Caitlyn Jenner Mansplains

Well, International Women’s Day is over, but I still have something to complain about.

Last night I indulged myself in just the tiniest tantrum on twitter, brought about by the mistaken viewing of this very short video clip. Apparently Caitlyn Jenner, née Bruce Jenner, was interviewed by CNN for IWD, because what better way to find out about the thoughts and feelings of a woman than to ask a man. Works every time. And of course Caitlyn leapt at the chance to explain what it is really like, which is, as you must know, the very heart of the word Mansplain.

The terrible thing is, everything I’ve read about gender dysphoria is harrowing. It’s a tragically difficult experience and there are no good or easy options for the person who feels fundamentally at odds with the sexual parameters of the body. I wish there could be an honest, non political conversation about this because the lives of actual people hang in the balance.

And really, La Jenner doesn’t look happy at all, made up to the nines, hair arranged in a swoop. And I’m sure I detected some sort of existential unease as he dolled out his low toned remarks–I mean goodness, his voice is very low. And, of course, he had to resort to exhausted cliches like women are second class citizens and society teaches women to be emotionally and physically weaker.

That’s when I about flew through my own window. I mean my goodness. Don’t talk to me about Physical Weakness Bruce Jenner. There you are, a 6 foot tall muscular white man. And here I am, barely scraping five feet, not in the best shape of my life, with a thirteen year old boy who could easily knock me over. Except, by the grace of God, he is afraid of me because when he was littler I made sure he knew what’s what. Indeed, though he has three inches on me, he cowers when I speak. Still, the fact remains, my own young child is stronger and bigger than me. That’s not Society, honey. Nobody taught me to be small and easily crushed under heavy objects. That’s The Way I am Made.

Ok, so let’s come to the emotionally weaker part. This is where it becomes So Unhelpful to deal in cliches, in stereotypes, in the pathways laid down by generations of men and women not knowing how to talk to each other and being unwilling to pray for their enemies. Men, in my experience, think that women are probably emotionally weaker. But lots and lots of women return the favor by thinking that men have no emotions at all, and by belittling the few that they can perceive for being socially unacceptable. When really, the emotional lives of men and women are different. There is real strength in both cases but it can’t be recognized when you insist on measuring one’s own self against the other.

At the base of it, I am offended that someone like Bruce Jenner would presume to lecture women about what society teaches them, all the while trying to mimic a cliched and un-nuanced view of the behavior and personality of a woman. It’s absurd. He is a man. And men have rich emotional lives. As do women. But they are different. In some cases men show themselves stronger, in other cases women.

As for being a second class citizen. Well. (And here I beat down an almost unbearable desire to call M. Jenner, Sonny.) Why don’t you think for a few minutes about the fact that you so desperately want to be a woman? Why is that? What do you gain by trying to be, however ineptly, a woman? Aren’t all the women around you at the very pinnacle of human civilization? If we can call it that any more. Aren’t they fabulously wealthy and popular? Don’t they have everything the world tells them they want? And there you were, tagging along in the wake of fame, charisma, and fortune, unable to hold your own in such an world. Chucking it all and joining in is a lot easier than trying to figure out what your maleness might really be, or asserting yourself in the tidal wave of estrogen that constantly surrounds you.

And oh, don’t worry. I have some harsh words for the right of right of right about the cartoonish way women are expected to live and be. But it’s going to take a whole post for me to roil on about it.

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