I generally don’t give a shit about Glamour Magazine.
Not that I’m necessarily saying anything negative about the publication itself. It’s more a general apathy I have towards the glossy pages featuring the latest trends, outfits, hair, makeup, and celebrity news.
I’m sure that if I cared more about Lauren Conrad’s “Go-To” Thanksgiving dress, The 6 Reasons Why David Beckham is “Most Certainly” the Sexiest Man Alive, or 14 Times Ariana Grande Did NOT Wear A Ponytail, I would be more of an avid reader. But it’s just not for me.
However, Glamour did get my attention lately with the controversy surrounding the “Glamour Women of the Year 2015″. Among the 25 honourees this year, including Reese Witherspoon, Victoria Beckham (they love their Beckhams!), and ballerina Misty Copeland, Caitlyn Jenner was one of the recipients.
In a Buzzfeed interview following her award Caitlyn was asked the question, “What’s the hardest thing about being a woman?” and this was her answer:
Cue the shit storm.
From people saying that she doesn’t deserve the award because she’s only been a woman for “less than a year”, general transphobic outrage, to the husband of a previous recipient giving back the award given to his deceased wife because,
As a New York City police officer, “my precinct covered a shelter for transgendered [sic] youth…On several occasions I responded there to take reports or give aid to suicidal youths. I listened to their stories of physical, emotional and sexual abuse. Young people thrown out of their homes or fleeing from unlivable conditions.
They didn’t have the luxury of being part of the Kardashian circus…They weren’t living in a Malibu Barbie beach house surrounded by what passes for family in Hollywood. They were truly brave people fighting hourly for existence.
When Mr. Jenner said the hardest part about being a woman was figuring out what to wear he proved to me that he is not truly a woman. I believe this comment and others he has made trivializes the transgender experience as I have witnessed it.”
Whatever you want to say about Caitlyn Jenner, whether you think her a Republican homophobic uber rich elite asshole, or that she’s a hero blazing the trail for trans people across the globe, it is my personal opinion that if Glamour wants to name her one of the many “Women of the Year” they should do so.
She’s a woman. She might come by identifying as a woman in a different way than some of us, but a woman plain and simple. She’s a celebrity. A pretty big one. These seem to be the two pieces of criteria that she shares will many of the past “Women of the Year” recipients.
And like many other women, Caitlyn has and will continue to experience an unrelenting policing and disproportionate dissection of the ways in which she should dress, speak, look, and behave. This was aptly pointed out by Jon Stewart when she first came out:
This brings me to Rose McGowan. Charmed star and outspoken feminist, she and Jenner were pitted against one another in the media after McGowan wrote a pretty scathing critique of Jenner’s response to the question,
“Caitlyn Jenner you do not understand what being a woman is about at all. You want to be a woman and stand with us — well learn us,” McGowan wrote on Nov. 16.
“We are more than deciding what to wear. We are more than the stereotypes foisted upon us by people like you. You’re a woman now? Well f–king learn that we have had a VERY different experience than your life of male privilege.”
She continued, “Woman of the year? No, not until you wake up and join the fight. Being a woman comes with a lot of baggage. The weight of unequal history. You’d do well to learn it. You’d do well to wake up. Woman of the year? Not by a long f–king shot.”
McGowan also posted several graphic memes that featured Jenner’s quote. Including photos of a woman getting raped, being followed home late at night, and a woman in the hospital after giving birth, and even O.J. Simpson’s late wife, Nicole Brown Simpson, covered in bruises.
What is the hardest thing about being a woman?
There’s a multitude of ways to deconstruct and discuss Jenner’s response to this question. For me, what I find interesting is the question itself. What are the expectations for someone like Jenner, who recently transitioned into being a woman? Is there an answer she could possibly provide that would satisfy all?
Is there an answer that collectively, all women, trans or not, would nod their head in agreement with, pausing for a moment before saying, “Yes, yes. THAT is the hardest thing about being a woman. Well said Caitlyn.” Does such an answer exist?
No. It doesn’t. Because there is no one answer.
What it means to be a woman is markedly different for say, a wealthy white queer single twenty-year-old living in Manhattan, and a middle aged heterosexual widowed mother of three in Syria. The multitude of lived experiences, the intersection of race, economic status, gender, sexuality, and even geography all inform our personal experience of how we interact with the world.
As for Jenner’s response, “…what to wear…” I am of two minds. First mind says, this is an answer given after receiving an award from publication that focuses on fashion trends and beauty. She’s answering it in the context of who’s asking and the pulled quote of a simple, “…figuring out what to wear…” can seem frivolous. Yes, compared to the varied experiences of many trans people, Caitlyn Jenner is in a position where she is less likely to experience the violence, poverty, emotional and mental trauma, and discrimination many others face. She was able to afford the costly elements of making her transition, and was allotted a particular visibility because of her fame.
Second mind says, I can’t imagine what it’s like for someone who lived for sixty-six years feeling like the representation of her gender was never fully expressed. Having hide something very important about herself to the world—wouldn’t the freedom to dress as she pleases be a huge part of her daily life?
A very privileged life, I’ll admit.
As a cisgender woman myself, the choice of how to perform my gender was and continues to be lengthy and fraught process.
From being a teenager and experimenting with makeup. How much is too much?
To reconciling my mixed feelings about the ways in which the Western standard of beauty is dictated to me, and then turning around and shaving 90% of my body hair.
All of these decisions to present myself to world have been made through years of trial and error. I actually couldn’t imagine having to cram it all into a short period of time. There’s a dizzying array of options that have just recently opened up for Jenner, and on a very basic level, it’s an anxiety I can identify with.
The fact that she was attacked so harshly by McGowan detracts from the issues at large. Of which there are many, and I can only fit so much into this one blog post (thank you if you are still reading).
McGowan’s tactics of talking about “joining the fight” is less like an olive branch and more like a grenade. It’s okay to be angry. Anger is a tool. Anger can be powerful, but in this situation, I’m just disappointed that instead of frank discussion and dialogue about how gender and sexuality are experienced and expressed, or the ways we talk about trans woman in the larger context of “womanhood” we ended up with this fuckery where—yet again—two women are pitted against one another in a sensational media shit storm.
Anyway, if you’re looking for something a little bit lighter to read here’s a bunch of photos of Blake Lively’s hair.