Dear Caitlyn: Caitlyn Jenner’s Initiation Into Womanhood

Dear Caitlyn,

Welcome, Caitlyn, to the fold of womanhood.  And oppression.  From this day forward you will be judged more on your looks and less on what you can accomplish.

I greet you with open arms and a sadness that your coming into your identity as a woman is solely based on your body and how it shoves into a corset.

I appreciate your courage.  Your strength.  Your tenacity.  Your savviness.  And I cringe at the way the world required you to display your femininity as your biggest strength.  Because you are so much more than that.

I am sorry that you are no longer supposed to discuss your size, as Vanity Fair‘s style director Jessica Diehl explains:

“We all know that a tall woman at 6-2 is not sample size,” Ms. Diehl said. (“I feel ladies don’t ever like to talk about their size, so I would have to defer on that,” she said when asked what size Ms. Jenner is.)

I am sorry that now your size is something to conceal, though your body is something to reveal.  I am sorry that your size is now a liability, not an asset.

I am sorry that your role is to remain still, to no longer move, compete, or be active.  For if the imagery of gender doesn’t change, this will now be your role.  And you have done enough work to break out of boxes; I hope you will join women in fighting representations that rely on passivity as femininity.

For once upon a time, the world expected you to move, win, throw, jump, run:

Covers of Wheaties Boxes

                                                                              Covers of Wheaties Boxes

And now the media and its audience expect you to be corseted, cabined, cribbed, and confined:

Coming Out:  Femininity

                                                                               Coming Out: Femininity

I am glad you able to look directly at the audience, that you weren’t required to be passive in your gaze as many women are. Did you choose a corset, the thing women fought against as a symbol of bodily oppression or was the choice made for you? Such a restrictive image of the female body confuses me when you fought so hard to escape the oppression of gender binaries.

It is not your responsibility to do more work to tear down patriarchal binaries that make women feel wrong to take up more space, to ask for raises, to compete (even if it is on artificial turf as the Women’s World Cup players hate).

I ask you to join us, Caitlyn.  To not be thrown into the gender binary machine that you worked so hard to deconstruct.  But if you cannot, I understand.  Know that your sisters will be here to fight.

Sincerely,

Colleen

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4 comments

  1. I am loving all the different articles I am reading about Caitlyn because I think there is so much more to the situation than most people consider. I do think that it is important that Caitlyn is being seen in this light, in the sense that I think trans folks spend so much time wishing they were “normal” (obviously a generalization) that it can be comforting to finally feel like they can be seen as they have always perceived themselves to be.

    I remember watching Orange is the New Black for the first time recently and watching the episode where we first see Laverne Cox’s character’s backstory. Her wife is helping her try on clothes after shopping and she makes a comment along the lines of “I picked these clothes out because I never got to be a teenage girl”. I have never gone through this experience so I had never considered this an issue before. So this is just an assumption on my part, but maybe Caitlyn did choose to wear a corset and present herself in more of a traditional way because this classic idea of what a woman should look like is something she never thought she could be.

  2. Thank you for so beautifully articulating all of the ways I shook my head at this: sadness, disdain, confusion, concern.. This is so much more complicated to me than it seems to be to many others. Is the only road to womanhood Princess Blvd? I can’t imagine her struggle, but the the rest of the fight is still so very real. I also stand in solidarity, but I wish she didn’t need to wear the costume in order to feel “normal” because I still don’t want the costume to BE normal.

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