There are several reasons why someone might side-eye Caitlyn Jenner. For one thing, she and the whole Kardashian /Jenner clan are overexposed. She also has a shaky history when it comes to supporting gay marriage. Then there’s the matter of her being celebrated and often called “courageous” for her decision to live as a transgender woman, despite the fact that her fame, wealth and race make her experience far from typical than the experience of most transgender people.
But it seems that even for Jenner, privilege has limits and like so many other transgender women, she too has to deal with people claiming she isn’t a real woman.
Prominent feminist Germaine Greer believes transgender women are not real women because they don’t “look like, sound like or behave like women.” Upon learning that Caitlyn Jenner would be named one of Glamour magazine’s 2015 “Women of the Year,” Greer said “I think misogyny plays a really big part in all of this, that a man who goes to these lengths to become a woman will be a better woman than someone who is just born a woman.”
Greer is not the only prominent woman making anti-transgender statements about Caitlyn Jenner nabbing an award from Glamour magazine. Two weeks ago, actor Rose McGowan, who has in the past very vocal about sexism women face in Hollywood, ripped into Jenner for saying the “hardest part about being a woman is figuring out what to wear,” at the Glamour magazine ceremony.
This is what McGowan posted on Facebook:
“Caitlyn Jenner you do not understand what being a woman is about at all. You want to be a woman and stand with us- well learn us. We are more than deciding what to wear. We are more than the stereotypes foisted upon us by people like you. You’re a woman now? Well f—king learn that we have had a VERY different experience than your life of male privilege. Woman of the year? No, not until you wake up and join the fight. Being a woman comes with a lot of baggage. The weight of unequal history. You’d do well to learn it. You’d do well to wake up. Woman of the year? Not by a long f—king shot.”
It’s disturbing that Greer and McGowan use feminist rhetoric to justify bigotry. People are accustomed to the stereotype of the fun, “fierce” drag queen, but it’s only very recently that transgender women have been portrayed in the media in a way that is at all sensitive or nuanced. In the past, in the rare instances when transgender women were portrayed in film or television, they’ve been depicted as being freakish—not the epitome of womanhood. This is what makes Greer’s claim, that honoring a transgender woman is somehow misogynistic, and McGowan’s condescending assumption that Jenner doesn’t understand the struggle, absolutely ludicrous.
When Caitlyn Jenner made her debut as a female, the fact she was born male did not stop people from scrutinizing her appearance and commenting on her sex appeal. Transgender women have to deal with the same marginalization and harassment cisgender face plus something extra— transmisogyny. The term, which was coined by Julia Serano in her 2007 book “Whipping Girl”, describes the unique discrimination trans women face. Transgender women, particularly trans women of color, are being murdered at an alarming rate In fact, this year has been the most lethal year on record for transgender people.
This is why it’s disgusting when cisgender women exclude trans women in the name of feminism. It’s bad enough that trans women have to face both traditional misogyny and transmisogyny, they don’t need women who should be allies adding to the pile.