beauty (read: thinness, whiteness, able-bodied-ness).
Additionally, that this show being headed by a Kardashian, particularly Khloe, is toxic in itself. The fact that Khloe Kardashian has debuted her book Strong Looks Better Naked and created a more recent, post-Lamar Odom following around her new looks, but has yet to admit to any alteration of her body that is not solely due to working out and dieting is perpetuating an unattainable “body goal” prophecy. We buy into the Body Goal Prophecy when we expect that we can create the bodies we desire and see as desirable through means that do not guarantee alteration or mutation to those particular bodies and features. The Kardashian/Jenner brand is built upon the appropriation of Black women and femmes’ bodies while never having to deal with the consequence of actually being Black. Khloe asking these contestants to work hard for the sake of living and looking a “better and healthier” life without naming the reality that her beauty and body have been modified through potential surgery or medical enhancement is a violent manipulation for all viewers and participants.
The preview closes out with, “Who is this revenge body for?” The contestants begin to name their ex-partners, their parents, their friends, etc. This theme of “Let’s make our haters our biggest motivators” isn’t actually motivating or empowering. It just reaffirms the toxicity of expecting women and femmes to alter our bodies for a perceived glow-up subsequent to trauma or heartbreak. We are to actively and visibly adhere to beauty standards in order to elicit worthiness and value at all times. But we don’t need to navigate or format our lives and bodies around someone else’s value judgement of us, because essentially that’s exactly what white supremacist patriarchy asks of us.
Rather, it would be empowering to see a show warrant that we shouldn’t have to change how we look for love or affection. It is ingrained in us to associate happiness, love, sex and success with thinness and white supremacist beauty standards. Love, desirability, sex, joy are obtainable for everyone. More importantly, when women and femmes love ourselves, we become threats and are subsequently silenced. We deserve the right to exist in our power and our individual beauty.
Ashleigh Shackelford is a queer, nonbinary Black fat femme writer, artist and cultural producer. Ashleigh is a contributing writer at Wear Your Voice Magazine and For Harriet. Read more at BlackFatFemme.com.