On July 5th, while most of us were recovering from too much rosé and the terror that is watching children use sparklers, Rob Kardashian decided to let loose. Kardashian posted a series of cruel Instagram posts about Blac Chyna, his ex and the mother of his child, including explicit photos (many of which have since been removed), screen grabs of text messages, a video of her kissing another man, and a photo of a man Kardashian alleges Chyna is sleeping with, along with lengthy captions about her alleged sexual activity and drug use in proximity to their daughter. Many referred to the explicit photos as revenge porn, because Kardashian had seemingly posted them without Blac Chyna's consent. But Rob Kardashian used more than sex to shame Blac Chyna — he also shamed her postpartum body. (Romper reached out to both Rob Kardashian and Blac Chyna for comment but has yet to hear back.)
Let’s first acknowledge the worst part of this: posting private photos, videos, and information about a woman without her consent, for the sole purpose of making her seem worthless. It's not only despicable, in many states, it's punishable by law. That alone would be pretty unforgivable. But the posts went further. Kardashian didn't just post photos of what is allegedly Chyna’s naked body. He also went after Chyna as a mother, and specifically as a woman who recently had a baby. Somewhere deep in Rob Kardashian’s brain, it evidently registered that when it comes to undermining a woman’s value, the only ideological weapon more powerful than the notion of female sexual purity is that of the self-sacrificing mother.
Almost all of the posts that are still visible contain some reference to Dream, the 7-month-old daughter they have together, and the ways Chyna has allegedly failed as a mother. “I never want my daughter to be raised by a woman like Chyna who cheats and does drugs and alcohol with my baby in the house," Kardashian wrote. Then he got more granular, focusing on the choices Chyna made about her own body after having the baby. He shamed her for how long she breastfed, claiming that Chyna "Breast feed for 4 weeks because she wanted to drink alcohol so bad."
If Chyna has a substance abuse issue, that is obviously a problem, but Kardashian's issue clearly isn't with the alleged drinking here. He's activating the ingrained belief that a woman who does not breastfeed her child for a certain amount of time is selfish, a failure, or both. He's also playing into the idea that deciding to quit breastfeeding is an immoral choice, rather than one a woman is allowed to make for whatever reason she chooses, harming no one in the process. (Formula-fed babies do just fine.)
To top it all off, Kardashian shamed Chyna both for having plastic surgery after having her baby, and for the audacity of having a body that was altered by pregnancy.
And then, to top it all off, Kardashian shamed Chyna both for having plastic surgery after having her baby, and for the audacity of having a body that was altered by pregnancy. "Everyone wonders how Chyna lost all that weight after the baby and she lies to everyone but no I’m such a great Husband that on our anniversary I paid 100K to do this surgery to get all everything fixed as much as they could," he wrote. And just to make sure everyone believed that she had said surgery, he included a pre-op video.
Nothing sums up our cultural view of postpartum bodies quite like the phrase “get … everything fixed as much as they could.” Clearly, Kardashian believes, along with the rest of society, that being postpartum is a condition that needs "fixing" in the first place, instead of something that's the natural result of carrying a child for 10 months.
Three things, Rob. One: It’s not shocking that a celebrity would have plastic surgery after pregnancy, or that plastic surgery might be necessary to fulfill the expectations we have for celebrities' post-baby bodies. Two: Even though it’s not shocking that Blac Chyna had surgery, knowing it still might help a lot of women. What a relief to know for sure that even women like Chyna with lots of resources aren’t able to achieve our post-baby body ideal without surgical intervention. Instead of looking down on Blac Chyna for that at seven months postpartum, I, at least, appreciate the disclosure. I just wish you’d let her make it if she chose to, rather than making it for her. Three: you’re not a great husband.
Rob Kardashian has never been pregnant or given birth to a baby. He has never fed a baby with his own body. He has never experienced the near-total loss of bodily autonomy that both of those acts entail, not to mention the hormonal fluctuations that follow. He has never looked at his own body following those experiences and found it unrecognizable. He has never grappled with the feelings of lost identity and control that childbirth can produce.
When a woman has a child with someone, no matter what her issues might be, there is an underlying agreement that her partner at the time will not humiliate her when she is most vulnerable, namely during pregnancy, birth, and the postpartum period.
I don't mention this because any aspect of postpartum reality would excuse Chyna’s alleged behavior. In light of Kardashian’s actions, her behavior isn’t relevant. I mention it because it boils down to one simple fact: because she carried and gave birth to their child, because she is a mother and he is not, she could never do this to him.
She could not talk about Rob Kardashian's acknowledged struggles with body image and weight in a way that casts him as both undesirable and selfish at the same time. She could not suggest that he is failing at parenthood, because the standards for fathers are much lower than those for mothers. When a woman has a child with someone, no matter what her issues might be, there is an underlying agreement that her partner at the time will not humiliate her when she is most vulnerable, namely during pregnancy, birth, and the postpartum period. Without that agreement, it would be impossible to share that experience with someone; the power differential is just too great.
We just saw what Rob Kardashian decided to do with that power.