After writing the story of Caitlyn Jenner's Vanity Fair cover reveal
, I excitedly shared the link on my social media pages. It was a watershed moment for the LGBT community and I could barely contain my joy! My friends were quick to chime in. "She looks great" and "I love what she's wearing" and "she's stunning." I wasn't any different. I thought she was gorgeous and wasn't afraid to say it until one friend left a very interesting comment. She said: "yes, but is that the point?" And of course it isn't the point. Cailtyn Jenner transitioned so she could be herself, not so the world would focus on her looks.
All of this online conversation happened before Jon Stewart so brilliantly said: "You see, Caitlyn, when you were a man we could talk about your athleticism and your business acumen, but now you’re a woman, and your looks are the only thing that matters.”
When Caitlyn was living life as Bruce, we didn't spend all of our time talking about how he looked or what designers he was wearing. We weren't commenting on his great legs or his slender frame. He was a celebrated athlete and businessman. The other stuff was secondary. But now all of a sudden, it isn't. People can't get over how much she looks like a woman. Well, she looks like a woman because SHE IS A WOMAN. End of story.
But all of the things that made her noteworthy as a man, are still noteworthy!
Stevie Berberick, a Penn State University lecturer who studies gender and sexuality believes that objectification is a major issue. "With Caitlyn Jenner, it was look how great she looks — she looks like a woman!” she says. “And that’s because she is a woman. But no one cared about her bravery or athletic ability, eloquence or her intellect. It was about what she looked like.” The real issue at play, she says, is that this objectification projects an image that women are supposed to look and act a certain way. “It’s based off of whiteness and white femininity,” she says. “It’s strict and suffocating. When we are objectifying women we take the power away from them and expect them to perform as the object.
As a society, we've been conditioned to see women as sexualized objects and not as thinking, feeling human beings. Look at Jenner's own family. Kim Kardashian has more than her fair share of business smarts. She has built her own celebrity. Of her sexy selfies she says, " "I've chosen to put them out there. I like them. I'm proud of them. I think there’s power in that. Even if it’s objectifying myself, I’m OK with that." And more power to her, there is nothing wrong with expressing yourself in that manner. But it can backfire. When was the last time you heard Kardashian's name mentioned in a context that didn't reference her sex appeal?
Caitlyn Jenner just came off a big week of heavy duty appearances at Pride in New York. She stunned and wowed in her designer threads. The world has looked past her birth gender and is viewing her as a celebrity woman. But in doing so, they are forgetting the human woman. Jenner is so much more than a flashy magazine cover or a closet full of clothes I could only ever dream of being able to wear. She's brave. She's strong. She has the power and ability to affect change. Cailtyn Jenner has every right to perform her gender as she sees fit, it does not change the significance of her person. Caitlyn Jenner is great. The question is, will we allow her to be great? We celebrated Bruce for being Bruce, doesn't Caitlyn deserve as much depth and respect?
I think so. How about you?