Jill Soloway On Caitlyn Jenner And What It Means To Be A Woman

"People really disdain femininity -- unless it's perfect."

“Transparent” creator Jill Soloway has a short and to-the-point response for the harsh, transphobic treatment of Caitlyn Jenner, who most recently received negative reactions for being honored with a Woman of the Year award by Glamour magazine:

“People really disdain femininity — unless it’s perfect.”

That, she believes, is one reason why Jenner is often targeted brutally, she said in an interview with me on SiriusXM Progress, while actress Laverne Cox often “gets a pass.” With similar reasoning, Soloway also took on actress Rose McGowan for criticizing Jenner’s discussion of her clothing and learning how to dress, noting that McGowan “doesn’t criticize Beyoncé” for talking about fashion. 

Referring to the “disdain for someone like Caitlyn Jenner,” Soloway expanded on prior statements she’d made about the criticism of Jenner.

“There’s this question of femininity for its own sake, or femininity as performed for cis[gender] men or for straight men,” she observed. “So Laverne Cox gets a pass, because she kind of looks like Barbie. She’s like fabulous black Barbie. So everybody can applaud because she’s quote-unquote got it right. And when you realize that people can applaud Laverne Cox because for the most part she’s really, really performing a version of femininity that is pleasing the cis male gaze, you realize how many other kinds of trans women there are out there. And that they’re getting criticized for not perfectly performing femininity for the straight male gaze.”

“And late-transitioning trans women, people like Caitlyn, people like my moppa, they’ve been exposed to testosterone their entire life,” Soloway continued, referring to her parent -- whom she refers to as her moppa -- who transitioned in recent years, an experience that inspired the writer-director to create her groundbreaking and award-winning series, the second season of which will premiere on Amazon on Dec. 11. 

Regarding McGowan’s since-deleted Facebook post in which the actress slammed Jenner for quipping that the hardest thing about being a woman is “figuring out what to wear,” Soloway reiterated her view that the world Jenner inhabits -- that of “Keeping up with The Kardashians” -- is one in which women “spend a lot of time talking about their clothes and appearance,” while also noting she herself is “obsessed with that show.” But Soloway also pointed to both double standards as well as unique experiences when it comes to transgender women and cisgender women.

“It’s very different for cis woman and trans woman in terms of what it means for them to talk about clothes and femininity,” she said. “So, for cis women to be able to say, ‘I’m thinking about my hairdo,’ or ‘I’m thinking about my shoes,’ I think there are a lot of feminists who would say, ‘Oh God, stop talking about your appearance.’ But for trans women, who are having the very first opportunity to do things that, like, feel female, talking about your hair and your clothes might be incredibly empowering, to identify or be recognized as being female or to be feminine.”

“Rose McGowan doesn’t criticize Beyoncé,” she continued, “because Beyoncé is so good at femininity. And so, if Beyoncé made a joke about her clothes, people would give her a pass. People don’t give Caitlyn a pass for anything because she’s under this microscope.”

Tying it all up in neat bow, Soloway then defended Jenner’s, Beyonce’s and all women’s choices in the name of feminism itself.

“If [Caitlyn Jenner] wants to wear high heels and if she wants to be sensationally beautiful and be all about her hair, she has every right to be obsessed with her appearance just the way Beyoncé is, just the way Kim Kardashian is, just the way any cis woman is,” she said. “She’s absolutely free to think about and talk about whatever she wants. And that’s the promise of feminism: That a women can be whatever she wants to be.”

So there.

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