I find the whole Caitlyn Jenner thing fascinating. I haven’t bothered to say anything about it til now, because there was nothing really to say. “Oh look, Bruce Jenner is becoming a woman. That’s interesting. Good for him. Hope he’ll be happy.” But that wasn’t a blog post. I saw a lot of people bashing him when he actually announced and I saw a lot of people praising him. Same when the Vanity Fair cover was announced for Caitlyn. I just had nothing to say. Other than “good for her.” See, I was born in the 70s. Which means I was automatically a fan of Bruce Jenner and his Olympic decathlon win. In fact, back in the 70s, if you weren’t a fan of Bruce Jenner and his Olympic decathlon win, they used to deport you. I’m pretty sure that in the mid-70s HUAC turned from blacklisting people for being commies to blacklisting them for not liking Bruce Jenner. I don’t know that most people even knew how the decathlon worked. But Bruce Jenner was on the Wheaties box so he was a hero! The point is, I liked Bruce Jenner. Because I’m a patriot, godammit!!!
Anyway, that was a long time ago. Time marches on. Mary Lou Retton shows up and becomes the face of Wheaties and then Michael Jordan became the most recognizable athlete of all time and he got to do it. And Bruce Jenner got to do… well… nothing. It turns out that actually, Americans don’t really give a fuck about the decathlon, so once you aren’t on a cereal box anymore, people pretty much just forget about you. So what do you do to stay in the public eye? You marry a rich widow who is only famous because her first husband defended a guy who was accused of murder who was famous because he was an all-star athlete in a sport that people actually cared about. Then if you’re lucky, that woman’s daughter will have a sex tape leaked where she’s banging a little known rapper who is only famous because he is the brother of a minor R&B singer who starred on a fifth rate broadcast network that is no longer on the air. And then if you’re lucky, maybe Ryan Seacrest makes a reality TV show about you. As silly as I am when I write these things…. that’s pretty much what Bruce actually decided to do.
But the crazy thing is… it worked. Bruce Jenner is WAY more famous for being Kim Kardashian‘s step-father than anything he’s ever done on his own ever…. at least until a couple months ago.
See, that’s the weird thing. Caitlyn Jenner might be a hero now, but two years ago, Bruce Jenner was a late-night talk show joke. “Hey look, he’s prettier than his wife.” “Which one of them is the woman?” It went on and on. The only thing that made people stop making fun of Bruce Jenner was that it turned out he ACTUALLY was transgender.
Anyway, what made me really want to talk about Caitlyn wasn’t her announcement. It was what happened afterwards. Specifically that she won the ESPY Arthur Ashe Courage Award. And then the shitstorm happened.
So here’s the thing, did she deserve the Arthur Ashe award? Well, not really… because she wasn’t really “doing” anything courageous. Not at first anyway. She was inspirational. She has decided to take the step and be herself at 65. What makes her interesting, however, is that she’s doing it in front of the world. BUT, the problem is that doing so is her job. See, Caitlyn Jenner isn’t an athlete. Neither was Bruce Jenner. Jenner hasn’t been an athlete in almost 40 years. She’s a Kardashian. In fact, she’s very good at being a Kardashian. And being a Kardashian means your job is to live your life in public, being a complete and total train wreck, so that we as a people can make fun of you later. If anything, she’s sort of being a bad Kardashian lately by being eloquent and respectable.
BUT, it turns out the Arthur Ashe Award isn’t really about being courageous. It really isn’t. It’s just called that. Be honest, without using the internet do you know who won the Arthur Ashe award last year? What about the year before that? Can you name five people who have won it like ever? You can’t, can you? Because no one gives a fuck about the Arthur Ashe Award. I bet most people who are complaining had never even heard of the Arthur Ashe Award before. And that’s what really bothers me. And that’s why Jenner deserves it.
Even after Bruce’s Diane Sawyer interview, he was still kind of a joke. Honestly, the interview was kinda dumb and fluffy and had all the eloquence and respectability of… well… a Kardashian interview. It was hardly wroth mentioning other than to make fun of him. The Vanity Fair cover was neat, because, be it as Bruce or Caitlyn, she’s still a celebrity, and that’s Vanity Fair’s business. But, again? Do you remember who was on Vanity Fair’s cover last month? What about the month before? Exactly.
But the fact that a cavalcade of celebrities and regular people have come out of the woodwork to protest the Arthur Ashe Award, in theory because “other people deserve it better…”
“How come Lauren Hill didn’t win?”
“How come Noah Galloway didn’t win?”
And my favorite: “If Caitlyn/Bruce Jenner had any class s/he would turn down the award so it could go to a real hero like Lauren Hill.”
What the fuck is wrong with you people? No one cares about this award. No one ever did. None of you complaining care about the award. Do you know how I know? Because I know who the previous winners are. Last year it was won by Michael Sam for being the first NFL player to be out as gay while playing. The year before that it was won by Robin Roberts for basically… getting cancer. Before that it was Pat Summitt. Other winners include Pat Tillman, Howard Cossell, Muhammed Ali, Billie Jean King and Nelson Mandela. What do you notice about all of these people? They’re famous. Most of them are really famous. The award is for transcending sports to epitomize social issues.
It’s not that Galloway isn’t a brave guy. It’s not that he isn’t a deserving guy. It’s that he isn’t really famous. He’s notable BECAUSE of his injury. And yeah, he’s gone on to do some great stuff since then like being on Dancing with the Stars and…. well, that’s pretty much it. Lauren Hill, did the same. Yes, she was a little known college basketball player, but she’s famous for being a little known college basketball player with cancer. Neither Galloway nor Hill transcended sports to epitomize their issue. If anything, they transcended their issue to become a footnote in the world of sports.
And good for them. That’s FUCKING INSPIRING. It really is. But that’s not what this award is for. And if you actually cared about the award you’d know that.
At the end of the day, if Hill didn’t die of cancer, or if Galloway had all of his limbs, you wouldn’t give a fuck about either of them. If Peyton Manning or Andre Agassi won this year for all of their philanthropic work, no one would be mentioning Hill or Galloway. Caitlyn is being singled out because she’s “weird.” And that’s why she suddenly deserves the award.
In one of the all-time dumbest moves in the history of the internet, a bunch of idiots decided to circulate a petition this week asking the IOC to revoke Jenner’s medals on grounds that as a woman she should have been barred from male competition. As ridiculous as this sounds, these idiots are now closing in on 15,000 signatures. That is enough signatures that the IOC has actually chimed in and responded to these morons, saying, as one might expect, that since Jenner was male at the time of the competition, there is no issue. In fact, as of 2012, the IOC does allow for transgender athletes under very specific and highly regulated circumstances (namely that they must have undergone reassignment surgery and need to have spent more than two years under hormone therapy to their new gender). So even if the modern standard was retroactively applied to 1976 (which would be beyond dumb), Jenner would still have had to compete as a male. In fact, if she wanted to compete today, she’d still have to compete as a male.
And that’s why she deserves the award. Up until two months ago, Bruce Jenner was a professional train wreck. Whether you’re pro-trans or anti-trans, if you’d just left well enough alone, and given it a month, Caitlyn would have done something ridicuolously dumb and Kardashianesque and she would be back to being the butt of jokes on late-night talk-shows and supermarket tabloids. She would have been Chaz Bono. A flavor of the month that people hail as a hero until they realize that they actually don’t give a fuck and move on with their lives. Even the Kardashians’ own show played this for laughs, following up his coming out with a incident where he “shocks” Kim by admitting that he’s been stealing her clothes.
But NO! You people couldn’t do that. You had to push and push and now she’s a goddamn folk hero! Now she’s cultural icon that you have struck down and made more powerful than you ever dreamed. You Obi-waned her.
Worse, you weakened the plights of the people you claim to support. A week ago, Lauren Hill was a tragic teenaged girl, struck down by cancer with her whole life in front of her. Noah Galloway was an inspiring veteran who showed that you can overcome a disability. Now they’re both pawns in a prejudicial game against someone who is now the poster child of social tolerance. If ESPN had any doubts about Caitlyn before (and by all accounts, they didn’t) they sure as hell don’t now. She’s now as culturally relevant as it gets, and that makes her more deserving than anything. And by associating Galloway and Hill, you have weakened their legacies.
And worst of all… most unforgivable of all… you made the Kardashians relevant.