So the reveal came and went. Bruce became Caitlyn, and the world rejoiced. Caitlyn’s new verified Twitter handle broke the previous record, beating out the president of United States to soar to more than 1.1 million followers in a matter of hours.
I'm so happy after such a long struggle to be living my true self. Welcome to the world Caitlyn. Can't wait for you to get to know her/me.
— Caitlyn Jenner (@Caitlyn_Jenner) June 1, 2015
As person after person announced how proud they were of the former Mr. Jenner, it became harder and harder to see why this was so brave. Indulgent, sure. Brave, really? What hardship or massive rejection has Caitlyn had to endure? The photoshoot by famed photographer Annie Lebowitz, the setting in the Jenner estate overlooking the ocean in Malibu, the rejection by his family? Nope.
In fact, everyone seems pretty on-board with this. The only person who shared any concern was Bruce himself post-surgery, where he wondered, says the Vanity Fair profile: “What did I just do? What did I just do to myself?” The article continues: “A counselor from the Los Angeles Gender Center came to the house so Jenner could talk to a professional, and assured her that such reactions were often induced by pain medication, and that second-guessing was human and temporary.”
Bruce Jenner’s Wild Midlife Crisis
As he adapted, he still was treating his body not as his own, but like a shiny new midlife crisis vehicle that came with a great rack worth flashing to his son: “Brandon said he was a little taken aback when he saw Caitlyn for the first time after surgery and she pulled her top up to reveal her new breasts. ‘Whoa, I’m still your son,’ he reminded her.”
Personally, I don’t care either way, and I wish him well, but I’d prefer we identify actions of bravery with real bravery. This is not one. He looks lovely, and I envy his collarbone structure as yet again standards in female beauty move to even more unobtainable (since I’m pretty sure I can’t Pilates my way to male musculature while maintaining my more feminine attributes). Maybe after years of living amongst the vain Kardashian clan Bruce decided he, too, could play that game and, of course, being a pretty tough competitor, went in big. Body dysmorphic issues aside, Bruce was going to be a hot woman if he was going to do this. Congratulations, you’ve had the best work, wardrobe, glam team, and Photoshop money can buy.
Character Is More Important than Looks
What ever happened to “what matters is who you are on the inside”? While everyone cheers Bruce’s transformation to Caitlyn, does it change anything about who he really is? After the photographers leave, and the reality show wraps, Bruce will still be the same person he has been the entire time. Or maybe we are self-absorbed enough as a culture now to rate our exteriors more important than our interior? Maybe Bruce is really different if all that matters is how we perceive him visually.
We know from research that looks matter. Taller men who have above-average looks tend to get promoted more than their shorter, less-attractive counterparts. If you want to be in the Olympics of looks, female is the gender to play in. Beauty pageants, modeling contracts, pole dancing as empowerment; women really have the market solidified where looks matter. So much so that women have a harder time than men managing the reality that life does not distribute looks equally.
So is the best response to Mother Nature’s cruel visual inequity more surgery for everyone and glam teams ‘til their outsides match their insides? If that is case, Jenner just won another gold medal in the vanity Olympics. Can he claim to be a woman without having authentic female experiences? If so, we’ve already had a female president, as far as I’m concerned. Jimmy Carter was pretty girly, when it comes down to it. Bill Clinton certainly could “feel your pain,” and sure did empathize with the ladies. Is there a need for gender-based affirmative action because the only thing standing in your way to a more male-friendly wage-earning potential is changing your visage?
Narcissus Rises Again
What defines who gets to play on a female sports team? If appearance trumps biology, why bother with half of the social-justice platform—just change how you look. Did an age-related decline in testosterone contribute to Jenner’s escalation in commitment to feminization surgery?
Who knows, and who cares. That’s some silly discussion, one that will make “Jezebel rain hellfire down on” you. What matters is how it sounds, how it makes you feel, and if it’s attractive. Silence is easier and more attractive when roving bands of social-justice warriors vociferously silence dissent.
Now that we dispensed with critical thinking and an honest debate of ideas, welcome to a world where what matters most is how you look. It’s a brave new superficial world that had no better launching location than the pages of Vanity Fair. We are a society that has fallen in love with its own reflection.