Caitlyn Jenner: From 70s sex symbol to 2015 sex object

Tue Jun 9, 2015 12:18pm EDT
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By Anne Taylor Flemine

(Reuters) - The first take was — wow! What a coup. What courage. What a pose. Ladies and gentlemen and everyone along the sexual spectrum, here she is: Caitlyn Jenner, the former Olympic champion making the transition from a Wheaties box to Vargas-girl cheesecake on the cover of the new "Vanity Fair."

Imagining her long exile in the wrong skin, the wrong body, I was thrilled for her — and all who will take heart in her leap — but also disturbed at the predictably alluring female attire and flowing locks.

For all the steps forward taken by Caitlyn — soon to be known as Cait, after her reality series gets up and running — there was the troubling sense she also was falling into seductive feminine stereotypes. Having satisfied the notions of heroic masculinity as an Olympic champ, she is now fulfilling the ultimate stereotypes of femininity. A swing right across the gender spectrum from one extreme ideal to the other.

That left a rueful taste at a moment when so many of us are cheering on our new Cait. Forget that other Kate, the Brit princess. We’ve got the bold new version. Too bad she succumbed to such a predictable female presentation, what "Los Angeles Times" art critic Christopher Knight called “a pedestrian celebrity pastiche of rather tired visual clichés.”

I suppose it was too hard to resist: the lure of the glam queen look. Having made the incredibly courageous journey out of one sex and into the other, perhaps you just had to go full-tilt, cleavage-baring pin-up, your new breasts on proud display. Certainly the culture has been retro-rife with such imagery, personified and magnified umpteen times by Caitlyn’s own brood, the Kardashians, with their barely there dresses and their booties, real or enhanced.

Watching the then-Bruce on their reality show over the past stretch of years, run all over by the bodacious and dramatic females around him, was to empathize with a man who often seemed overwhelmed by the estrogenic spectacle around him. No doubt also overwhelmed by the secret he felt forced to keep for so long.

At the same time, these women — his wife, two daughters and three step-daughters — have offered him the most available up-close and daily example of what it looks like to be or act female. They are the apotheosis of commercially viable glamor. Sometimes their act seems self-amused, cheeky, as if they are taking the cliché of feminine allure and revving it to the exhibitionistic max. Not to mention giggling all the way to the bank.

Caitlyn has been in their company for decades. And she clearly loves them, and they her, one of the truly touching notes of this transitioning narrative. She seems, in her debut, to be following their lead.   Continued...

Caitlyn Jenner, formerly known as reality television star and former Olympic athlete Bruce Jenner, poses in an exclusive photograph made by Annie Leibovitz for Vanity Fair magazine and released by Vanity Fair on June 1, 2015.  REUTERS/Annie Leibovitz/Vanity Fair/Handout via Reuters