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COMMENT: Kim K and the ‘just world hypothesis’

ARMY OF ME - The Philippine Star

Earlier this week, Kim Kardashian was bound, gagged and robbed while alone in a luxury residence in Paris. Since the 35-year-old personality is such a polarizing figure, reactions to the incident have been as extreme.

On the one hand, news stories pertaining to the heist, in which thieves stole more than $10 million in jewelry, have been met with derision online. The laughing emojis are the least innocuous responses, while the nastiest comments questioned why she had been left unharmed.

Those prone to schadenfreude must be sick with glee at this turn of events. Think about it: A professional limelight-hunter, one who has turned her private life into a booming enterprise through reality television and her social media activity, has been victimized by the self-exposure in which she trades. CNN has quoted the French police as saying that it was Kardashian’s seemingly never-ending Twitter, Instagram and Snapchat updates that made her easy pickings for criminals.

You wouldn’t wish an armed robbery on anyone, but cue the victim-blaming. Why would someone be stupid enough to post a picture on Instagram of herself wearing a multi-million dollar diamond ring? Or travel with a considerable amount of jewelry and scrimp on security? “It’s not that she deserves it… but actually, yes, she does,” you say.

Victim Blaming

A recent article in The Atlantic points to something called the “just world hypothesis” as the biggest factor that promotes victim-blaming. The idea is that people deserve what happens to them and that most people have a really strong need to believe that we — especially loathsome celebrities, I might add — all deserve our outcomes and consequences.

 On the other hand, even the most sympathetic responses to Kardashian’s ordeal have also been patronizing to a certain extent. Comedian James Corden warned the public to be reasonable, to be nice even, urging everyone to remember “she’s a mother, a daughter, a wife, a friend.”

While Corden’s tweet most likely came from a good place, it’s essentially flawed. There is not one identity that makes Kardashian — or anyone else for that matter — more or less deserving of safety. An editorial in SheThinx, a site powered by period-proof underwear company Thinx, said that it’s unnecessary to connect Kardashian to traditional roles, like wife and mother, to make her more relatable. “We cannot keep participating in the narrative that women need to be relatable to be respected. While Kim Kardashian is a woman that holds many roles and responsibilities, they are irrelevant in her robbery.”

Conspiracy Theories

As Kardashian has opted to keep silent, conspiracy theories have spread in the meantime. The funniest ones allege that Taylor Swift was behind everything and one comment on People.com suggests that perhaps the same thugs that “robbed” Ryan Lochte during the Rio Olympics targeted Kardashian. The serious ones say it’s either a publicity stunt for her family’s reality show or an insurance scam related to her husband Kanye West’s much-discussed money woes. Skeptics point to the absence of camera surveillance as evidence that the robbery story may be fabricated.

Whatever the truth is, I’m certain that the Kardashian family will milk the publicity for all its worth. The theft occurred after Internet predator Vitalii Sediuk grabbed her outside a Paris restaurant and tried to kiss her on her famous bottom. I can already see Kim playing the victim to the hilt. She might turn the incident into a tell-all book, a documentary, another series of Kimojis — I wouldn’t put it past her. Kim Kardashian is probably not expecting a public outpouring of support, but that won’t stop her from eventually making money out of this latest intrusion on her privacy.

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