Category Archives: media

Caitlyn Jenner: Fashion Critique of a Celebrity … As Herself

Laurie and Debbie say:

With all the swirling controversy around Caitlyn Jenner, much of which is nasty, inappropriate, and transphobic, we found Tom+Lorenzo’s take at the fashion blog Fabulous & Opinionated (not a blog we expected to be quoting!) to be a breath of fresh air.

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Fashion critique, since long before the days of fashion blogging, has been a vast playground of bitchiness, a place where the critics can say whatever they please, and the snarkier they get, the more audience they will attract.

Tom and Lorenzo are no exception — when they are talking about fashion. When they are talking about gender politics, they keep the tone and save the bitchiness for the folks who deserve it:

When Laverne Cox hit the scene and we found ourselves regularly writing about the style choices of a transgender woman, we assessed our approach to make sure we weren’t bringing any preconceptions or prejudicial thinking to our writing and found that there was one simple way to keep our thoughts true. All we had to say – and we only had to say it once or twice before it stuck – is, “She’s a woman.”

Not a transgender woman, although that’s what she and Caitlyn are. But for style purposes and for this site in particular, it’s important to us that we write about women like Laverne and Caitlyn in exactly the same manner we’d write about their contemporaries like Beyonce and Helen Mirren. We’d be doing them a disservice if we treated them any differently, frankly. We don’t say this to erase their trans identities and we sure as hell don’t say it to pat ourselves on the backs, but Caitlyn’s clearly on the poledance at the moment and her decades as a Kardashian family member have rendered her WORLD CLASS in that regard. There’s no need to treat her like a saint. She’s sporting tons of free designer clothes (WAY more than Laverne gets, we’ll note), dressing like a Real Housewife on an AmEx bender and working the press and the paps like the Olympic level attention whore she is. Like everyone else in her extended clan, she WANTS you talking about her.

So let’s get to work and JUDGE, kittens. Because that’s the other thing: girlfriend needs a stylist badly.

Here’s proof: you can be a bitchy, opinionated fashion critic (you can be two bitchy opinionated fashion critics) and you can still have good trans politics and express them well.  And, they’re absolutely right: Jenner is hanging out on reality shows, sporting Diane von Furstenberg clothes, and “working the press and the paps.” Writing about her clothes any differently than they write about any  other woman’s would be wrong.

Note the difference in attitude when they talk about Jenner’s style …

The dress works really well for her, although it’s another instance of a sleeve length that isn’t quite working for her. She looks pretty damned toned to us and she certainly has no problem showing off her legs, so we’re curious as to why she seems reluctant to uncover more of her arms.

The accessorizing isn’t good. She clearly loves those slingbacks, and while we’re sure the range of shoe options are limited for her size (although she’s crazy wealthy, so that shouldn’t be too much of an issue), she needs to open things up a bit more. The black accessories don’t read as daytime and the dress needs something to keep it a little on the playful side. A pair of wedge heels would’ve been our choice. And a brown or white bag.

A mainstream fashion blog with good trans politics? If it wasn’t for the work of all the trans people who have preceded Jenner over the last sixty years, who faced constant oppression and never got any equality, she could never be on this level a playing field now. Here’s hoping Jenner will find ways to make the world safer and better for trans people who don’t have her money and privilege.

Thanks to Kerry Ellis for the pointer.

Do These Eyes Make Me Look Too Asian?

Laurie and Debbie say:

History repeats itself, and racist body-shaming history is no exception. Whether it was Jewish teenagers getting nose jobs as high-school graduation presents (which both of us remember) or African-American teenagers straightening their hair to look more “presentable,” the push to get young women to change their bodies to look “more normal” or “more like ‘everyone else'” is tireless. (Who is “everyone else?” The dominant version of pretty or beautiful at the time, which is always white, and otherwise varies by size and shape.)

Writing at ThinkProgress, Jessica Lewis interviews Jade Justad, who is raising money for Creased, a short film on Asian eye surgery.

When Jade Justad was 13 years old, she went to a makeup counter at the mall with her girlfriends. Everyone else was white; Justad has a white father and a Korean mother. The crease in her eyelid, more pronounced now that she’s 30, was less defined at the time. The woman at the counter did up all her friends first. Then she approached Justad, an apprehensive expression on her face.

“I can do this to open up your eyes,” she said finally. “And westernize them.”

“I’d never thought before that there was something wrong with my eyes,” Justad said by phone. “When I share that with other Asian women, they say: yup, that happened to me.”

As Lewis explores in the interview, and as detailed far more in Patricia Marx’s New Yorker article, “About Face,” Asian eye surgery (also called “double-eyelid surgery”) is not as simple as a racist urge to “Westernize” Asian eyes. However, if you’re a 13-year-old girl in the United States who is being told that your eyes are somehow wrong, it is that simple.

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Lewis’s post and Justad’s proposal are about America. They talk about Julie Chen,

… arguably the most famous woman to undergo and openly discuss double-eyelid surgery. … in 1995, when Chen was a reporter at WDTN-TV in Daytona — told her … “You will never be on this anchor desk, because you’re Chinese… Because of your Asian eyes, [when] you’re interviewing someone, you look disinterested and bored because your eyes are so heavy, they are so small.’”

Later on, a “big-time agent” told her, point-blank: “I cannot represent you unless you get plastic surgery to make your eyes look bigger.”

“Now it’s like, I sometimes wonder,” Chen said. “But I will say, after I had that done, everything kind of, the ball did roll for me.”

Racism, pure and simple. Here’s Justad again:

I started feeling like, I would be prettier if I were white. And that was really shameful for me to think about. I didn’t want to talk about it. Because I have a lot of pride in being Asian-American. But that’s the cost of being completely assimilated into a culture where I simply see myself as an American girl, but I’m a woman of Asian descent. I start getting these messages that I’m still a bit of an outsider. And what 18-year-old wants to be an outsider?

This is the same impulse that causes African-American children overwhelmingly to select white dolls as prettier, that causes people to file into plastic surgeons’ offices to change something–anything–that identifies them as “not white” and thus “not right.”

Telling our stories is one of the few weapons we have to combat this noxious pressure to look “right.” You can support Justad’s film on Kickstarter if you are so inclined. Even before it is finished, the film is doing good work: “Even girls who didn’t get cast, Justad said, reached out to her after the audition to thank her for making the movie. ‘They’d never seen a casting announcement asking for monolids.'”