So many people are outraged that Caitlyn Jenner won <em>Glamour</em>’s Woman of the Year award. The controversy blew up before I even had a chance to go watch Jenner’s speech for myself. I read article after article calling the incident a scandal and shaming Jenner and <em>Glamour</em>. Then I saw that the husband of Moira Smith, a 9/11 hero previously awarded Woman of the Year, returned his late wife’s award because he couldn’t respect that Caitlyn Jenner was awarded the same title. James Smith asked, “Was there no woman in America, or the rest of the world, more deserving than this man?”</p>
Are you kidding me?
Ladies and gentlemen who are so upset that Caitlyn Jenner is Woman of the Year, I don’t deny that this decision is controversial. But I want you to stop for a moment, take a deep breath, and consider all of the implications. All of them. I didn’t see nearly enough discussion about how great it is that a trans-woman was awarded the title Woman of the Year.
Regardless of who that trans-person was, we should have celebrated that remarkable step towards taking down the patriarchy. Instead, everyone jumped to arguing about the decision until all of the messages converged into hate. What happened with James Smith and his wife’s award should have been shut down very quickly, but it wasn’t because we were too caught up with disliking Caitlyn Jenner.
I’ve heard the argument that Caitlyn Jenner doesn’t deserve the award because she has lived a life of white, rich, male privilege. I have heard the argument that what Caitlyn has done is not courageous because so many others have done it before her. I’ve heard the argument that so many other women deserve it way more. And then, of course, there’s the argument that Caitlyn Jenner can’t be Woman of the Year because she isn’t a real woman.
There is no denying that Bruce Jenner lived a life of privilege. Bruce was rich, famous, white, and male. Caitlyn’s life as it is today is definitely a product of Bruce’s privilege, but we have no idea what her struggle was like. It is easy to assume that she is privileged because of the tangible resources that she has, but everyone has their issues and living as a trans-person is very complicated. Moreover, privilege and the Woman of the Year title are not mutually exclusive, as we saw in 2007 when Victoria Beckham won.
How can you say that what Caitlyn Jenner did was not courageous? She came out to the public and announced that she was going to live her life as a woman, after 60 years in the spotlight being a man. You’re right that she was not the first transgender person to come out in public, and that she had 60 years to work up the courage, but that does not mean that it was easy.
Thus far, I am impressed with her accomplishments as a trans-woman. She has not been perfect, but she has used her fame to bring more attention to this very important issue by educating the public. Go and watch her video and see her humanitarian work for yourself if you don’t believe me.
There were so many women that deserved it more than her. Absolutely. But to those who are leveraging this point in order to refute the decision I want to remind you that Glamour is not the authority on women. Can I say “duh” enough? So many women are amazing, and just because one magazine announces that Caitlyn Jenner was the best this year doesn’t mean that it is true. Why do we care so much about what Glamour says? Glamour would probably call the red Starbucks cup Woman of the Year if they thought that it would sell copies.
All of these arguments are very flawed, but that isn’t even the biggest problem with this controversy. Have you noticed that there is a huge population of people who are opposing this decision because they say that Caitlyn Jenner isn’t a real woman?
No, because we’ve been too focused on why we don’t like Caitlyn Jenner. I don’t particularly like her either, but I will stand by her side without hesitation if it means I am fighting against ignorance. As feminists, we need to be supportive of this decision because we need to fight against people who are using this issue as a battle against trans-rights.
So many more important feminist issues happened this month — as they do every month. For example, did you see Bloomingdale’s ad that was “accidentally” supporting date rape? The message “spike your best friend’s eggnog when they’re not looking” captioned a picture of a man suspiciously looking at a woman who was laughing and looking away. How awful is that? And yet, everyone was too busy talking about Caitlyn Jenner and the red Starbucks cup that the ad did not get the negative attention that it deserved.
Let’s learn a lesson from this. Taking down the patriarchy is hard and we need to make celebrating every small victory a priority. If we don’t, we end up ignoring bigger issues and allowing more egregious offenses to slip through the cracks.