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.