Just when we think we’ve taken a huge step forward for mankind and society, social media reminds us that we’ve still got a lot of work to do.
Today we met Caitlyn Jenner for the first time and were introduced via a beautiful Vanity Fair cover. Jenner also created social media accounts and used Twitter to express her happiness.
I'm so happy after such a long struggle to be living my true self. Welcome to the world Caitlyn. Can't wait for you to get to know her/me.
— Caitlyn Jenner (@Caitlyn_Jenner) June 1, 2015
The overall response to Jenner’s big reveal has been remarkably positive and many have sent congratulatory tweets to welcome Caitlyn to the world.
It's so nice to see the positivity about #CaitlynJenner! I don't know her personally but I feel so happy for her! You should be proud ❤️
— Jayde Pierce (@JaydePierce) June 1, 2015
— A Great Big World (@AGreatBigWorld) June 1, 2015
happy for you Caitlyn. you're so brave :)) @Caitlyn_Jenner
— dan sullivan (@imdansullivan) June 1, 2015
But as Caitlyn is celebrating and being supported by a host of twitterers, another group of users is using Jenner’s name to unfairly bash another celebrity’s physical appearance. A number of people have “jokingly” thrown out insults about talk show host Wendy Williams, implying that she is also transgender, though Williams has been outspoken about the fact that she is not. “I get it. I’ve got a strong face, a strong body, I’m 5’11”. I wear wigs. I get it,” she said during a 2014 ABC News interview.
I hope Bruce's transition, gives Wendy Williams the courage to open up about hers. I'm here for you Wendy, I'm here. >_<
— Bruce Leeroy (@MicBarz) June 1, 2015
Wendy Williams is definitely trans why is this still being debated 😂
— R. TAÍNO (@Ryantaino) June 1, 2015
Now #CaitlynJenner will come out as Wendy Williams.
— UncleDave's Mustache (@DaveJPrimo) June 1, 2015
Please note that the above is just a sampling of some of the more mild tweets about Williams.
While this transphobic bashing of Williams is wrong on many different levels, in my opinion there are three major things that are inappropriate about the comments.
Firstly, there’s nothing wrong with being trans, so it’s sad that some people are using it just to lob a cheap insult. Don’t we remember Hilary Duff’s “Think Before You Speak” PSA, where Duff reprimands a teenage girl for calling a blouse “gay”? “You shouldn’t say that something’s ‘gay’ when you mean it’s bad. It’s insulting,” Duff says in the commercial. The same principle applies here.
Secondly, what if Williams really was, in fact, transgender? I definitely believe her statements about the subject, but if for some reason she was hiding the fact she is transgender, that is her choice. It is nobody’s duty to make that information public, and whether she is transgender or not doesn’t have any bearing on anyone else’s life.
Thirdly, calling Williams transgender when she is not is a form of body-shaming that hurts both Williams and other women. Some are justifying the lashing out at Williams based on her prior comments criticizing Jenner’s transition, but they aren’t taking a step back to recognize that hating on Williams has the potential to make other women feel bad about themselves.
“I get where that comes from, but in my opinion, there’s no worse way to insult a woman than to say she looks like a man… [but] there’s nothing you can call me at this particular point. I’ve been dealing with this for decades,” Williams said during her interview with ABC. Williams may have made peace with the comments about her appearance, but she is not the only woman in the world who is tall, wears wigs or has a strong face and body. It can only make women who share these features with Williams feel self-conscious and worry that they, too, are being judged on their outward physical appearance.
To those who are bashing Williams because of comments she has made on her show: Two wrongs do not make a right. Saying nasty things about a person because you don’t agree with what they say does not propel us forward as a society. Sure, if you feel the need to constructively argue Williams’ view on a social media platform, by all means do so. But simply attacking Williams for something as superficial as her physicality doesn’t help anyone’s cause. In fact, it just hurts it and just puts more hate out there in the world.
And for those who are throwing out jokes for no other reason than to try to be funny, here’s a news flash: Making fun of someone’s appearance is not witty or humerous. Professional comedians very rarely can land a joke like this, so for the layperson, it’s virtually impossible.
The bottom line is, Jenner’s story is one of seeking acceptance from both herself and the rest of mankind. If we spent more time loving ourselves, we wouldn’t have so much free time to judge others. Actor Garrett Clayton put it pretty eloquently when he tweeted, “Life is about positivity, standing up for your beliefs, and staying true to yourself. Lead by example. #CaitlynJenner.”
Life is about positivity, standing up for your beliefs, and staying true to yourself. Lead by example. #CaitlynJenner
— Garrett Clayton (@garrettclayton1) June 1, 2015
People who use social media to stir up hate and say mean things about other people, celebrity or not, should probably take a page out of Caitlyn Jenner’s book and practice self-acceptance and self-love in their own lives.