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Caitlyn Jenner is a brave soul. She appeared on the cover of Vanity Fair, spilling her very feminine form out of a stunning satin corset. A feminine form that, not long ago, was a masculine form.
She opened herself up to haters and bigots to champion a cause – that everyone should be able to be who they are without fear. That it’s acceptable to blur the hard and fast line that divides men from women. That people who differ from societal expectations should not be marginalized and forced to live on the edges.
This message is a respectable one. It is a popular one. It is a FOUNDATIONAL one.
The contrived beauty of the photos distracts from the message. Supporters gush over her stunning photos. Talking about how beautiful she is. Coveting her breasts. Waxing poetic about her legs. And in the same breath, criticizing her step-daughter, Kim Kardashian, for being a narcissistic, vacuous socialite who only cares about the superficial.
It’s a little hypocritical.
If you look at the two women side-by-side, both are beautiful. Both exemplify the feminine form. But while Kim is cut down for her superficial attention to her body, Caitlyn is lifted up.
Kim’s attention to detail, from her sculpted eyebrows to her whitened teeth to her manicured toes, draws negative perceptions for being “fake.” Websites are devoted to hating Kim for achieving fame by acting phony. Maybe she is. Maybe she is stupid, or self-obsessed, or a bitch. We only see her in the media. But we don’t get to make fun of her for valuing her looks.
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By contrast, Caitlyn has undergone extensive plastic surgery to change her outward appearance from long and lean to soft and curvy. She also has manicured eyebrows, and whitened teeth, and manicured toes. She now looks more like Kim and less like Bruce. She appeared on the cover of a high fashion magazine essentially in her underwear. And we celebrate her because that is WHO SHE IS. And she can be as bold about it as Kim.
Why do we respond in such opposite ways to these two? It has less to do with their beauty, and everything to do with their personas. We criticize Kim’s looks because of her skanky behavior, and we flatter Caitlyn because of her strength. Not because of the way they look. Because of WHO THEY ARE. Because character says more about a person than breast size.
Although Caitlyn’s cover on Vanity Fair is an historical step for transgender advocacy, she could have conveyed the same message dressed in everyday clothes, with everyday vulnerability. To make the world compliment her character and humanity.
Not her shapely legs and hair extensions.