It’s hard to decide what’s more frustrating about Bruce Jenner’s decision play-act a woman named Caitlyn: that we’re all supposed to ooh and aww over his new feminine face or curvy breasts (that look perkier than most), or that we’re supposed to act like this is at once fantastic and normal, brave and routine.
Unfortunately for Jenner and society, it is neither. This is not only devastating for him, but for our culture—and the fact that few people will view it that way, and this publication will most likely get slammed for saying so, proves the point even more. What’s only slightly worse than the fact that this is news is the fact that this news was inevitable.
Bruce Jenner’s Sad News Day
When celebrities make news headlines, viewers assume it’s a slow news day, which isn’t always bad. But we live in a world of a recovering recession, the burgeoning infancy of political campaigns vying for our highest office, instability in the Middle East, and rampant and violent crusades of ISIS. Yet news headlines of the week belong to Jenner’s decision to “become” a woman. (Although he still has male genitalia, soooo…not sure how that works?)
Truly, kudos go to Jenner and his handlers, for they have succeeded in making Mt. Vesuvius out of the tiniest ant hill. They have planned, prepared, hinted, smoothed, and photographed so that what is a sad, misleading (for the children watching) decision appears bold and nuanced, modern and heroic.
This is not a news story. This is not heroism. If you look beyond the pretty dress and pristine makeup Jenner wore on the cover of Vanity Fair a la Jessica Lange back when, and strip him of the headline, he is a man who thought he wanted to be more like a woman, in a fantastical sense, and so he bought himself breasts and some plump lips.
How does this not sound absurd? What does it say about us that it doesn’t? How are we, as post-modern, educated, law-abiding Americans, a world superpower, applauding this circus stunt?
In a few days, we will celebrate the anniversary of D-Day, when men stormed enemy-filled beaches and died by the thousands. Seventy-one years later, we instead celebrate a washed-up Olympian who married a fame-hungry woman then decided to start calling himself Caitlyn?
My Truth, Your Truth, His Truth
Oh, but I’m so misguided, insensitive, bigoted, narrow-minded. If a person can change who he is with the help of science (and a little extra dough), it won’t be long before other people can change who you are with the help of other people and science. When a person starts to willingly and purposely defy natural laws that define him, he lies outside the law, and so do his actions. Where does it end? Who and what define a person as male, female, person, or non-person?
Doesn’t anyone else find it strange that all major news outlets, as if in a giant collaborative effort—ESPN, CNN, Vanity Fair, The New York Times, NPR—applaud and accept this effort? Yet it makes strange sense. These people grew up in a culture and education system immersed in the ideology of moral relativism: man is the measure of all things. Like heartburn after hot wings, this is what happens—and what is widely accepted and celebrated—when moral relativism is taught de jure, when it should at the least be presented de facto. (How desuetude, I suppose.)
Bruce Jenner Was Inevitable
In a recent opinion piece in The New York Times, Justin P. McBrayer, an associate professor of philosophy, wrote that the distinction between fact and opinion is muddled in the Common Core curriculum his second grader is being taught. In a test devised from worksheets available on this site for teachers, statements like “Copying homework assignments is wrong,” “Cursing in school is inappropriate behavior,” and “All men are created equal” are categorized as opinions, not facts. He says, “[O]ur public schools teach students that all claims are either facts or opinions and that all value and moral claims fall into the latter camp. The punchline: there are no moral facts. And if there are no moral facts, then there are no moral truths.”
This might feel good but the logic doesn’t exist. If cheating isn’t necessarily wrong in second grade, it isn’t wrong in college. “Indeed, in the world beyond grade school, where adults must exercise their moral knowledge and reasoning to conduct themselves in the society, the stakes are greater […]If it’s not true that all humans are created equal, then why vote for any political system that doesn’t benefit you over others?”
If a man doesn’t want to be a man, why shouldn’t he pretend to be a woman? Or if a parent doesn’t think her boy wants to be a boy, why shouldn’t that parent allow—even demand—the boy “become” a girl or, heck, a donkey? The variables and possibilities are endless.
This teaching has been prevalent in our schools and culture for decades. If kids are taught from an early age to believe that truth is relative and morals are irrelevant, of course they will applaud the person who slaps up as many beams of narcissism, attention, even sadness, as he can, and nails them down with the help of plastic surgeons. When he stands on the roof with the help of new outlets, and yells for all the world to hear his own private “truth,” Bruce Jenner’s announcement not only makes sense but it makes a statement about him, our culture, and the problems—and work—that lie ahead for future generations.
Editor’s note: An earlier version of this article incorrectly identified Jenner as a Olympics competitor in tennis.