Whenever we are trying to analyze a celebrity’s actions, it’s worth asking two questions: why now, and who benefits? To be fair, that’s probably true of anyone’s messaging, whether it’s a company insisting their product is worth your money or an A-lister trying to convince you something is just like, so cool (coughReeseWitherspooncough)—or that something makes them so cool. And it’s really, really true when it comes to Kanye West’s recent behaviour.
ICYMI, over the weekend, the rapper, who officially changed his name to Ye in October, went live on Instagram while driving around L.A., claiming it was the only way he could wish his daughter, Chicago, a happy birthday… because Kim Kardashian wouldn’t allow him to attend the four-year-old’s birthday party.
“I’ve called Kim, texted the nannies, I got on the phone with Tristan [Thompson], he said he’d ask Khloé [Kardashian]. Won’t nobody give me the address to my daughter’s birthday party right now, and that’s going to imprint in her mind that I wasn’t there for her,” he said.
Not long after that, he went live again, this time to thank Travis Scott for giving him the address of the party, which was actually a joint celebration for Chicago and her cousin, Stormi. Photos soon surfaced of Ye at the party chatting with Kris Jenner, eating ice cream and helping Chicago hit a pinata. No harm, no foul, right? Actually… I’m not so sure about that. West’s recent PR strategy really doesn’t sit right with me—and neither does the way entertainment media has been covering him. So, let’s talk about it.
Unlike most of their lives, businesses or—in West’s case—opinions, he and Kardashian have kept the details of their divorce and custody arrangement largely under wraps. Still, until this month, it seemed pretty chill to me. Kardashian regularly showed up with at least some of the kids to support West during the roll-out of his latest album, Donda, and they attended the showing of Virgil Abloh’s final Louis Vuitton collection together with their eldest daughter, North. Kardashian gushed about him in a recent Wall Street Journal profile, he attended the screening of SNL that she hosted to show his support. Civilized!
Now, though, things have become significantly less chill. In the past six months, West reportedly dated models Irina Shayk and Vinetria while proclaiming his love for Kardashian and his desire to reconcile, but it wasn’t until she began dating (“dating”) Pete Davidson that he seemed to launch a concerted PR campaign of his own. First came his and Julia Fox’s obviously fake relationship, which seems clearly designed to fulfill a number of goals, including a) one-upping Kardashian and Davidson/showing that he’s also moved on, b) implying that he ‘made’ Kim and can easily do it again and c) distracting from the news reports that Trevian Kutti, who identified herself as his director of operations, had attempted to scare Georgia election worker Ruby Freeman into confessing to voter fraud. (Former U.S. president Donald Trump had falsely accused Freeman and another election worker of counting fake mail-in ballots; West's team says Kutti does not work for him, but she did work with him from 2018 to at least 2020.)
But I don’t think the Interview mag second-date photoshoot or the paparazzi shots of West and Fox’s ‘passionate’ kisses yielded the kind of media attention he was looking for. (As in, we were definitely supposed to buy it, or at least consider the possibility that it was legit the way many people have been doing for Kardashian and Pete Davidson, and instead, it came off as cringe and trying too hard.) So, he abruptly pivoted from his ‘I’ve moved on, too’ narrative to instead direct attention back toward his marriage.
More specifically, he began painting himself as the wronged party. In addition to saying he wasn’t allowed to attend Chicago’s birthday party, which Kardashian denies, he also claimed she had barred him from entering her home to see them. Last Friday, in an interview with Hollywood Unlocked, he said when he went to pick his kids up from school the previous Monday, “security stopped [him] at the gate.” He went on: “So at that point, security was in between me and my children and that's what was not going to happen. But I didn't want to argue about it. So, I just chilled, took my kids to school, and then took my kids back. I am driving. I bring them back and North was like, 'I want you to come upstairs and see something.' And it's like, 'Oh, Daddy can't come see something. Daddy can't come inside.'” He also claimed Pete Davidson could be inside the house and in fact, was there at the time… which might have something to do with the track he dropped last week that mentions “beat[ing] Pete Davidson’s ass.”
Page Six’s sources (a.k.a. Kris Jenner) say none of West’s accusations are true, btw. Of course, it is possible this is another one of the family’s attempts to manipulate a message—some people think this is a planned collaboration designed to distract from Astroworld, which does seem like something Jenner would do. But, honestly? We’ve been distracted from Astroworld and besides, using the couple’s children in this way deviates from the approach Kim and co. have been taking over the past year. For all that she excels at dropping hints—like, yes, the much-scrutinized shadow in the Instagram photo she posted from her and Davidson’s trip to the Bahamas—the fact is, she hasn’t really commented on how and when her children see their father, unless forced to by West’s actions.
... and going on rants because he can't have access to a house where he don't pay no bills even though he still got his kids at the gate, and mad he's excluded from a birthday party days after he admits he punched somebody on the street bc he's frustrated with his ex-wife...— Naima Cochrane (Original Recipe) (@naima) January 15, 2022
So, remember those two questions: why now, and who benefits? As writer Naima Cochrane pointed out on Twitter this week, Kardashian and West split up a year ago; their custody arrangement is not new and has seemingly gone smoothly for 12 entire months. What’s more, prior to that, Kardashian and West were living largely separate lives, so it’s possible they had an ad hoc custody agreement for years before officially ending their relationship. Correlation is not causation, but it’s really hard to believe this campaign against Kardashian has nothing to do with his discomfort at the idea another man may be having sex with a woman he considers ‘his.’ Like, I don’t want to be crass, but we all know West’s concern that Davidson was in the house was a metaphor, right? As for who benefits, it’s not Kardashian, and it’s certainly not their children, who aren't gaining anything from drama between their parents. (Also, his worry that missing her birthday party would “imprint” on Chicago is a bit hollow, considering it looks like he wasn't at Saint’s sixth birthday in December. And what about the time he told the crowd at a political rally that he and Kardashian considered an abortion when she was pregnant with North?) Clearly, this behaviour is really just a way to preserve West's pride and protect his masculinity.
Kanye telling Kim's business and revealing that about North to excuse his anti-abortion stance really shows how invasive "pro-life" culture is. They don't care about consent. There's a certain entitlement to the bodies of people who are/will/were/can be pregnant.— Wagatwe Wanjuki 🇰🇪 🇧🇸 (@wagatwe) July 20, 2020
All of which is to say, while my feelings about the Kardashians are complicated, they tend to skew negative, so it’s pretty annoying that West’s behaviour is making me sympathize with Kim. But… here we are 🤷🏽♀️
I mean, first of all, this shit is embarrassing. But also, so much of what West is doing is rooted in misogyny. His jealousy over Davidson isn’t because he still loves Kardashian; it’s not really about her at all. Instead, it’s down to his jealousy and insecurity. He can do whatever (or whoever) he wants, but her moving on is a problem. Worse yet, he thinks she downgraded, which he’s humiliated by. He probably also sees Davidson as a threat to his control over Kardashian, which he thinks he’s entitled to because he ‘made’ her. He just wants to maintain the patriarchal power he thinks he’s entitled to. (That’s what buying the house across the street was about too, I bet—he still thinks of her house as theirs and the people in it as his, so not only does he see Davidson’s presence as a betrayal on Kardashian’s part, it also makes the other man an intruder in his home. By that logic, of course he needs to stick close by to make sure Davidson never gets too comfortable there.)
Also, while it’s impossible to ignore his influence on her personal style and business, it’s dehumanizing to treat her like a puppet that he manipulated with no regard for her thoughts, ideas or goals. For the record, she was already rich and famous before they met. What’s more, contributing to someone’s success does not mean they’re obligated to stay with you if their needs aren’t being met, or that you’re entitled to their loyalty forever.
As a person who has loved Kanye West’s music—and simultaneously cringed over his various problematic actions—for a long time, none of this is a huge surprise. His misogyny is well-established. A non-exhaustive list: his disgusting comments about Amber Rose ("It's very hard for a woman to want to be with someone that's with Amber Rose…I had to take 30 showers before I got with Kim"), his history of trying to control his partners’ clothing choices, his lyrics, his support of predators and the way his preferred aesthetic so often involves the dehumanization and degradation of women. As writer Kat George explained in 2016, “his 2010 song ‘Monster’ is a perfect example of this. The video for the track (which was immediately recalled and never officially released) features Kanye rearranging the overtly sexualized, lifeless bodies of women on a bed around him, which Anita Sarkeesian addresses on Feminist Frequency: ‘Monster not only reduces women to sexual objects and perpetuates racist stereotypes,’ she says, ‘but it actually fetishizes the aspects of women that don’t even require us to be physically alive.’”
One way you can show solidarity to victims of stalking this month is to stop sensationalizing K*nye's abusive behaviour.— Julie S. Lalonde (@JulieSLalonde) January 17, 2022
Moving into his ex's neighbourhood? Threatening her current boyfriend?
K*m isn't going to see your gawking tweets but the victims in your life will.
What is surprising is how his little PR campaign is being covered in entertainment media. Overwhelmingly, the stories I’ve read breathlessly report every detail of his accusations along with responses from ‘sources close to Kim Kardashian.’ There's usually a paragraph or two about what else he's said and done in recent weeks. But as women’s rights advocate and educator Julie Lalonde argued on Twitter this week, we also need to acknowledge the weirdness, and potential scariness, of his actions. West is using the excuse of maintaining access to his children (which, as a reminder, has never been in jeopardy) as a strategy to make sure he has continued access to Kardashian. I doubt she’s happy he moved in across the street, namedropped Davidson in his latest song or threw a punch at a stranger because he was in his feelings.
And, I don’t think these are little things. Just imagine someone without Kardashian’s support system or wealth going through this type of messy separation. Would it still be an entertaining train wreck you can’t look away from—or something much darker?
And Did You Hear About…
This fascinating piece about one of India’s most popular influencer families—and the rise of influencer families in general.
The reason you keep seeing the P emoji on your timelines.
Bobby Fingers’ investigation into Joanna Gaines’ peanut butter brownies.
Gawker’s review of Jamie Lynn Spears’ memoir.
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