It’s an even stranger state of affairs if one considers how inextricably intertwined Kim and Kanye's careers and public lives have become since the couple married in 2014. Kim has been referenced in Kanye’s songs repeatedly; she appeared strapped to him for (the most unintentionally hilarious video of all time) “Bound 2”; he sporadically pops up on her E! reality show Keeping Up With the Kardashians; there’s a cartoon version of him in her super-popular phone app, and they pose for magazine covers and red carpet events together on the regular.
What's more, these two have a happy marriage precisely because they are such similar humans. Kanye is as ostentatious as Kim. They both earn an exorbitant amount of money and live lavishly in properties around the globe. They are both unabashedly shallow (Kim: "Stretch marks are my biggest fear of life”; Kanye: "My apartment is too nice to listen to rap in"). They are both unashamedly egotistical (Kim: "If I was a man, I would want to know what it’s like to have sex with myself"; Kanye: "My greatest pain in life is that I'll never be able to see myself perform"). Both enjoy spouting absolute nonsense from time to time (Kim: "Well, a bear can juggle and stand on a ball and he’s talented, but he’s not famous. Do you know what I mean?"; Kanye: "I hate when I'm on a flight and I wake up with a water bottle next to me, like, oh great, now I gotta be responsible for this water bottle").
So why do we #PrayForKanye now, when some Tweets about Kim’s robbery declared her suffering “good news” and others openly wished she had been killed in the heist? An opportunistic company even turned the worst night of Kardashian's life into a Halloween costume:
The answer to why we treat these two similar people so differently is of course a little complicated, but at least partially rooted in sexism. Somehow, it's okay for Kanye to talk extensively about the designer clothing he likes, because the perception is that he's earned it. When Kim does it—even though she has been in the business of fashion since before either of them were famous—it's often perceived as frivolous and selfish; the rich girl rubbing her wealth in our faces.
In addition, if you ask Kim-haters what they dislike about her, the most common complaint is that she is talentless, an accusation that willfully ignores the fact that Kardashian is a marketing genius with a sharp mind for business. The other reasons given for hating on Kim—the shallowness, the ego, the self-indulgence—are all personality elements that Kanye is just as guilty of, but that the public has no problem turning a blind eye to.
Perhaps Kim also garners less sympathy because she is less inclined to show vulnerability than Kanye. He recently cried on stage over a fan's tribute to his mother, and his sad, public embrace with Kid Cudi last week has gone viral. Kim, on the other hand, has said that crying is for the end of the day, "not with fresh makeup." Not exactly endearing.
Perhaps the public love for Kanye and vocal hatred of Kim has to do with our national pastime of cheering for the underdog; Kardashian was born into privilege, Kanye's background is significantly scrappier. It also has to do with product; we place an infinitely higher cultural value on Kanye's music than we do on Kim's apps, books and TV shows, even though their popularity is comparable.
Regardless of the root cause, the way Kim and Kanye have been treated during their respective crises in the last two months has held a mirror up to the nature of social media and how we use it to build up and tear down public figures, depending on our mood. Further, if we compare Kanye's treatment this week to how Britney Spears' mental breakdown was publicly discussed in 2007, the picture becomes even more stark. It suggests that a higher value is, at least sometimes, placed on famous men than it is on famous women, and that men can get away with more while living in the public eye.
I, along with the rest of the country, wish Kanye a speedy recovery, but I sincerely hope Kim is on the mend too. Because assigning value to the lives of celebrities, based on whether we like what they sell us or not, is a hideous reflection of how we dehumanize famous people.