Tuesday, June 02, 2015

Caitlyn Jenner's Feminist Conundrum

Caitlyn Jenner looks amazing. That was the headline on Monday, and it was well-deserved. Even if we hadn’t seen her before, we probably would have said that, especially if we had known she’s 65 years old.

As a secular humanist/liberal/commie/whatever you want to call me, I’m happy that we’re becoming what seems to be a society that’s more accepting of people’s choices (as long as there’s not a fetus involved). The male-female continuum has always been murky, and I’m glad that we’re starting to realize that.

I also think it would be horrible to have to live in a body that I felt I didn’t belong in, and I’m glad there’s surgery that lets people project what they feel on the inside to the world at large. But my feminist heart is troubled.

It makes sense - no one is going to have surgery to become an average looking person. If you’re getting fake boobs, you’re not going to get small weirdo boobs, you’re going to get really great ones. Same for your stomach and your hips. Everything down under is going to line up as nicely as it possibly can. You don’t just want to be a woman, you want to be a WOMAN.

But the perfect nipples, the raised cheekbones, the nips, the tucks, I have the same problem with those that I do for anyone getting plastic surgery. They continue publicizing this impossible ideal that (I thought) we were slowly starting to shift away from. 

The Lena Dunhams and Amy Schumers of the world, the chronic loud and proud use of the word ‘feminist’ (Thanks, Taylor Swift! Thanks, Beyonce!), the celebs standing up (or down) to Cannes about their high heels rule, the Lane Bryant #ImNoAngel campaign, Rookie Magazine - I was starting to believe that mainstream feminism was the future.

At the same time, society is becoming more accepting of the transgender community. So where does feminism fit into that? I’ve never been a transgender person, so I don’t know. The way I understand it, transgender people are straddling the gender continuum - they're wired on one side, but look like they’re on the other side. With surgery, you're closing your legs, so to speak, you're meeting yourself on one side of the continuum. You are one thing and not the other. That immediately conflicts with second wave ideas that gender is a social construct, but this isn't my issue - as a third-waver, I believe men and women are different, and that's okay. That's good.

In a society that judges people on how they look, I get wanting to remove the extraneous parts - the penises, the boobs. I get growing your hair out or cutting it short, dressing in jeans or a skirt.

But Caitlyn Jenner didn’t stop there. She turned herself into an impossibly beautiful woman. I know that she’s got to live how she feels, but does a 65 year old woman really feel like THAT on the inside? I don’t feel like that and I’m 32. In fact, if I had surgery to reflect how I really feel on the inside, I would probably look more like Bruce Jenner than Caitlyn. I understand that Caitlyn is a woman, and that the Vanity Fair shoot was "about who [she] is as a person," but it makes my feminism sad that she became such a society-driven ideal of a woman. How honest is that?


Anonymous said...

Could not agree more.

ajhandegard said...

Fantastic nuanced angle.