In the past few days, Caitlyn Jenner has stepped into that societal scrutiny by gracing the front cover of Vanity Fair.
It’s reported that the 65-year-old formerly known as ex-Olympian Bruce Jenner, spent in the region of $70,000 on facial feminisation surgery, including a brow lift, cheek implants, Botox and an Adam’s apple shave to become Caitlyn.
Perhaps with the big reveal has come a great deal of freedom for Caitlyn, who feels she can now be her true self.
But she may be surprised to find that life as a woman brings a whole new level of angst within herself; the constant strive to attain that ever-elusive beauty, and the criticism that might come from others based solely on what she looks like.
There are things that bug me about the world. Like when what female politicians are wearing seems more important than how they are running the country. Or when moments after Maria Bartoli won Wimbledon, BBC commentator John Inverdale took it upon himself to declare her “not a looker”. Or when there seem to be unwritten rules that female newsreaders have to be young and conform to society’s arbitrary concepts of beauty, while their male counterparts can be old and very average-looking. Or when you turn to the third page of a national newspaper and see pictures of naked women.
As Germaine Greer writes in The Whole Woman: “Every woman knows that regardless of all her achievements, she is a failure if she is not beautiful.”
As a man, we could celebrate Bruce Jenner’s athletic and business achievements, but the minute he became a woman, the conversation changed to her hair and make-up and her shape. Hot. Sexy. Stunning.
Jon Stewart of The Daily Show hit the nail on the head, when he said this earlier this week: “Caitlyn, when you were a man, we could talk about your athleticism, your business acumen. But now you’re a woman, which means your looks are really the only thing we care about.”
I’ll admit it: I’ve watched a few episodes of Keeping Up with the Kardashians in my time (not willingly, I promise!). And more often than not I’m left feeling terrible about myself. I watched one episode in which Kourtney had basically stopped eating and was exercising non-stop in an attempt to lose the miniscule amount of weight she had supposedly put on after giving birth. And I’ve watched an episode in which Khloe compares herself to her sisters and judges herself less attractive. And I remember that time when Kim broke the internet with her butt. And then there’s their mum Kris, who looks like another one of the sisters.
Just a few minutes of watching the show makes me feel bad about the way I look. And this is the family that has been such a huge part of Caitlyn’s life for so long. Surely she’ll feel the same pressures as any other women when faced with such apparent perfection.
So, Caitlyn, welcome to the girls’ club!
Welcome to counting the calories.
Welcome to being subject to cat-calls as you walk down the street.
Welcome to people feeling the need to comment on what you’re wearing.
Welcome to feeling fat.
Welcome to not being able to stand the reflection staring back at you in the mirror.
Welcome to bad hair days.
Welcome to wishing you looked a bit more like some other woman.
But know that things are changing. So many of us are trying to shift the way society views women and challenging those times when we are reduced to being just our bodies.
Caitlyn, none of this is the way it’s supposed to be. There’s someone that looks at what’s inside and not what’s on the outer. There’s someone who makes you beautiful in your time. There’s one in whom the essence of all beauty is found. There’s someone who sees Himself in you, the imago dei.