So I've just been reading a Katie Hopkins article on the Daily Mail. WHO AM I?! Forgive me as you read the end of this sentence, but I found myself nodding at a couple of sentences as I read. Now this is just as harrowing an experience for me as it is you and there were still bits in there I disagree with so before you replace this page with Facebook to look at pictures of your friend's friend's auntie's cat, give me a chance to explain...
So Caitlyn Jenner won Glamour's 'Woman of the Year' award, which split people into two camps. The 'she's amazing, so brave and I love her' and the 'she hasn't been a woman for a full year so how can she be woman of the year?'. I'm not going to get into this debate because I want to chat about something else but I think she's extremely brave and has done a lot for the transgender community and society's awareness of this subject. Now, I never thought I'd say it but I kind of, sort of, maybe agree with the she-devil's column, most of it anyway. Caitlyn stated that the hardest part of being a woman is 'choosing what to wear'. It's all relative, and to Caitlyn getting dressed with a new body as a new gender probably is a bit tricky at this point, and that's totally fair enough...
However that is coming from the perspective of someone who has lived the majority of their life as a wealthy, white, middle class male, which most women haven't, so of course her opinion will differ from most women who have lived as females for their entire lives and gone through puberty, periods, sexual objectification, having numerous demands thrust on us by the media, sexual discrimination, sexual harassment, possibly rape, being paid less than men, losing jobs to equally qualified men, pregnancy, childbirth, mum guilt... I could go on and on! She has a right to speak for herself, but it's insulting to women that have suffered dark traumas due to their gender or simply lived through years under the patriarchy and all that it entails.
Regardless of gender it's an idiotic comment. I can't imagine any of my male friends coming out with that, they would (I hope!) be empathetic and site examples of inequality, and these are men that have never been women. It's not so much to do with gender as it is carelessness and lack of empathy. There will be women out there who say the same as Jenner, it doesn't make them any less female, it just makes them ignorant and insensitive, and worthy of criticism just like our mate Cait. With the world listening and young girls and boys paying attention to what she says, statements like this do damage.
As a man, Caitlyn was an outstanding athlete and I'm sure, had he been asked the question of struggles then, the answer would be something to do with achievement or work, yet as a woman, it's about getting dressed. I think how we dress is of extreme importance and clothes are emotional, emotive and political. However, just like men, we're so much more than how we look and what we wear. Clothes have been one of my favourite, most easy and enjoyable parts of being a woman so far and I'm pretty sure most of the ladies in my life would agree. The hardest part has been being sexually harassed by my boss at work and then sacked when I asked him (politely, because we're raised to be 'good girls' don't you know) to please stop. Losing a job you're good at because you're female is quite hard and that's nothing compared to the horrendous things so many women face all the time. I would have thought battling adversity and being discriminated against would make someone like Jenner more empathetic to other groups of underprivileged people, but apparently not.
So please Caitlyn, next time you're asked, use your platform to talk about the real, meaningful differences you've faced becoming a woman or god forbid we'll be back in the kitchen getting ready to serve dinner, massage our husband's feet and wave bye bye to working and voting in no time. Please don't trivialise who we are, what we face and what we DO.
NB. Read her article and try not to get lost at 'fashionably lesbian'. FFS Katie, you just can't help yourself can you.
This post originally appeared on Lily's blog here