Caitlyn Jenner, all soft curls, long legs and plunging necklines in the pages of Vanity Fair intended to show, in no uncertain terms, that Bruce, befuddled Dad, was gone. Behold Caitlyn, the goddess of femininity and grace.
But I have to make a confession. Even with all my deeply held beliefs about inclusion, I, like other women, was left unsettled that womanhood, with all of its pain and beauty and struggle, could somehow be put on like some gorgeous designer gown and gobs of makeup.
It takes more than a pair of tatas and a glam squad to make a woman. And when I read a report that the ultra-exclusive golf club Bruce frequented has strict policies that exclude women from many activities and even has separate men’s and women’s dining rooms, I have to admit I cackled out loud.
Now you’re really one of us, Cait!
The Sunday New York Times featured a brilliant article by Elinor Burkett that explains why many women are feeling a bit ruffled by the idea of the transgender community trying to define what it is to be a woman, despite escaping many of the struggles women face daily regarding pay equality, reproductive rights and so on.
That isn’t to say the transgender community isn’t subject to its own slew of injustices, but when it starts to tell ladies stuff like they can’t use the word “vagina” and instead should use the more inclusive term “front hole,” chicks who have fought to get women to embrace their bodies get a little pissy. Understandably so.
To hold up Caitlyn as some sort of hero for adopting an outwardly narrow, sexed-up persona while also enjoying a lifelong membership to the very whitest, bro-est, richest echelons of the patriarchy is slightly insulting.
For the first 65 years of life, Bruce enjoyed all the privilege of a white, athletic male and now Caitlyn is completely reborn as some sort of civil rights champion harking back to the Wheaties box, only now with flawless nails. Excuse me if that’s a little hard to swallow.
But not every victory is neat and tidy. And make no mistake — there is plenty about Caitlyn Jenner’s ascension from reality TV punch line to social justice star to celebrate. Caitlyn’s legacy won’t be her feminist street cred or what she wore for Vanity Fair. It will be the conversations she started across the world. Even among cranky feminists.
Maybe Caitlyn’s never gotten paid less than someone else for doing the same work, or had to sweat getting access to birth control, or been told she couldn’t join the Good Ol’ Boys’ golf club, but we can’t lose sight of what has always been one of the principle goals of feminism: to continue to expand the definition of what it is to be a “woman.” And that’s exactly what Caitlyn’s doing.
And so I say, go forth, Caitlyn Jenner, and wield those tatas in the name of truth and justice for all women. And don’t be surprised when men start addressing them instead of your face. Welcome to the club, girl.
Here’s the trailer for “I am Cait,” the upcoming reality series on her transformation.