I have fought for many of my 68 years against efforts to put women — our brains, our hearts, our bodies, even our moods — into tidy boxes, to reduce us to hoary stereotypes. Suddenly, I find that many of the people I think of as being on my side — people who proudly call themselves progressive and fervently support the human need for self-determination — are buying into the notion that minor differences in male and female brains lead to major forks in the road and that some sort of gendered destiny is encoded in us.
That’s the kind of nonsense that was used to repress women for centuries. But the desire to support people like Ms. Jenner and their journey toward their truest selves has strangely and unwittingly brought it back.Indeed. And that being so, the feminists are bound to seem much butchier than trans chicks for whom the whole appeal of being female is largely bound up in their ability to wear false eyelashes, skirts, high heels and lacy unmentionables. Meanwhile, old time feminists have long since rejected such accoutrements as relics of an outdated Mad Men-era of male chauvinistic oppression. These women, who were born that way, are out there sans lipstick and foundation garments (they burned their bras back in the 1970s, after all), in their clunky, un-sexy Birkenstocks (the anti-stiletto) or the equivalent thereof.
All of which makes it highly unlikely that an old time feminist will be the face of the next MAC ad campaign.
Caitlyn Jenner, aged 65, on the other hand, would be perfect for it.
Update: Here's a measure of how far we have come, trans-wise. Back in 1974, Nora Ephron, in her earlier guise as a journalist, reviewed Conundrum, writer Jan (used to be James) Morris's memoir recounting her transition from male to female. Nora was scathing on the subject, slamming Morris for resorting to girlish gush, which Ephron found both silly and embarrassing, and for presuming to think that one could change completely and fundamentally. A choice quotation from the Ephron review:
"I always wanted to be a girl, too. I, too, felt that I was born into the wrong body, a body that refused, in spite of every imprecation and exercise I could manage, to become anything but the boyish, lean thing it was... I wanted more than anything to be something I will never be – Feminine and feminine in the worst way. Submissive. Dependent. Soft-spoken. Coquettish. I was no good at all at any of it, no good at being a girl; on the other hand I am not half bad at being a woman. In contrast Jan Morris is perfectly awful at being a woman; what she has become instead is precisely what James Morris wanted to become all those years ago. A girl. And worse, a forty-seven-year-old girl. And worst of all, a forty-seven-year-old Cosmopolitan girl."Had Ephron (who died in 2012) dared to write such a thought--that Morris "is perfectly awful at being a woman"- in our remorselessly politically correct times, she would be pilloried to within an inch of her life by the Twitter horde, and would undoubtedly have issued an apology post haste for her unacceptable, "transphobic" words.
Update: Ephron had a terrific line in the commencement speech she gave at Wellesley College in 1996. She told the grads: "Above all, be the heroine of your life, not the victim."
It's now ironic that those words can apply to the former Bruce Jenner.