Tag Archives: Laverne Cox

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.


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.

First Linksday of 2014

Debbie says:

Don’t miss The Aunties Project, a painting series by Aleah Chapin:

Chapin won the BP Portrait Award from London’s National Portrait Gallery for this series. She says:

I’ve been obsessed with realism since I was a child. But I noticed that the subject has mainly been the idealized young, female nude. Although these paintings are undoubtedly beautiful, I wanted to see something that mirrored the world I saw around me. The Aunties Project is less about age and more about making paintings that fully embrace the real human body, this fascinating vessel that carries us through our experiences.


Here’s a public service announcement. I still believe mammograms are a good and useful tool, but this is excellent information to have when you get your results.

Using data from radiologists who perform mammograms, Welch and Passow concluded that among 1,000 40-year-old American women screened annually over the course of a decade, between 0.1 and 1.6 women will avoid dying from breast cancer. (See chart at left; click to view full size.) A staggeringly high number — between 510 and 690 women — will have at least one false alarm (60-80 of whom will undergo a biopsy), and up to 11 women will be overdiagnosed and treated needlessly with chemotherapy or radiation therapy, or surgeries such as lumpectomy or mastectomy.


Raphael Carter once wrote a brilliant “RAQ” (Rarely Asked Questions) about people outside the gender binary, which Practical Androgyny has preserved as a resource. Carter included this memorable bit:

Q: If I know that a person identifies as an androgyne, transsexual, or intersexual, may I inquire as to the details of zir biological sex?

A: You may ask after a transgendered person’s genital appearance in exactly the same situations where you might ask the length of a man’s penis — that is, if you will excuse M. Manners’ language, not bloody often.

Katie Couric got schooled on the Today show by Laverne Cox on exactly this point, after being unreasonably curious about model Carmen Carrera’s private parts. Janet Mock tells us how important this exchange was:

Cox then broke it down for the journalist, serving Couric facts for days: Trans people face discrimination everywhere, from employment to the streets, where trans women, specifically those of color, disproportionately face brutal violence (Cox mentions the murder of Islan Nettles in New York City, giving the tragedy its highest media profile to date). The actress concludes by saying that our culture’s focus on bodies doesn’t allow us to zero in on trans people’s “lived realities of that oppression and that discrimination.”

And that was the moment in which, Couric, a TV veteran, had to bow down to the magnificence of Cox, leaving her with this throwaway statement: “You’re so well spoken about it.”


When we look at problems with advertising, we can get specific, for example about the Old Spice ad for the fragrance that turns boys into men:

Old Spice sprayed a man of my son / Now he smells like a man / And they treat him like one.

Now he’s touching, kissing, feeling all women because OLD SPICE!”

Why on earth masculinity is ever equated with “touching, kissing, feeling all women” is in some senses beyond me. But more important, it ought to be beyond the pale.

Or we can get general:

Since the dawn of advertising, retailers have made a point of marketing separate lines of branded products for men and women in many categories, even in cases where their functions are essentially the same. …

Research shows that loyal customers often get upset when a brand commonly associated with men expands to include products perceived as feminine—especially in cases where men use a particular brand to communicate their own identities. Harvard Business School Senior Lecturer Jill J. Avery calls this phenomenon “gender contamination.” …

Avery recalls her experience running the women’s shaving brand at Gillette. The company made a point of building products from the ground up for the distinct hair removal needs of both men and women. But it also made a point of creating a different brand name for Gillette’s products for women. Not to put too fine a point on it, Gillette called the brand Gillette for Women. “Having a line that was distinctively marked for women protected male Gillette users from the feminization of their brand,” Avery says.

Lots more data at the link.


On a more serious note, we missed it in November when Chauncey de Vega at We Are Respectable Negroes deconstructed the horrible story of Renisha McBride from the point of view of “the white gaze.”

Full citizenship involves the presumption that one belongs to a political community. By virtue of that fact, citizenship also means that a person is entitled to safety and security in their person without qualification, exception, or justification. Full citizenship is not contingent or precarious.

African-Americans are not allowed such protections by the White Gaze. They are viewed as guilty until proven innocent, a criminal Other who is a priori categorized as “suspicious” and “dangerous”. While formal racism and Jim and Jane Crow were shattered and defeated by the Black Freedom Struggle, this ugly cloud continues to hover over the United States, some 400 years after the first black slaves were brought to the country.

Consequently, black Americans are not really allowed to seek help from white people; the Parable of the Good Samaritan does not apply to people of color as viewed through the twin lenses of Whiteness and the White Gaze. The black and brown Other is not allowed the luxury and privilege of knowing that if they seek help when in distress—either from the police, or white folks, more generally—that such pleadings and requests will be met with a “How can I help you? Are you in trouble?”


Two useful critiques of feminism, the personal from Flavia Dzodzan at Red Light Politics:

I am deeply interested in how this “feminist taxonomy” of sorts behind “woman” is created. Who is allowed to “become woman” in these discourses? Who is represented and spoken about? How does feminist (or woman centered) media propose that we understand “woman” and the issues pertaining to “woman”? Those are the questions I seek to answer when I observe media and feminist discussions. But then comes the side eye. Side eyeing is the moment I have to decide whether I will be the public killjoy or if I will move on and “let it go”. That is the precise, pinpoint moment when I am left in the unattainable position of “pointing out the harm” or “eating the harm on my own”.

A common idea pushed lately by many mainstream white feminists is that denouncing within feminism is somewhat “anti feminist”. We should, apparently, “side eye in silence”. Even though this is the political ideology that writes the definitions of “woman”, the one that decides on what it means to be “woman” and the one that assigns value to “woman”, we should just accept what we see and not say anything. Saying something is to be the bearer of “division” and “abuse”. You then become not only the killjoy but the oppressor itself. You, with your act of “public side eye” are the one “abusing women”. The fact that this white feminism is defining what it means to be a woman and perpetuating ideologies that explicitly leave you out, you are not to say anything. “You are not a woman by our definition”, you are now “the abuser” that divides the movement and creates “bad atmosphere”. Not a woman, not a feminist, not “one of us”.

and the philosophical, from Miri, Professional Fun-Runner, at Free Thought Blogs:

So what I’ve decided to do here is to look at three models commonly used in social justice and point out some of their weak spots. I probably won’t get much into actually improving the models or else this post is going to be book-length, but I might do that in the future. I think there’s a dearth of good criticism of social justice concepts from people who actually understand those concepts and are willing to engage with them in good faith and support the idea of social justice in general …

Miri takes on three concepts close to my own heart: gender-as-performance, rape culture, and privilege, and she has valuable, chewy critiques of them all. I’m glad I read it.


Finally, in the Department of Bad Ideas, we have turning your stomach to gelatin to lose weight (really):

… researchers at the University of Birmingham in the UK have found a way of combining two ingredients so that when they interact with the acids of the stomach, they expand to form a solid gel. Since the gel is harder to digest and breaks down more slowly than, say, birthday cake, it leaves a person with that delightful and elusive so-full-you-could-just-sit-over-the-toilet-fruitlessly-all-morning feeling.

I get links on a regular basis from Feministe, Feministing, io9, and Shakesville. This week also features links from Alas! A Blog (Mira on feminist theory), Jay Lake (gender contamination),  Lynn Kendall (Aunties Project) and Slactivist (white gaze). If you see something you think we might have missed, send it my way.