Why could I critique Angelina Jolie’s cover but I’m ‘out of my lane’ for posting about Caitlyn?

When I post my reaction to representations of Caitlyn Jenner or Laverne Cox in the media, most of the comments I receive fall into two camps, often hateful, both reductive of them, the issue, and me: I’m either a TERF and should stay in my lane or Caitlyn and Laverne are not women but part of a dangerous conspiracy to invade women’s spaces.

I believe Caitlyn, Laverne, and I have the same goal: to celebrate and honor diversity. I also believe that it’s not my right or my place to tell Caitlyn or Laverne what to do and how to do it. They are on their own paths, making their own choices.

That said, I’m allowed to have a reaction to the images and stories that they put out into the world. I started my blog, Reel Girl, because I have three daughters and since I becoming a mother, I’ve been shocked by how gender segregated kidworld has become. Reel Girl critiques images and narratives around gender in the the hope of showing people, and ultimately transforming, the limited representations of gender that surround us, especially in the area of children’s media and toys.

I often critique magazine covers on gender representation. I’ve posted multiple times about Time, Newsweek, Sports Illustrated etc. Just a couple weeks ago, I posted a congratulations to Taylor Swift for appearing on a cover of Maxim that showed only her head, a picture that wasn’t all legs and breasts, a rare feat for that publication. (Not to mention In the article, Swift spoke about feminism.) Here’s a post from Reel Girl that I wrote in November about Angelina Jolie’s Vanity Fair cover:

Angelina Jolie on cover of Vanity Fair, not naked, in a hot tub or in a wet T

Wow, I could even see a man in this shirt and pose. If you don’t know how rare that gender flip is for a female celebrity on a magazine cover, check out Reel Girl’s post Why do men feel entitled to women? A gallery of reasons. Can’t wait to buy this issue!


So why when I post about Caitlyn Jenner am I told to shut up? All over the internet I read posts like this one:

Caitlyn Jenner is High Femme, Get Over it

This is a form of femmephobia and transmisogyny and it needs to stop. It’s time for the gender police to retire. Jenner is being herself and this binary expression is just as legitimate as any other non-binary gender presentation.

The attacks on Jenner’s femininity represent transmisogyny and femmephobia because there is a glaring double standard here. You won’t hear a famous cisgender female movie actress accused of being too feminine or a stereotype for wearing a dress.

But that’s not true. Images of women in the media, especially famous women, are deconstructed, and when they’re not, I often wish they would be. I’ve been known to do it myself. I’m used to people disagreeing with me and not liking what i have to say, but the vitriol that has been directed at me and on my page recently, mostly from people who call themselves feminists, is some of the worst I’ve ever received. We all need education. An honest, respectful dialogue on the complex issue of gender will be better for everyone. I hope that’s possible in social media.




8 thoughts on “Why could I critique Angelina Jolie’s cover but I’m ‘out of my lane’ for posting about Caitlyn?

  1. Let me say that as a member of a diverse group of people. I don’t speak for the whole, and others within this group don’t speak for me. I don’t agree with the attacks made against you for the criticism. A lot of it feels like blowback for a really ugly double-bind that trans women tend to wind up in, where you have to be femme enough or you are faking it and possibly denied access to care, and if you are femme enough, then you are perpetuating sexism by playing to the stereotypes. So there’s frustration and anger there. Especially when the original piece can be seen by some as the latter form of the double-bind. And that has been used as an argument by some self-identified feminists as to why trans women should be excluded from the movement, misgendered, and more.

    And I am with you in this particular instance. I agree with the criticisms that Jenner was basically paraded out saying “hey look, she can be a sex object too, aren’t we progressive?” That’s not what I want to see for any woman, trans or cis. Especially since the fact that Jenner was paraded out in the same sexist way that a cis woman would be, shows that we shouldn’t be on anything but the same team. But there are a lot of people who disagree, and they are constant in their claims, and liberal with the application of stereotypes. And some folks are getting caught up in the crossfire just for stepping into the fray, unfortunately.

  2. Yes!! Just today over on GoFugYourself I saw a post critiquing Jennifer Lopez at the Tonys giving her props for not showing too much leg/boobs/everything. She was lauded for being “classy” for not appearing half nude like some of the other attendees and setting a good example that you don’t have to appear half naked or in a see through dress at a red carpet event. Other posts lambasted women for wearing skirts that are too short, dresses that are too sheer, and makeup that’s over the top. I don’t see why a trans woman is immune to the critiques we make of all women in the media spotlight, whether positive or negative, and I think it’s awful you’ve been subjected to this ridiculous level of meanness from people who should be on the same side. I have two sons and want them to see women as strong empowered equals rather than subscribing to Harry Enfield version of women (“women – know your limits!”)

  3. It’s because you are a cis-gendered woman. Criticizing the representation of sexuality and femininity of cis-gender women in mainstream media who reflects your gender identity is seen as a welcome critique within your “tribe.” Transgender politics are nuanced and complex and to assume you can use the same cis-centered media literacy lens on transgender folks is short sighted at best. You wouldn’t use the same lens of women of color, as they have a different experience and historical reference (for example, Black women have historically been denied their femininity and been compared to beasts…so femininity means something very different to many of them than to white women like you and me.) I truly respect your work, but I seriously disagree with you on this one.

    • It’s because in their hearts of hearts, transwomen are still men and still feel entitled to tell women how to speak, write, behave, and everything else. If you really felt solidarity with us and really “felt female”, whatever the hell that means, you’d understand why it’s problematic for someone who has ever lived as a male to tell us to sit down and shut up. You also don’t like the idea that gender and sex are not the same thing–you lean hard on persuading people that they are the same or that gender is biological while sex is a figment of our imaginations. (So I guess pregnancy and childbirth are imaginary things too.) If we’re critiquing gender no matter who is performing it, that pisses on your ideological parade, doesn’t it? When we say that our culture’s societally-imposed standards of femininity are harmful, WE MEAN IT, no matter who is performing them. You want to be treated exactly the same as a “cisgendered” woman, well, there you go. Put up or shut up.

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