Internet Meets Caitlyn Jenner, Immediately Sexualizes Her
I was getting coffee when Caitlyn Jenner met the Internet. Not fancy coffee — regular drip, black, get that cinnamon-sugar shaker away from me — so we’re talking maybe 15 minutes away from my desk. And yet that was enough time for seemingly the entire world to chime in on the Vanity Fair cover story documenting her transition.
Many were supportive and respectful, from Lady Gaga to Rick Santorum. Others, of course, were decidedly less so. (Tell me, how does it feel to be behind Rick Santorum in the Evolution line? Or don’t you guys believe in that yet? As you were.) But lurking through it all — the Facebook comments, the coverage from major outlets, even Vanity Fair’s presentation and promotion of the story — was an ugly subtext: After less than a day of revealing her new identity, Caitlyn Jenner had already been objectified and sexualized for our entertainment.
Which makes sense. She is, after all, a woman.
To be fair, it’s not that Bruce Jenner was always wearing a suit and tie on magazine covers. He was shirtless and wrapped around a blonde on the May 1982 edition of Playgirl. But, well, that was Playgirl. This is the Annie Leibovitz-shot cover of Vanity Fair, which inside has a story from Pulitzer Prize-winning reporter (and Philly native) Buzz Bissinger. We have to assume this is journalism, and we have to wonder why a photo of Caitlyn in lingerie was selected as the cover image.
It’s possible, of course, that Caitlyn chose the image. But my money is on whoever is counting the 6 million unique visitors who broke VanityFair.com’s traffic record, some of whom shelled out $4.99 to read the entire article before it hits newsstands on June 9th. And who could blame them, after Vanity Fair teases intimate details in the preview, such as “Bissinger reveals that Jenner has not had genital surgery”?
Vanity Fair isn’t the only mainstream outlet that got creepily voyeuristic when discussing Caitlyn’s body. Not only did the Associated Press refer to Jenner as “he,” but they casually dropped gems such as “va-va-voom fashion” and “ample cleavage” when reporting the story. Less disturbing, but still telling, were posts that read more like giddy texts to a long-lost BFF than coverage of a public figure.
And then, of course, there were the social media reactions. It was hard to tell yesterday, but Caitlyn Jenner isn’t an object, and she isn’t your new shopping buddy. She’s a human being, an Olympic gold medalist, a successful media personality and a parent. Even when applying a bell curve to weed out your Midwest cousins and Jezebel die-hards, things looked a little bleak. Below is a recap of some of yesterday’s greatest hits, in case you were smart enough to stop paying attention:
“I’d hit that.”
Pretty sure you weren’t invited to. Which is confusing, I know, as you assume that every single female body exists for your approval and viewing pleasure.
“She’s hotter than her ex-wife/daughters.”
How lovely of you to take this opportunity to judge all of these women you’ve never met based on how much they turn you on. I’m sure your ranking is important to them.
“I’d like to see the untouched pics.”
Ah yes, because she didn’t already give enough of herself here.
“OMG XOXO <3 <3 <3”
Lady, you are tweeting to an accomplished 65-year-old woman. Not a Bratz doll.
“Does it make me gay if …”
No. Being gay makes you gay. But saying this does make you stupid.
This fucking Bill Cosby joke.
Really guys? Less than 24 hours and we’ve already pulled out the lazy rape jokes? Caitlyn, welcome to being a woman on Twitter.
I can’t speak to what I assume are the significant struggles of being a transgender woman. But I can speak to walking around this strange little planet — and clicking through this tangled little web — in a female body, and I can only wish Caitlyn the best of luck as she tells her story and lives her life. If nothing else, at least she won’t be asked insulting questions about when she plans on having children — not even the most clueless, disrespectful journalist could possibly wish one more E! reality star upon us.
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