Depending on how you've designed your social media friend list you might have seen the recent flurry of activity surrounding Caitlyn Jenner and her new life. People were polarized in the opinions. I guess that is the American way. Though I've spoken and even written about my experiences in the LGBTQ community I didn't say much. I still don't have much to say, though, I think it is important to note that privilege, y'all (I KNOW I AM SO TIRED OF THAT WORD TOO) plays a strong role in so much of how we codify others. Caitlyn is markedly privileged and how she chose to come out frustrated me in many ways. The thing is that her story is not my story... just like it isn't Ann Lamott's story.
So why did Anne decide to go in on Caitlyn Jenner and call her a mannequin?
Anne's comment supposes that there is one way to be a woman, or maybe an accepted way that Caitlyn didn't choose. To not choose this way, Anne's comment indicates, is to be something fake, posed, plastic: a prop. Anne quickly followed up her statement with several others.
Real progressives agree to disagree, she says.
Maybe it is just my affinity toward third-wave feminism, but I don't see anything wrong with the way Caitlyn chooses to present herself. Anne Lamott should know that what her statement did was engage a debate that has been going on between second-wave and third-wave feminism for awhile. She transplanted this debate onto the trans community. Part of the trans community does have a horse in that race, and how the trans community chooses to engage feminism will (and does) take many forms. I wonder, though, if Lamott might have considered that Caitlyn, whose life as a male in Hollywood, was shaped by some of the misogynistic pressures and dynamics around her. Why react with being fed up? Was sorrow or pity or empathy an option as a public reaction? Surely Lamott understands what it feels like to buckle under the pressure of harmful messages that are internalized... if indeed that is what Caitlyn is doing with her appearance. Are all women in corsets "mannequins" or just the ones who appear on cover stories?
I wonder if Lamott allows more space for the rough around the edges folks than for those with perceived privilege. I am not making a case of "oh don't be mean to the rich folks!" But I am saying that maybe we should dig deeper, much deeper, than simply calling someone plastic without consideration for where their worn places might be. Sure, we should be talking about why Chaz Bono got less support and what contributes to the different ways both Caitlyn and Chaz have been received. My guess is that it has to do with power and money. My guess is that males, even those that transition into trans-women are allowed a level or power and privilege that females, even those that transition into trans-men, do not have. My guess is that all of this is entrenched in sexism and misogyny and Anne is as guilty of internalized hate as any of us are. I am not Lamott band-wagon. I kept falling asleep while reading Bird By Bird and I am disappointed in her choice of hairstyle. Lamott though, just like Caitlyn Jenner, has a right to figure out how to navigate it all without me screaming GOTCHA and hurling internet napalm or applying my life decision matrix to her choices. Can we all give each other just a little room to figure our stuff out, Internet?
Just not those Twilight people. None of us have any reason to try and understand those weirdos.