Paris Hilton: Feminist Trailblazer? Caragh Poh

Author Rachel White of ThoughtCatalog recently waxed nostalgia on Paris Hilton. Hilton, for those of you who can’t recall, was that blonde lady who used to appear in gossip magazines for (gasp) having sex, and fashion magazines for barely wearing dresses. Much like our current favorite celebrity to read about while furrowing our brow over why we decide to read about her, Kim Kardashian, Hilton was wading in the Hollywood spotlight before a sex tape catapulted her into successful reality show that landed her straight into the deep end of fame.

And then, much like the consistent ache of losing a love one, we woke up one day and stopped thinking about her. Her television show had ended. We saw her exposed vagina too many times for her to play that card again. Her drug use no longer held shock value. The limelight had leached Paris of everything she had to offer us, and so we tossed her aside like she was the terrible olive ruining our Greek Salad of life.

White notes that Hilton was the quintessential It Girl:

“What is an It Girl and How can you be one? An It Girl epitomizes the moment, the very second… but it isn’t accidental. It Girls need to be rich (probably with famous parents); they should be fashionable and probably they will fulfill a typical hetero male fantasy. They need to fit many expectations of What Women Should Be. But the best It Girls also break those rules, a little.”

And so White seems to suggest, because Paris enjoyed drugs, sex and herself, we enjoyed her. Like a shimmering, narcissistic star, Paris’ flame flickered, propelled forth by the attention we willingly gave her.

I wish I could sit here and counteract White’s claims as to why we enjoyed watching Paris Hilton with another reason, but I honestly can’t. Could she be right? Was Hilton not merely a socialite, but a trailblazer for feminism? For standing up for yourself, your sexuality and your body?

I wish I could sit here and say, with confidence, that Hilton’s fame was based on our love of train wrecks. That we knew she would eventually get old, lose her looks and energy for mischief and then be left with nothing except an ankle-biting dog whose only trick is to be an accessory. I wish I could definitively slam my fist on the table and say that Hilton stood for nothing, that she was a placeholder in Hollywood, filling a void that simply needed to be filled with a warm body. I wish I could engage White in a friendly but heated debate, arguing that Hilton was what the lower and middle class loved to watch because she embodied what we all secretly hope the lucky and wealthy are: spoiled, talentless and consisting mostly of glitter, tulle and desperation; that there were dozens of famous women who took control of their body and pride the way Hilton tried to take on her own, but with purpose and without the vapidity Hilton oozed from her tiny, perfect pores.

But I can’t say that, no matter how desperately I want to, because we’re still talking about her. We’re still trying to figure out what the hell she meant to and for us. And maybe White is a friend of Hilton’s, trying to aide her in her supposed comeback, but I think — rather disappointingly — White just may have a point.

Besides, we wouldn’t have Ke$ha or Perez Hilton without Paris Hilton and for that we than– oh, god. I can’t even try and finish that sentence. I really think we could have done without Paris Hilton.

Image via ShutterStock

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  1. I can’t say that Paris Hilton was trailblazer except in the sense that women decided not to follow her path, and blaze their own trails without having to sell sex to get it.