by Lucy Korn
“Good for her, not for me.” – Amy Poehler
image: Hasse Nielsen for Dansk Magazine
Feminism is extremely topical at the moment, and so it deserves to be. The mere fact that we are still fighting battles of equal pay, equal rights and equal respect is reason enough for feminism to be at the forefront of cultural comment. The thing is though, recently articles concerning our right to equal pay have given over to think pieces about what it means to be a woman. The most recent example of this appeared two days ago in the pages of the New York Times opinion section. The piece titled, What Makes A Woman, (written by journalist and former professor of woman’s studies, Elinor Burkett) talks about everyone’s favourite person of-the-moment, Caitlyn Jenner. It is a long article, longer than most of us with 8-second attention spans can be bothered with but these few paragraphs are all you need to get the gist about how Ms Burkett feels about, how we feel about, Caitlyn:
…This was the prelude to a new photo spread and interview in Vanity Fair that offered us a glimpse into Caitlyn Jenner’s idea of a woman: a cleavage boosting corset, sultry poses, thick mascara and the prospect of regular “girls’ nights” of banter about hair and makeup. Ms. Jenner was greeted with even more thunderous applause. ESPN announced it would give Ms. Jenner an award for courage. President Obama also praised her.
For me and many women, feminist and otherwise, one of the difficult parts of witnessing and wanting to rally behind the movement for transgender rights is the language that a growing number of trans individuals insist on, the notions of femininity that they’re articulating, and their disregard for the fact that being a woman means having accrued certain experiences, endured certain indignities and relished certain courtesies in a culture that reacted to you as one.
Ms Burkett believes that the way Caitlyn has come out, how she has presented herself as a woman to the world, and our support of that is somehow detrimental to feminism. Others share her view; I’ve read endless comments congratulating Caitlyn on her transition but wishing she hadn’t introduced herself as such a ‘sexpot.’ Criticizing Caitlyn for her choice to present herself to the world wearing high heels, lipstick, and glamorous gowns because cosmetics and pretty dresses do not make a woman is, in my view, a dick move. I agree that clothes and cosmetics have nothing to do with the make up of a woman but if I want to be the kind of woman who wears dresses that show off my cleavage I should be able to without someone blaming me for setting the ‘sisterhood’ back 50 years.
There is not one definition of a woman, what is good for you might not be good for me. If feminism has taught us anything, it’s that we can be (and do) anything we want so why can’t we let Caitlyn be the kind of woman she wants to be without criticism?