Oxford English Online Dictionary defines courage as follows:
The ability to do something that frightens one, or Strength in the face of pain or grief.
Some people in social media today are bitching about the public’s lauding Caitlyn Jenner (when they are not commenting on her age or her dress or her makeup) for her “bravery.”
Even people I have deemed intelligent and sensitive have posted Facebook critiques with photos of their candidates for the definition of bravery such as this:
And yet another post-er believes this is more befitting of the adjective:
Both social media post-ers are men, one conservative and one progressive, one older (mid-fifties) and one younger (mid-thirties). See a trend here?
To be brave, one must risk life and limb or recover from loss of life (the one before loss of limbs) and limb(s). And be men.
Now, admittedly, I have seen no female contributors to the courage definition, none with a picture to share, but if there were any, I would imagine it would be of cancer survivors or mothers crossing minefields to save their babies.
But the first reason for Caitlyn’s doubtful courage is her womanhood. The second reason is her health. It is apparently not bravery to kill off her fortunate birthright–the white male privilege–to become a woman whose worth is measured by her appearance and her ability to graciously absorb the arrows of disdain and second class citizenry based on frippery and gossip, like the target she has now become. And for what? It’s not like she needed the money or the publicity like her former step family.
What’s so brave about that? I agree. She must be a masochist to become a woman in this society–to be treated like meat.
But Jon Stewart in his latest The Daily Show always says it best:
As a woman, Jenner can now look forward to her physical appearance, not her talents or mind, being the object of daily scrutiny. Should she ever need to work, she can look forward to earning roughly 77% of what a man makes. Should she ever face physical or sexual violence, she, not her attacker, will be treated with suspicion. As a woman, Jenner will also have to get used to hearing not just new pronouns but other fun words like “shrill,” “nagging,” “bossy” and “emotional.” And then, of course, there’s the catcalling, which a “beautiful” woman like Jenner can now expect daily.
A person transitioning to live as her true self is a wonderful thing and America has come a long way toward accepting transgender people. As Stewart so aptly pointed out, though, the real struggle now is to bring up the lives of all women. On that front, there are still miles to go.
Perhaps the clichés we are fed about hero imagery and the hardship stories that go viral to tug at our heart strings in quiet, reverential sentimentality get in the way of our seeing the bravery of transformation, being faithful to the universal need to be our authentic selves even in the face of total annihilation through either vilification or idolotry.
Caitlyn Jenner may be just a woman now, but her twice-baked celebrity-dom has transformed her into a paper doll image, something to wag about as a projection of an idea, sans flesh and blood, no matter how much skin gets bared where.
And I am not disputing the other photos depict bravery, though they are subject to the same fate as Caitlyn–the loss of humanity to an idea of something like heroism or bravery or Facebook likes.
The take home idea: Why would anyone want to be a woman in a misogynist society?