Caitlyn Jenner has triggered a long overdue debate among Americans about what it means to be a transgender person today. But when Caitlyn appeared on the cover of Vanity Fair, the media, not unpredictably, could only obsess over her looks. The Daily Show’s Jon Stewart in a fabulous rant welcomed her to the media’s world of women, where accomplishment takes a backseat to babe-aliciousness. This is true for women in the film industry, in politics and in business.
“Forget about anything religious or social or moral,” says author and media strategist Shawna Vercher, “None of that was debated on the air. It was, ‘Is she pretty enough?’ That was going to be the litmus test on whether or not society accepted her. It also seemed those commenting felt they were doing her a favor noting her beauty while forgetting anything else she had achieved.”
As the author of a book on sexism in the media, I see that this is yet another illustration of how the media really doesn’t know how to talk about women. And by introducing herself on the cover of a magazine famous for showcasing gorgeous dames, Caitlyn has positioned herself to say, ‘Look, I’m beautiful now,’ and that’s also troubling. Is that all we value a woman for?
Watch Shawna and I discuss the sexism and subtext of the Caitlyn Jenner story on this episode of Dare We Say.