How fitting that America’s newest narcissist would have her public debut on the cover of Vanity Fair. Debutante’s balls are usually reserved for sixteen-year-old girls. Not 65-year-old men.
And while most women can exist for eight dcades without having their glamour grace those illustrious pages, Caitlyn Jenner did it after existing for give or take eight weeks. Let’s take a moment to sympathize with the many members of the social justice brigade who are no doubt caught up in a bit of cognitive dissonance right now.
Is there no greater topic for the sanctimonious to bang the drum about today – other than the elusive rape culture – than gender politics?
So at first glance it’s only natural for the In Crowd to gush about Caitlyn’s beauty and empowerment.
But how on earth do they reconcile this with all their talking points about male privilege?
Aren’t they upset that this guy, first day on the job, is already trying to set the standard for female beauty?
Doesn’t it irk them that by calling Jenner beautiful they’re sending the message that all women should aspire to an unrealistic pin-up girl look that few people, male or female, can attain without surgery?
This whole incident reeks of privilege. Jenner had it all. In addition to the fame, wealth, and women it’s fair to say that winning the gold medal at the 1976 Olympics for a sport as all encompassing as the decathlon makes you one of the manliest men in the world.
Most guys would be satisfied to stop there. But apparently that wasn’t enough for the insatiable Bruce. After standing on the sidelines watching the feminine Kardashian clan steal the spotlight, Jenner now needs to one up them and be one of the womanliest women in the world.
She’s well on her way: Jenner is getting her own reality television show. She may appear in an upcoming season of the popular TV series Transparent. Make-up companies are even already trying to sign her as one of their models.
Is there nothing more indicative of male narcissism than nabbing a marquee job in female cosmetics modeling? Geez. Even when it’s a woman’s world, it’s still somehow a man’s world.
Yet despite these speed bumps, the chattering classes still rushed to stamp this whole public affair with a giant red “do not criticize.” Jenner is now enveloped in a “safe space.” The few mainstream celebs and media personalities who have raised eyebrows over this have been roundly condemned.
To be clear, my criticisms have nothing to do with an individual’s right to change their life after decades of being uncomfortable in their own skin. By all means let no person or government stand in the way of your pursuit of happiness… even if said pursuit is getting edgier by the year.
After all, America is the land of personal freedom.
Nick Gillespie nailed it in the opening line to a Daily Beast column back in February: “Is there any greater story about the American Dream—so bruised and battered in this godawful 21st century than Bruce Jenner becoming a woman?”
No, the criticisms come into play because this reality TV starlet has chosen to make her personal transformation a public spectacle.
In this collision of Hollywood excess with progressive social justice, don’t pretend that the latter has more relevance than the former.
In her famous 1964 essay Notes on “Camp,” Susan Sontag explained that the campy aesthetic “converts the serious into the frivolous”.
This is precisely what Jenner’s parading around town has accomplished. This is not one person’s private and perhaps painful journey of self-discovery. It’s camp. It’s theatre. Any activist hoping to turn this matter into a serious conversation about, say, transgendered rights was blindsided the moment Caitlyn agreed to a Vanity Fair photo-shoot with Sontag’s former partner Annie Leibovitz.
Jenner could have done this more privately. But instead she wanted the limelight on her as she crossed the finish line one last time.
The gender issues pendulum has swung so far to the ridiculous that many seminal writings of the past – including Sontag’s – now seem to border on sexist and homophobic by today’s activists standards.
Gore Vidal’s 1970 novel Myra Breckenridge that takes a spirited and campy look at a transgendered woman’s quest for dominance fits the bill.
As the narrator of Breckenridge notes: “That my plans have lately gone somewhat awry is the sort of risk one must take if life is to be superb.”
And what a superb and privileged life Jenner has had. Activists be warned: This isn’t your poster girl.
Anthony Furey is a syndicated newspaper columnist based out of the Toronto Sun. E-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org Twitter: @anthonyfurey