Photo: Caitlyn Jenner with her daughter Kylie at the Glamour magazine awards
Ten days ago, Caitlyn Jenner accepted Glamour magazine’s Woman of the Year award for her work as a transgender advocate. Her speech, which you can read in its entirety here, was moving and eloquent. She spoke about how she started the conversation about her gender identification with her children, family members, and pastor, and how happy she is to finally be able to present as her authentic self. If you look at pictures of her from that night, you can tell how excited she is to be there and how at ease with herself she is.
However, not everyone is as excited. Rose McGowan, the former Charmed star, pretty much wants to revoke Caitlyn’s Chick Card because in an interview after the event, Caitlyn said, “The hardest part about being a woman is figuring out what to wear.” Rose took offense at this, saying in a since removed Facebook post, “You do not understand what being a woman is about at all. You want to be a woman and stand with us – well learn us. We are more than deciding what to wear. We are more than the stereotypes foisted upon us by people like you. You’re a woman now? Well fucking learn that we have had a VERY different experience than your life of male privilege.” Then she put a bunch of pictures up of OJ Simpson’s wife and women being raped and giving birth – because exploiting other women’s hardships is totally acceptable if you have a point to make.
There is so much wrong with Rose’s statements. First off, she doesn’t seem to know or care about the struggles transgender people face with presenting themselves the “correct” way. Often, transgender people will dress and act in ways that are overtly feminine or masculine because they feel that they need to prove (or are told that they need to prove) that they’re a “real” man or woman. If they don’t, they risk being singled out as transgender, called a pervert, denied access to restrooms and stores, fired, harassed, or even killed. These are issues that Rose and I as cisgender women never have to face because, even if someone accuses us of not being a “real” women we can just laugh it off – we have the birth certificate to prove that they’re wrong. So dressing “correctly” is absolutely an important issue to Caitlyn, a transgender woman, who has felt so ashamed of her gender identification that she couldn’t even read a women’s magazine when presenting as a man.
Secondly, a woman can absolutely say that the hardest part of her day is figuring out what to wear without having her Chick Card revoked. The fact of the matter is that sometimes it is. If you’re going to a special event, doing a photo shoot, trying to impress your in-laws, going to an interview, etc, etc, you have to spend a lot of time thinking about what to wear. Women are constantly being policed for our clothes, being told that we’re showing too much cleavage or too much leg or our hair isn’t right or we’d look better with more/less/no makeup, that we’re too butch, too feminine, too this, too that. It must be even worse coming from a family like the Jenners and Kardashians, who are fashion icons. Can you imagine how minutely their publicists are scrutinizing Caitlyn, making sure she’s not “embarrassing” them? It has to be exhausting.
Third, it is inappropriate to use Caitlyn’s status as a transgender woman as the reason to critique her interview answers. Yes, feel free to take offense at the notion that the hardest part of being a woman is figuring out what to wear (Which, by the way, Caitlyn clarified about thirty words later when she said, “But, it’s more than that… It is more than hair, makeup, clothes, all that kind of stuff. There’s an element here that I’m still kind of search for, and I think that’ll take a while. Because I think as far as gender, we’re all on a journey. We’re all learning and growing about ourselves. And I feel the same way.”), but don’t accuse her of thinking so because she’s a transgender women. There are plenty of cisgender women that put more thought into their outfits than the wage gap, the lack of black female professors, and the exclusion of women from positions of religious power. Cisgender women do not share one hive mind of social justice and progressiveness. We can be shallow, vain, silly, hopelessly romantic, and just plain dumb. So if you’re going to criticize another woman’s words, do so as one woman to another. Don’t try to revoke a transgender woman’s gender identification just because she said something you dislike. Don’t try to accuse her of being an interloper of her sex. Don’t blame her for gender inequalities. You don’t have the right, so fuck off with your nonsense.