In a distant past, many eons ago, there was a simple way to tell the difference between a man and a woman. We called it a penis. Now, I’m not against the destabilizing of oppressive identity markers or the complexifying of gender definition. I am not anti-transgendered communities, anti-LGBTQQ, anti-gay, homophobic or any of the other monikers one often sees attached to anyone who challenges the crossing of gender and sexual borders. On the other hand, I was among those who questioned the judgment of Glamour for naming Caitlyn Jenner as “Woman of the Year” (Inquisitr) and all the other organizations and individuals labelling her a hero. She has been called courageous, brave, a role model and the inspiration for a burgeoning transgendered civil rights movement. However, one does wonder if this collective encomium might be misplaced.
I am not implicitly against Caitlyn Jenner, an Olympic hero when I was a young boy … though then as Bruce. Coming out as a woman was certainly bold, particularly for someone already so often in the media spotlight. And yet it is hard to ignore why she has been in the spotlight so often over the years, attached to a family I believe is pure popular culture poison, famous it appears merely because they had enough money and time to convince others they should be. It is a family that celebrates the crassest elements of our culture, from an obsession on looks, body and appearance, conspicuous consumption and greed to the basest elements of celebrity culture itself (unearthing, more than anyone else, the boldly unctuous grab for power and money based predominantly on notoriety alone).
And it seems clear to me that Caitlyn seems largely in line with the family ideology, defining her new identity largely through the lens of the male gaze she is supposed to be destabilizing. We saw it most clearly in the Vanity Fair Spread in July of last year, but we also see it in her television show, her endorsements and now her political perspective. For it turns out that Caitlin Jenner is a huge Trump supporter and equally huge Clinton hater.
Again, Caitlin Jenner is fully entitled to her gender identity and political perspective, but when she begins to talk about how “Trump will be good for woman” and “Hillary is a liar,” essentially toeing the Fox News/Radical Right Wing line, one does begin to wonder if a woman who still has a penis and wants to continue dating woman is really an appropriate spokesperson for women. In a more general sense, we could argue that celebrities often make terrible advocates for any political position, whether it be on the right, left or in between, but the reality is that celebrity has more currency than at any time in history. One hopes that few heed her call toward hatred and intolerance, supporting a man who would have been little more than a clown and a sideshow in saner times.