If there's one thing Caitlyn Jenner has done since her transition, it's make a mark in the fashion and beauty worlds. Caitlyn Jenner is a personal inspiration, yes, but she's also taught us a lot about style and the role it plays in our society. These lessons haven't been about an iconic outfit or signature fashion trademark of hers, but about the fact that the media attention around Jenner has been so heavily focused around her appearance.
John Stewart of The Daily Show now-famously predicted that because of the sexism that pervades the media's representation of women, Caitlyn would now have to look forward to being constantly critiqued for her looks. "It’s really heartening to see that everyone is willing to not only accept Caitlyn Jenner as a woman, but to waste no time in treating her like a woman... You see, Caitlyn, when you were a man, we could talk about your athleticism, your business acumen, but now you’re a woman, and your looks are really the only thing we care about," he stated on his nightly talk show.
Unfortunately, the press has lived up to Stewart's expectations and has been pumping out story after story about nothing but Jenner's outfits, makeup, hair, and style. While there is nothing wrong or anti-feminist about liking fashion and beauty, there is something wrong with expecting women to live up to social expectations of beauty. We emphasize women's appearances above all else and if you're a woman who isn't conventionally pretty, you might as well not exist in the media's eyes.
So, while there are definitely lessons to be learned from Caitlyn Jenner about fashion and beauty in terms of the broader social implications around the treatment of women, she's also expanding the cultural definitions of beauty, which is an incredible thing to witness. In bringing both of these themes together, here are nine things Caitlyn Jenner has already taught us about fashion and beauty.
Jenner has shared photos with the popular #TransisBeautiful hashtag many times and she's taught the world about the importance of amplifying trans visibility. Trans people's bodies are usually invisible and when they are seen, they are mocked, made fun of, or violated.
In fact, sexual violence and assaults are much more likely to be committed against trans people than those who are cisgender. Hence, trans bodies are not respected by society and certainly not seen as beautiful in the mainstream. Jenner is uplifting trans people and trans bodies to prove that they are effing gorgeous and deserve to be viewed in positive lights.
2. Fashion Is An Attitude
Fashion is often seen as a reflection of trends, but is actually more about personal style and personality, and Jenner is slaying in the style game already. Her confidence is radiating from her and you can tell she feels comfortable in her skin, which is the best fashion statement possible.
3. Age Is Just A Number
During Jenner's interview with Diane Sawyer, she was asked about how her age played into her transition — i.e. why in the world would she want to transition when she had missed the glory years of being young? Because of how ageist our society is, the common thought is that if you're old, your life is basically over and not worth living. Jenner is proving this wrong though, as she is taking advantage of every moment she has and living her life for herself.
We could all use a lesson in living in the moment and loving ourselves as we are, since so much of the beauty industry is focused on staying youthful.
4. It Is Freeing To Be Yourself
We're constantly being bombarded with messaging about how we should be, much of which is aimed at our appearance. Even the existing trends are telling us what we should like and wear. Jenner rejected society's rules about what she should be and decided to be her true self, which is something we should all do in our lives. Dress and look how you want and don't listen to what anyone else has to say.
5. You Are Not Defined By What You Wear
Although so much of the focus on Jenner has been appearance-based, her clothing does not define who she is. Similarly, you are not what you wear and although fashion is a fun form of self-expression, it doesn't solely define you.
6. Fashion And Beauty Are Upholding The Gender Binary
Jenner has smashed through society's idea of the gender binary by embracing her transgender identity. Fashion and beauty are very much part of gender constructs, since they operate under the guise of man vs. woman. Crossing those lines is still very taboo and Jenner is helping to deconstruct this, but also demonstrating its power. Imagine if she only wore sweats — do you think the media would be as praiseful?
7. Fashion And Beauty Culture Is Informed By Patriarchy
The media has been hypervigilant of Jenner's dressing and appearance and not much else about her, which essentially communicates that a woman's value comes from her looks. This is sadly very true in our society — women's worth as humans is often judged based on how conventionally attractive they are.
That's why, although the praise surrounding Jenner has been great, it's also disheartening in that the message of value is being derived from attractiveness. Thus, it's inherently sexist and based in the devaluing of womanhood.
8. Womanhood Is Often Defined By Appearance
Similarly, Jenner has so far fit into the box society has created around womanhood involving makeup, glamorous hair, and stylish clothing. There is nothing wrong with this, but it's interesting to note how all of the commentary around Jenner's appearance is used to solidify her identity as a woman.
It's as if without those things, she wouldn't be quite female enough for people to embrace. Again, imagine if Jenner did not do any of those things — do you think the media would be as welcoming of her transition into presenting as a woman if it involved no makeup and her hair in a messy bun? I'm pretty doubtful.
9. Loving Yourself Should Be Above All Else
Finally, on a more lighthearted note, Jenner has taught us that when we love ourselves, everything else will follow. We're all guilty of getting too caught up in what other people will think of us, being afraid of being judged, and doing things for the sake of others at the expense of our own happiness. I'm just not willing to accept that narrative for myself anymore and I hope you all do the same and follow in Jenner's self-loving footsteps.
Only you can define who you are, and whoever that is should be loved and respected by all. If nothing else, I hope we can all embody the fearless, liberated spirit that is Caitlyn Jenner and live our lives in the level of authenticity that she does.