Caitlyn Jenner does not deserve to be written off as a corseted covergirl.
After the Olympian, formerly known as Bruce, was first revealed as a woman on the cover of Vanity Fair — sexy, airbrushed, whatever — the smart opinion has spiraled out of control.
Credit The Daily Show's well-meaning Jon Stewart, who first rallied to defend her honor against supposed objectification. "It's really heartening to see that everyone is willing to not only accept Caitlyn Jenner as a woman, but to waste no time in treating her like a woman," he said during Monday's show. "You see, Caitlyn, when you were a man, we could talk about your athleticism, your business acumen ... but now you're a woman, and your looks are really the only thing we care about."
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Despite what Stewart says, the objectification in question — which mainly consists of TV talking heads and internet pundits saying, benignly, how great she looked — wasn't something that was inflicted on her, like an assault; Jenner is no victim.
It's a point that Eric Sasson at The New Republic grasped — before running way too far with it.
"As a media sensation, Jenner had many choices for how to reveal herself to us," he wrote. "So the fact that she chose a way that only reinforces how much our society objectifies women is a bit distressing."
Sasson is right, but only to a degree. She has been in the spotlight for years, and must have known that her entrance would open her up to criticism — including those who are disappointed that she didn't take the opportunity to fight the good feminist fight.
But why do we, the sneering media and public, heap such responsibilities onto someone who never claimed to be anything more than a low ranking TV personality and former athlete? Who ratified the decision to make Jenner a poster child for women's rights, or trans people's rights? Surely, only Caitlyn Jenner could do this, and she hasn't. Such causes, desperately important as they are, are ones individuals must choose to take on — not have foisted on them.
Sorry to break it to you folks, but Being A Woman — however heart-aching your story or high profile your image — does not come with a set of rules as to how you must conduct yourself politically. Yet some claim it would have been better — correct, even — for Jenner to have made her debut in a stern pantsuit with no makeup looking business-like and every one of her 65 years. Tough luck; it wasn't their call. It was, and continues to be, Jenner's.
Presumably, Jenner weighed her options and felt that grabbing the cover of a prestigious magazine looking like hot stuff was a great idea. Financially — and with a new TV show to promote — I'm sure it was a no-brainer. Perhaps Jenner took a decision based on factors other than rallying against the objectification of women. It might not make you feel good, but that was her right.
It's sad that we can't just let Jenner have her moment — however she wants it.
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