In typical celebrity fashion, Kim Kardashian and Kanye West’s divorce has been messy, to say the least.
Kardashian filed the papers last March, but the drama between the former couple has recently accelerated due to West’s increasingly alarming behavior, which stems from his accusations that Kardashian is withholding visitations with their four children from him. “I’m just wishing my daughter a public happy birthday,” the rapper said in a now deleted video on Jan. 15, the day of his daughter Chicago’s birthday party. “I wasn’t allowed to know where her party was.”
West’s Instagram account has become his primary mode of expressing his anger and frustrations towards Kardashian. On Feb. 4, West posted a screenshot of a video of his daughter North with the caption, “Since this is my first divorce I need to know what I should do about my daughter being put on [TikTok] against my will?” On Feb. 6, he alleged that Kardashian said that she thinks that he has put “a hit out on her.” On Feb. 9, West posted a photo with Kardashian and their children with the caption, “GOD PLEASE BRING OUR FAMILY BACK TOGETHER.”
West has also used his social media presence to target Kardashian’s current partner, comedian and Saturday Night Live star Pete Davidson, referring to him as “Skete” and reposting a debunked rumor that Davidson pushed the late rapper Mac Miller into suicide by texting Miller intimate details of his relationship with Ariana Grande, Miller’s ex. West even went as far as to release a song with The Game in January where West says that “God saved me from that crash [referring to the car accident he survived in 2002] / Just so I can beat Pete Davidson’s ass.” On Monday, he urged his fans not to get physical with Davidson as he would “handle the situation myself.” The following day, West posted a screenshot of a text allegedly from Kardashian where she tells West that he is “creating a dangerous and scary environment” that could lead to Davidson being harmed. West has since deleted all his past Instagram posts and posted an apology saying he takes “accountability” for his actions, but the damage has already been done.
As with anything pertaining to Kardashian or West, these posts have made headlines. Unlike the normal gossip that surrounds the Kardashian-West family, however, this goes beyond the run-of-the-mill celebrity messiness. West is engaging in full fledged harassment of his estranged wife and the media has failed to contextualize this behavior as something other than typical celebrity tabloid fodder or just West being his usual provocative self. This failure often comes in the form of both publications and regular people simply reposting West’s posts about Kardashian as click-bait or gossip–or even posting it at all. It should be noted that West is struggling with his own mental health issues, but there is no ambiguity to the ongoing harm being committed here: from his releasing private conversations with his ex-wife despite her explicit wish for him not to; to threatening violence on her partner; to engaging in love bombing—a coercive technique in which a person will shower a partner of theirs with affection to later use against them—like sending her a truckload of roses on Valentine’s Day. Kardashian even issued a statement earlier this month condemning West’s “constant attacks” on her, saying they are “hurtful” and “causing further pain” to their family. However, a lot of West’s fans see nothing wrong with his actions, and even go as far as to participate in it online by making memes out of his posts or sharing screenshots of West’s posts in order to go viral.
Kardashian is a woman of great means and wealth, which leads people to believe that she isn’t in the imminent danger that women of far less fortune are. Be that as it may, the passive and active enabling of West’s behavior sends a signal not only to Kardashian but also victims of this type of harassment, or even more serious abuse, that what they’re experiencing is not to be taken seriously. There are many people who point to Kardashian’s history of anti-Blackness and misogynoir to explain why they struggle to feel sympathy for the harassment that she’s dealing with. Even though she does have a problematic history, that doesn’t nullify the mistreatment she’s been getting.
It would be remiss to not mention how Kardashian has also, at some points in her relationship with West, participated in her ex-husband’s harassment of women. In 2016, she released a tape of a phone conversation West had with singer Taylor Swift, after Swift accused West of misogyny for the line about her in his song “Famous” where West raps, “I made that bitch famous.” It would be a few years before an unreleased part of the tape surfaced, proving that Swift was telling the truth and West didn’t mention that part of the song to her. Kardashian responded to these revelations by accusing Swift of “lying.”
Kardashian isn’t unlike many women who stayed in a relationship with someone who mistreats their partners. Their struggle is overlooked because people are under the illusion that there’s something about these women—whether it’s their wealth, their race, or their beauty—that makes them immune from that kind of harm. This is a common rhetoric amongst abuse apologists, the idea that someone can “ask” or even “deserve” to be abused. With that, we’ve constructed this idea of who we think is worthy of care and affection and who isn’t. But there is no safety to be found in a person like West, who treats women like his own project that he can dispose of once he’s done with them.
In his 2016 music video for “Famous,” West recreates “Sleep,” the painting by artist Vincent Desiderio in which a naked West is surrounded by several naked pop culture figures, namely his now ex-wife, his ex Amber Rose, and Swift (Rose and Swift did not consent to being depicted in such a graphic manner). It was a supposed commentary on the absurdity of his fame, and fame writ large, but all I can think of is it’s how he’s viewed Kardashian and the women he’s crossed paths with: mere objects meant for his own gratification. It’s time the public acknowledged that as well.
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