How does a 65-year-old get on the cover of a top fashion magazine? It was Caitlyn Jenner’s Welcome to Womanhood.
Do you applaud Caitlyn Jenner because she is brave or because she’s pretty?
– transgender writer Meredith Talusan in the UK Guardian.
The question could be rephrased: Do you applaud Caitlyn because she is brave or because she (has been made) pretty (for her age)?
A sure sign that one has crossed the male to female divide is when one is judged largely by one’s appearance.
– online comment in response to Caitlyn’s transgender debut
A sure sign that a woman has hit 65 is that her appearance is no longer judged. Bcause no one’s looking. A woman can be young and pretty, then pretty for her age. And then she turns 40. Or maybe 50. But 65 and pretty in the same sentence is rare.
Not that handsome is used much to describe men as they age. Not that older men can’t be as vulnerable as older women to insecurities around appearance and fitness. Studies have shown that men feel worse about their bodies after looking at magazines with images of idealized, sexualised women in the same way that women feel inadequate after looking at super-slim models in magazines.
Americans are turning Caitlyn’s age at a rate of about 10,000 per day. Yet as far as I know, she’s the only 65-year-old who’s been offered a personal photo shoot by top photographer Annie Liebovitz. (In a corset, more on which below.)
Caitlyn’s coming-out has been an affirmation for many trans people around the world, but there has also been criticism.
Thinking of her as more of a woman because she’s more conventionally feminine on the outside excludes the many trans women who don’t have the money to make themselves look like she does.
– Meredith Talusan, Guardian
Do women in general feel affirmed to see a woman their age looking sexy? Not when they know it requires lengthy and expensive plastic surgery and only really works on camera, with professional lighting, make-up and wardrobe.
The internet loves comparisons so people were soon trying to figure out who the newly unveiled Caitlyn most resembles. They decided on actress Jessica Lange, whose film debut was nearly 40 years ago in a remake of the 1933 classic, King Kong. I loved her response after being told that she and Caitlyn are Trending On Twitter: “You have to explain what that means to me.”
The reaction of the young Daily Beast journalist to the 66-year-old’s ignorance was: “LOL! Too funny.” You may indeed Laugh Out Loud but Lange’s response was age-appropriate. Unlike Caitlyn’s family (the ones who spell their names with a K) Jessica doesn’t spend her life on her phone or computer. Like most people her age, she doesn’t watch Keeping Up With The Kardashians.
“You see, I don’t do any of this stuff, the Internet,” Lange had to explain when interrogated as to why she hadn’t known that her photo was all over the net, stuck next to Caitlyn’s. “So I have no clue when people use this terminology.”
Oddly, she added: “I have to repeat it to understand.” Not quite sure what this means – a memory-enhancing tip? If you see someone who looks like Caitlyn wandering around muttering “Twitter… Twitter” to herself, that’ll be Jessica.
Caitlyn, of course, is a social media queen. She timed her coming out to promote the launch of her new “docu-series”, I am Cait. I wonder how many of Cait’s record-breaking numbers of Twitter followers are her age. Like her look-alike, Jessica, many don’t know what Twitter is.
Here’s the up side of aging that Caitlyn is missing. We never had Facebook when we were young so most of us don’t care much about constructing and presenting a media image of ourselves to the world. We’re not obsessed with constantly updating our status.
Think about this, Cait: when your first Facebook profile picture is you in Vanity Fair, where can you go but south? Eventually one day when you’re heading for the Deep South, you may need more than an old photo of yourself in a *Trashy corset to lift your spirits.
*That’s the brand name, apparently retails for $200.