For my week 5 blog post, I will be answering question #3 while utilizing option 1 which was the interview of Bruce (now Caitlyn) Jenner with Diane Sawyer. Question #3 first asked if a person needs to accept society’s definition of them as being male or female or of a certain race or ethnicity? This is a complicated question because I believe that the answer is variable based on the context. To start, I do not think that a person needs to ever accept society’s definition of them in anyway when it comes to identification. This is like the difference between the terms sex and gender. Many believe that they share the exact same meaning, but I disagree. I believe that sex has more of a biological meaning while gender has more of an identification meaning. In Diane Sawyer’s interview with Caitlyn Jenner, this question was in a way addressed. Does Caitlyn need to accept society’s definition of herself as either male, female, gay or straight. I personally do not think so. Moreover, I think that a person should always be able to claim any gender or racial identity they wish. Furthermore, I believe that no one should ever be confined to societies description of sex or gender.
However, these questions get a little more complicated when it comes to interacting with society and when it comes to race. Unfortunately, when it comes to being male, female, black or white, there are still many rules that need to be followed. For example, when it comes to scholarships, bills or government transactions, identification may not be enough. A white male cannot receive a scholarship that is designated for an African American honor student unless there is some type of proof. As a white male, I have suffered with a higher car insurance bill since I have been 18 years old simply because I am male. So yes, I can identify as a woman, but I cannot just get out of paying more money unless there is proof of my transition. I actually heard of a few cases of this occurring on the radio while driving to work yesterday. It is absolutely terrible that many Americans have gotten away with paying less bills by pretending to be something that they are not. I am not offended by the act of transitioning, but I am offended because there are many people in the world that actually do not get to transition or that do not get to experience what is it like to live as the gender or race that they identify as.
This argument obviously goes beyond bills, and it goes a little more into experience. Even though someone can identify as a certain gender, or race, does not mean that they can truly understand what it means to be a part of that gender, race or ethnicity respectively. Think of the Caitlyn Jenner situation again. Yes, Caitlyn can identify as a woman, and she has, but does her background change anything? Does the fact that she has never had to go through the economic, social or political inequality of a woman change anything? Now, I am not saying that Caitlyn does not have the right to be identified as a woman, but many have expressed that Caitlyn has not experienced true womanhood in terms of discrimination or in terms of the road blocks that women face everyday (Burkett, 2015).
Going back to Oxford definition of intersectionality or “the interconnected nature of social categorizations such as race, class, and gender as they apply to a given individual or group, regarded as creating overlapping and interdependent systems of discrimination or disadvantage,” (Oxford, 2018). I have a mixed views on Caitlyn when it come to this term. As I have said, time and time again, I truly believe that she has the right to identify as a woman, but I do not thing that Caitlyn 100% embodies the above definition. To explain, I believe her views differ quite a bit from many others in the LGBT community. She can identify as she wishes, but in her interview, she seems to emphasize that there are only two genders which is a little insensitive. Moreover, Caitlyn says she is a woman, but she refuses to be identified as a lesbian or as a homosexual (ABC News, 2015). She does not have to be either, but I believe that her laughter in response to being asked if she was gay or a lesbian also crosses a line.
Now, this is where I believe intersectionality is revealed. There is discrimination, and there is oppression that Caitlyn has faced before, during and after this transition. Going back to Jenner’s laughter, I believe that society has driven her insensitive response. Think about it. She seems to be so torn about sharing her identity because she was “afraid to disappoint her friends and her family members.” (ABC News, 2015) Societies views on Caitlyn’s transition has also integrated from a lot of confusion on both her sexual orientation and her identity. People assume that since she was Bruce Jenner, that her transition must mean that she is gay. This is oppression. It is also discrimination. Just like the definition stated for intersectionality, there is “overlapping and interdependent systems of discrimination” (Oxford, 2018). In conclusion, I do think that intersectionality is in play for the case of Caitlyn Jenner, but her responses seem to be a little unidirectional at times. That being said, this confusion in a way reinforces the intersectionality..
Regardless of her responses, I value that Caitlyn was able to come out as a woman no matter how much discrimination she has faced up until this point. I know that the transition had to be a very challenging situation to go through alone, and I can imagine that it makes it even harder to go through a situation like this when you are famous. To make matters worse, I am sure transitioning from Bruce Jenner, the epitome of a strong athletic male, to Caitlyn Jenner had to be even more challenging. In a way, this makes the burden of “disappointing” a lot heavier on Caitlyn, and I am sure that she thinks that society has altered their views on her from unstoppable to vulnerable which must make it even harder (ABC News, 2015).
ABC News. (2015). Bruce Jenner: The Interview with Diane Sawyer. Retrieved from https://abcnews.go.com/2020/fullpage/bruce-jenner-the-interview-30471558
Burkett, E. (2015, June 06). What Makes a Woman? Retrieved July 31, 2018, from https://www.nytimes.com/2015/06/07/opinion/sunday/what-makes-a-woman.html
Intersectionality | Definition of intersectionality in English by Oxford Dictionaries. (2018). Retrieved July 31, 2018, from https://en.oxforddictionaries.com/definition/intersectionality