Bruce Jenner’s new life as Caitlyn Jenner is under way, fulfilling what she has said is her fondest wish: to live the rest of her life as a woman.
Jenner’s decision rocked her world and the people she shares it with, especially her children, some of whom have declined to participate in a forthcoming reality show that will feature Caitlyn’s journey to this point and beyond. Their parent’s transition was not a complete surprise, as gradual changes in Jenner’s physical appearance had been under way for some time. Her previous spouses were aware of her feelings and had discussed them with their children, according to news reports.
But the Vanity Fair cover featuring Jenner in a bustier had to be a shocker. Family and friends will eventually get used to this new image, as will the public. The question is whether the person inside Caitlyn Jenner will be able to accept the white-hot scrutiny she’ll face about how female and feminine she is. Every wardrobe malfunction, accessory choice, hair style, and social interaction will be studied for her female bona fides. Her appearance will be judged – endlessly – as is that of most women in the public eye. But the bar will be set higher for her. She will have more to “prove.”
Already the advice is pouring forth on how Jenner can appear even more feminine. Within hours of the Vanity Fair images’ release, this press release appeared in my inbox: “Dr. Suzanne Levine, Celebrity Podiatrist on Park Ave in NYC, speaks out on Caitlyn Jenner’s transformation surgery. In the Vanity Fair cover shot she is shown wearing fabulous stiletto heels. Dr. Levine asserts the feet have not been feminized and must have been airbrushed. Is it possible the entire photo was photo shopped? Her feet look too dainty in the heels – hint, hint – it’s all about the feet. Dr. Levine states in many male to female transitions, the feet feminizing procedure is one of the most overlooked factors in creating a feminine appearance, and can be the true defining change to create the most feminine appearance possible. Dr. Levine is available for interviews via phone or skype.”
Of course the photo was photoshopped. To the max. And now we’re talking about feminizing feet.
You can’t miss the irony in all this. What Caitlyn Jenner has described as a long-delayed journey to personal authenticity will be compromised by a struggle that will be new to her, if not to her Kardashian family: the harsh judgment meted out to celebrity women and the requirement that they conform to unrealistic expectations. Their looks are critiqued by the entertainment industry and savaged by celebrity web sites and magazines that trade in gossip and innuendo. Pile on the bandwagon comments from “experts” urging this and that physical adjustment to make Jenner "more of a woman." Add snarky comments from fans who become weirdly invested in the personal lives of their idols. Throw in a new reality show and you have a full-blown spectacle held together by botox and as many beauty tools as Jenner can afford. Jenner’s “authenticity” will be under tremendous pressure from those who will judge how well she measures up to what they think she should be like.
That doesn’t allow much latitude for her to enjoy being a girl.