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November 30, 2015

An Open Letter to Caitlyn Jenner: “The Hardest Part About Being a Woman.”

caitlyn jenner

Dear Caitlyn,

Let me start by saying, I have been one of your biggest cheerleaders as you have progressed through your transition to come out as a transgender woman. You helped bring the world one step closer to acceptance and informed awareness when you graced TV screens and magazine spreads with your inspiring journey. Your courageous path to realizing your truest self is encouraging to so many. You’ve set the stage for those who have spent far too long hiding in fear and shame. We all deserve to be happy and at home in ourselves, to love and accept who we are.

It’s also a testament to your powerful influence and society’s progress that you were recently honoured as Woman of the Year by Glamour.

What a significant difference you’ve made in such a short time since coming out.

However, CJ, woman to woman, I think you still have a few things backwards, and I’d love to help you clear them up.

After Glamour’s Woman of the Year awards, you told BuzzFeed, “The hardest part about being a woman is figuring out what to wear.” In a previous interview with Diane Sawyer, you said you look forward to hosting ‘girl’s nights,’ at which you can “talk about anything you want to talk about. You can talk about outfits. You can talk about hair and makeup, anything you want.” At that point, you were also most looking forward to “[having your] nail polish on long enough that it actually chips off.”

While I understand that this is all new to you right now, and that the nail polish comment is symbolic of being able to finally express your femininity publicly and permanently, your statements are still troublesome for young girls, women and those who are still transitioning.

Though no doubt well intentioned, these sentiments don’t represent the real journey of womanhood that we so want to share with you.

See, I too look forward to girl’s nights with my besties, and while we probably consume a similar amount of wine as you and your gal pals, “talking about anything we want” constitutes much more than hair, makeup and outfits. We talk about the state of modern dating, our careers, our families, our fears, our goals, stress, sex, feminism and world issues, among other things. I hope your conversations will soon blossom to extend beyond the novelty of beauty regimes.

I also struggle with figuring out what to wear everyday. How do I reflect my unique personality, and dress for my body type, and coordinate my accessories, and stay on-point with current trends and remember to do laundry so I have clean underwear for the week!? I struggle with my constantly chipping manicures, maintaining two separate, somewhat defined eyebrows, and keeping my eye makeup from bleeding down my face by 1pm. But these struggles do not define us, and they are some of the easiest we face.

There is so much more to being a female than that, Caitlyn.

We have dealt with the drama of puberty as young girls, periods at the most inopportune moments, fear for our safety when we’ve felt threatened or weak, workplace wage gaps, slut-shaming, sexual objectification, gender-based harassment, cripplingly unrealistic beauty expectations, crass come-ons, birth control quandaries, the agony of child-birth, how to be a good mother, how to be an effective boss and how to be taken seriously.

Now, it’s okay that you haven’t yet experienced much of this throughout your previously white-male-privileged life. All of our experiences are different and equally important. But please don’t belittle these aspects of womanhood by identifying wardrobe selection as the greatest female hardship. It goes against all the progress women have made fighting to be taken seriously, to be heard and not just seen.

You have so much impact, and you could use it much more effectively by recognizing that your biggest challenges will lie in navigating what it really means to be a woman, beyond the aesthetics and the visual expectations.

Why not lead the way for others and acknowledge your journey to relate to and join this gender after showing up a little late to the party? (But we’re so glad you did!)

You hid your female identity for so long, and you worked hard to adjust your appearance to reflect your true gender. So it makes sense that appearance is such a novel priority right now. You’re still discovering your own style, your own point of reference for womanhood. But I just want you to remember the many important aspects that comprise our gender and bind us all together.

Caitlyn, I can’t wait to cheer you on through the next steps of your journey—I hope they will continue to be meaningful ones for both the transgender community, and for women around the world. Until then, we’ll always be here to share our ongoing female struggles with you, because us girls, we’re in this together.

~

Relephant:

My Problem with Caitlyn Jenner.

Relephant bonus:

~

Author: Gillian Berner

Editor: Caitlin Oriel

Image: Flickr/BethelCT (Public Domain)

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