“What Makes a Woman” Article Was Outdated and Exclusionary

One of my favorite parts of the weekend is sitting down on Sunday to open up the New York Times. I particularly love their opinion section, which is full of rich and thought-provoking columns. This Sunday did not disappoint.

The cover of this week’s Sunday Review section had an image of fishnet stocking covered legs, high heels and red painted nails next to a piece titled “What Makes a Woman“? The author Elinor Burkett, a well known author, film producer and journalist, tackled the intersection of transgendered rights and feminism.

Burkett simply missed the mark and comes across as transphobic, exclusionary and highlights an outdated definition of feminism and femininity. Put in simple terms, Burkett seems oddly threatened by the public’s acceptance of a public figure like Caitlyn Jenner.

Burkett argues that the same things that make Caitlyn feel feminine (a cleavage shot and red lips) are exactly the kind of imagery feminists have tried to move away from. That’s just it – shouldn’t it be up to us to decide what our femininity is? If Caitlyn feels sexy, whole, complete and happy with high heels and red finger nails, good for her. If I feel sexy with short hair and combat boots, good for me.

Burkett states,

People who haven’t lived their whole lives as women, whether Ms. Jenner or Mr. Summers, shouldn’t get to define us.

Umm, who said they are? She goes on to say,

Their truth is not my truth. Their female identities are not my female identity.

This implies that Burkett’s female identity is the only one that matters. Is her female and feminism as a white woman, the same as an African American or Mexican American woman’s feminism? Certainly not. Burkett’s arguments come from an out dated (and white) definition of feminism.

The way I look at this is pretty simple. If someone identifies as a different sex than the one in which they were born, I will accept them as the sex in which they identify. Men and women – regardless of how they were born – should have equal rights, wages and standing in society. Lastly, it is up to all of us to express our femininity and masculinity in our own way.

Take a moment to read Burkett’s article — I’d love to hear your thoughts in the comments section below.

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