Autogynokardashian: Where “Always Was” meets “Whatever the Hell I Want”
“As they are now, so will you be, wigged, singed, perfumesprayed, ricepowdered, with smoothshaven armpits. Tape measurements will be taken next your skin. You will be laced with cruel force into vicelike corsets of soft dove coutille, with whalebone busk, to the diamond trimmed pelvis, the absolute outside edge, while your figure, plumper than when at large, will be restrained in nettight frocks, pretty two ounce petticoats and fringes and things stamped, of course, with my houseflag, creations of lovely lingerie …”
James Joyce, Ulysses (“Circe”)
Let’s suppose I had a friend — male, mid 60s, sincerely questioning whether transition is the route to go after a lifetime of confessed confusion (including an aborted run on hormones thirty years ago). He wants to discuss things openly, yet requests I refer to him by his male name, male pronouns, and so forth. He shyly plays with his hair during our conversations, coyly suggests an interiority of womanly-feelings — even declares that, for all purposes and intents, he’s a woman. (What purposes and whose intents, I muse quietly.) He shows me collateral proof via his wardrobe, including a sizable collection of gourmet cocktrails dresses that Jay Gatsby may have compiled were he a crossdresser.All of this as an evidence-based commitment to the intangible, invisible, undefinable ‘woman within’. “Her/me”, he keeps saying, the feminine object of ‘her’ readily assimilated into the subjective claim of ‘me’. We shake hands and I wish him well. Go at your own speed, I suggest.
Two weeks later he’s on the cover of a major fashion magazine, decked out in Marilyn Monroe’s underwear, airbrushed and siliconed into abstract fantasy — a flight into the sublime passivity of The Woman as object and subject simultaneously. As if Coppélia weren’t just something the doctor built — but built for himself to become.
Or, as a wise friend of mine on FaceBook pointed out, a lesbian veteran of multiple decades in the struggle for women’s lib: “Men clearly do femininity so much better than women do. And why not? They invented it, after all.”
Fear not, ladies, Caitlyn Jenner will show you how to gender.
Jenner will show you what real womanhood is.
And you will like it.
I would’ve posted this sooner; but I’d had enough of looking at semi-tucks in tight white knickers for the day. The alerts rolled in slowly through the entertainment wire, about every twenty minutes, which I caught since I pay attention to these matters. Then the East Coast LibFems got home in the afternoon, their time, and the barrage of comments about “bravery” and “being yourself” echoed presumptuously. Caitlyn — Call me Caitlyn, says she on the cover — opening up any number of Moby Dick allusions. Caitlyn! Not Bruce. She! Not he. Jenner outraced POTUS to a million followers on twitter.The publicity machine seemed well oiled; the timing impeccably suited to incite mass collective adulation without any real reason for explaining the celebration. By the end of the night, Rachel Maddow declared the new christened-Caitlyn a hero. A HERO.
But this is the Kardashian way. Possibly the only level headed comment I heard yesterday was from Zoey Tur on CNN; she’s no stranger to the guppy-herding that pop media speciaizes in when a new brand comes down the assembly line: “This is a highly professional roll out of a product,” she observed accurately.
In current sex-politics, a coverphoto on Vanity Fair is the equivalent of elitist consecration, the washing away of the past and all its sins, the professional level equivalent of being born again.
We’re supposed to ignore the car crash in which Jenner, who was driving, killed a young woman. (No charges of course — I notice white men in America duck those quite readily.). Also known as an absentee father, Jenner’s own son hopes the newly-fashion Caitlyn will be a kinder person than his father Bruce had ever been. Ignore, forget, overlook. This really is another conservative male, filled to the gills with privilege and wealth, posing in a corset for a magazine cover timed to coincide with a forthcoming reality programme which will be yet another douchey docudrama about male to female transition. Vanity Fair just skipped the bit where Jenner puts on makeup in the mirror, since 24/7 beauticians are on call to do that for her.
We’re not allowed any perspective but that of the male gaze, the consumerist neoliberalism of the “authentic” even as we know we’re being fed a simulacrum.
Jenner hops out of a black Porsche huffing across silicone stacked orbs? I wonder where he learned ‘femininity’…
The whole sudden-reveal, as TransyWansy called it, was a deafening peel out of factory installed tires with a hefty cloud of puff from the nitrous oxide engines. Jenner is a brand, a luxury model of transition, a perfect example of how fantasies can be fulfilled and perfection can be exhibited. Always on terms that are sexist, misogynist, and patriarchal.
The name Caitlyn hit a popularity peak in the mid 90s, perhaps a name considered for one of the Kardashian clan. Smirkingly, it’s a bastardization of the Irish Caitlín (Caht-leen, roughly), usually misrendered as Kathleen. Caitlyn in Yank pronunciation is “Kate-lyn”. Regardless, it’s a teenage girl’s name. Mispronounced, miswritten — even the newly coined persona is fashioned around an appropriation.
But we’re not allowed to question the ministrations and machinations, nor the inquisitive thrill-seeking of trans voyeurism, that continues to convert trans lives into media soundbites — this is all OK apparently if you make glib references to “violence” and “health care” but we all know it’s about the snow white teddy and the reclined pose onto sepia-photoshopped Roman couches. The transwoman’s boudoir is Vanity Fair’s front cover.
White macho transies: cashing in on metamorphosis for quite some time now.
We’re not allowed to ask how on earth Jenner might be considered “the greatest female Olympian”, or if he should turn in his 1976 Press Award as “male athlete” of the year. Instead, like Winston Smith backpedaling in the basement of MinTruth, we need to break out the highlighters and duct tape to recast the past in the retcon version that Trans Inc. and their editors are overseeing. Here’s Jenner’s wikipedia page, as of yesterday, with some incredible cross-temporal authoritarian acrobats to rewrite the historical record. Jenner flew into femininity faster than he ran the 400.
The story inside Vanity Fair is something else — and I’ll write about that specifically. For now, the watercoolers are all BRUCE BRUCE BRUCE — er, CAITLYN, CAITLYN, CAITLYN — based on the incredibly selfish savvy of Jenner and a transtrending hunger for images of sculptured, synthetic perfection.
Numerous feminists have commented on the sexualization of the cover shot: it’s unavoidable. For a tableau being sold as “authenticity”, the pixels are all in high-definition artificiality — the bronzed shading on Jenner’s collar bones, brow bossing and bone saws, the contoured lashing of frost and speckle to diminish the angular jaw, and a jet-engine blow dry to achieve perfectly tousled couture hair. We all know what the vanity in Vanity Fair means, right? I can already hear Meryl Streep saying “Armani, get me Armani. On the phone. Now.” (Note: women in their 60s aren’t often on the cover of Vanity Fair. In fact, they have trouble getting work).
And the virgin white corset (what, no bridal veil)? A perverse mixture of communion dress, wedding gown, and neo-Victorian burlesque done in such a way to invite the gaze to fall on crotch and breast. The hands, the force of agency, restrained behind submissively (or perhaps to hide as Seinfeld calls it — “The ManHands”). On demand, this is classic sexist photography. And the corset? That nineteenth century torture device that crushed women’s ribs and left them passing out like madwomen in the attic? Well, when femininity is a holiday — then it’s all just cosplay fun.
This isn’t an apotheosis of authenticity; this is the neolib consumerverse who is idealizing a successfully marketed simulacrum. That wasn’t Jenner, of whatever gender. It was a prop on a stage.
Transactivists will break things as they read this. But I ask them — why worship the exhibition of the new ideal you’ll be expected to match and replicate? Cod corsets are empowering? Are parents, who haven’t spoken to their trans kids in years, gushing in curiosity at how well Jenner roleplays at 1940s Hollywood glam-femme? Whose victory is this but Jenner’s already bloated bank account, and a publicity hungry Kardashian tornado of bad taste?
We live this. The ones who don’t pass. The ones who can’t afford tens of thousands of dollars of surgery. We know know the scrutiny on us as trans will be distorted by this event. When the cameras are gone, and Jenner is playing golf as a hyper-feminised corpus, we’re the ugly trannies on the job market who’ll get asked ‘so what’s up with Caitlyn’? This will be our future from now on, with Jenner as the ever customizable body-template to be adorned with temporary sentiments and hair extensions.
The Kardashian Krew, on an endless cycle back by entertainment moguls, now control national level attention on trans issues. This is what you’re so proud of? That Jenner in white lingerie will become the definitive image of the trans tipping point? As a transwoman friend commented to me yesterday, “Am I an object? Am I a human? I will forever after today be described to people as ‘Like Bruce Jenner.’ I am no more.”
What Jenner has done is to demonstrate, with excessive optical help, that “becoming woman” is Autogynokaradashian — the self fashioning of object-ideal into subject-body. In order to achieve this, sex differences must be emptied out, and “woman” denied of material meaning. To cover up this loss requires a recovery — the smuggling back in of sexist stereotypes, right through the front door of a major magazine.