At any other time in the last decade or so, his comments would feel like a mildly obnoxious thing for a mildly obnoxious person to say. But, given its political context, the comments feel like more than somebody running their mouth when they shouldn’t. They feel like yet another reminder that men who would tell a woman what she must do within her own skin are in charge. Not even the most absurd reality TV escapism is spared the creeping insanity of the Trump presidency.
TMZ reported that Kylie Jenner is pregnant this Friday. The 20-year-old reality TV star, entrepreneur, and notoriously unwoke fashionista is said to be expecting with her rapper boyfriend Travis Scott, whom she’s been dating since earlier this year.
In a giddy six-minute-long reaction video released this weekend, Perez Hilton said he’s not feeling great about Kylie’s pregnancy, on account of the fact that he doesn’t think her boyfriend is great, she’s young, and she doesn’t seem like she’d be a good mom. He continued, “And also, a reminder Kylie Jenner is 19 years old. Um, I love life, I love babies. If I were Kris Jenner, I would tell that girl to get an abortion!” He was also extremely jazzed by how many people were watching his livestreamed opinions.
First of all, Kylie Jenner is 20 years old, but let’s not quibble here. Normally, TV star and star-adjacent swiping don’t have much cross-pollination with reality. Who cares? They’re celebrities! This is the downside of what they signed up for! But nothing is normal anymore. A reality TV star is president; one of our most prominent health care advocates is a late night comedy show host, and the former White House press secretary is onstage at the Emmys, acting like a dick. Everything is at once extraordinarily significant and meaningless.
And so, back to Kylie Jenner. A person might argue that the Kardashians have made their bodies everybody’s business. A sex tape launched them into the popular imagination. Their weddings and divorces and hookups and breakups and pregnancies and dye jobs and lips and butts have provided tabloid glossy fodder for a decade. And I know all about these things—who Kylie is dating, that Kendall has one of the most popular Instagram posts of all time, Khloe is the reasonable one, and Scott Disick is a jerk. I think about Kim’s dead cat sometimes.
I know all these things despite never watching a single episode of Keeping Up With the Kardashians, or that Miami spinoff, or the Kylie spinoff. I know about Rob’s sock business. I know this despite my job and interests causing my orbit to veer far from the Kardashian universe, my media diet for the last year dictated almost entirely by politics. Nevertheless, I have kept up with the Kardashians. I have kept up with them through psychic osmosis.
Perez Hilton’s comments rubbed a lot of people the wrong way. They rubbed me the wrong way. Not because I spend my nights worrying about Kylie Jenner’s self esteem; Kylie will be fine, I’m sure. Perez Hilton’s comments about what she should do with her pregnancy are irksome because it encapsulates a prominent attitude about women’s reproductive choices, an attitude that does real harm outside of the pink aisle escapism Jenner’s televised life provides her fans.
At the same time that TMZ was breaking news about the germination of another probable future reality TV star, the future of a Senate plan to repeal and replace the Affordable Care Act with block grants and state control was still uncertain. The legislation would have allowed individual states to decide what essential health benefits insurance plans must cover, giving them the the theoretical ability to exclude childbirth, prenatal care, and contraception from insurance coverage.
Right now, 34 states have Republican governors and 32 have legislatures that are controlled by Republicans. Handing control of health insurance over to states would mean that the cost of women’s healthcare could vary massively from state to state, depending on the ruling party’s hostility to subsidizing women’s health. Given one party’s stated position on women’s reproductive health and that same party’s prominence in state politics, it doesn’t take a political genius to make an educated guess about what might happen. The women living in a majority of states could reasonably assume that their access to affordable reproductive health care would take a hit.
It also almost goes without saying that in a world where Graham-Cassidy is law, abortion, that procedure that Perez Hilton so flippantly suggested as a solution for unprepared parenthood, might be out of reach for many women who actually want to have abortions. But on a purely human level, telling any woman who has decided to keep her pregnancy that she should have been encouraged to have an abortion is fucking rude.
Some opinions add nothing to the conversation. Others add negativity to the conversation. And still more add negativity and remind the observer of a larger, uglier truth. In almost every conceivable (pun intended) scenario, weighing in on what a woman who isn’t even related to you should do with her body is fucking out of line. Lose weight, gain weight, wear this, don’t wear this, cut your hair or don’t, smile or don’t, fuck or don’t.
Perez Hilton isn’t the problem, but he’s a symptom. In 2017, some men still feel entitled to comment on what women should or should not do inside their own skin. Some of them are gossip bloggers. Some of them are trying to rewrite the health care system. Some of them are the President.