Some people viewed this decision as controversial because ESPN gave the award to a person who was no longer even a sports figure (Bruce Jenner having become a side-show to the Kardashian media circus). There were thousands of other women eligible for this award, some in the military and some were athletes whose stories of courage and accomplishment were truly awe inspiring but not inspiring the kind of respect and admiration that changing genders inspires. I guess. Others applauded the move as “progress” in the efforts to gain “acceptance” for those who suffer from gender dysphoria. Still, others thought the whole thing was merely a cynical, narcissistic publicity stunt. But to me, this is really the moment when the world of men let the mask slip and reveal that beneath all the mani-pedis and the well-trimmed hipster facial hair, despite all the political correctness and tiptoeing around gender roles, down deep, men haven’t really progressed at all about what makes a woman a woman.
For what seems like ages the media-industrial complex (movies, television shows, novels, etc.) have strung us along with a long succession of romantic male love interests who are sensitive and respect the female protagonist for her many wonderful personality traits. Yes, the actresses who portrayed the women in these stories may have been young and thin and beautiful, but the real attraction for the male character was her courage. Her courage in simultaneously running a major corporation while still pursuing her passion for training depressed horses. Her courage to be a sassy detective in a police department staffed with latter day Neanderthals while struggling as a single mother to raise her precocious but adorable six-year-old all while somehow caring for her senile (but oh-so-wise) grandmother. Her courage in – well, pick your plotline. But it was all a lie, of course.
Now, thanks to ESPN, it’s finally official again and out there for all to see. What men think makes a woman a “real” woman, a woman with “courage,” is a boob job. Oh, and some liposuction. And thick, fake eyelashes and long, flowing tresses. All wrapped up in a bustier and set on tottering high heels. That’s the ticket! That’s what a real woman with courage looks like to the men of our so very progressive era.
If you didn’t already know, ESPN is a culture maker and definer. For hundreds of millions of men across the world, ESPN is their main news outlet and entertainment for the most of the day. They watch it on cable, read it on the Internet, and carry it on their smart phones. ESPN shapes American culture for sports-loving men the way Cosmopolitan shapes American culture for sexually permissive women.
So, now we know – in progressive America being a woman simply comes down to looks. You don’t need to be an actual mother or anything inconvenient like that. No need for ovaries, messy periods, a realistic body type, or sensible shoes. Nor does it consider the usual female bonafides of years of being raised dealing with Title IX sports, fears of being raped, cramps pain, PMS, height deficiencies, strength inequalities or pay gaps. No, being a woman boils down to looking a certain, specific way. Like you just stepped off the cover of a Playboy magazine, circa 1960. Whew! Thank you! Glad we cleared that up.
Since I’m a normal human being of a certain age, after having 5 children, 2 miscarriages, and about 400 periods, I fear I resemble the old Bruce more than the new Caitlyn. I can almost tuck my breasts under my belt now. My gelatinous gut looks like the back of a harpoon scarred whale. My upper arms are now floppy, and my long tresses are dull and limp, the victim of hormone changes. I’m more prone to wearing Nike jogging shoes than Prada-brand stripper heels simply because the typical active woman (oops, whatever I am) is busy taking kids to soccer and loading dishwashers and working as cashiers at Wal-mart. And let’s not even talk about the sweat pants the old Bruce and I could share.
But, DISPAIR NOT! there’s good news in our ever-so progressive modern world. Obamacare covers transgender surgery! Now, the surgical means to transform all of us into a real woman is readily available. When I was a child, we had a TV show about Steve Austin, the Bionic Man. I will always remember the voice-over during the opening title sequence: “Gentlemen, we can rebuild him. We have the technology.” Now, we have the technology to rebuild Steve into Eve. And so, it should be possible to rebuild any normal woman into a new-and-improved “Real Woman ™” (now available with more “Courage!!”). Is there a plastic surgeon out there willing to argue insurance shouldn’t cover “reconstructive”, “transgender” surgery for people like me? The “How to Build a Real Woman of Courage” blueprint is in the public domain now. And in our nobody-can-tell-me-I-can’t-have-it world, it’s available to all of us.
For those of us born with female sex genes and ovaries, but who are not truly a “woman” by the brave new world’s definition, this is finally our chance! We can finally get the breasts we’ve always wanted (well – that our men have always wanted). We can have the slender hips and thighs we’ve fought against thousands of years of biology and nature to attain. That smooth, swanlike neck is finally within our grasp! Sure, to be just like the Caitlyn’s of the new gender-neutral world will require reconstructing the plumbing a bit, but that’s okay. Mere details! Remember, it’s what being a real woman with courage is about. So I’m ready for my transgender surgery now. I can’t wait for the new me. And I wonder what my husband will think about finally being married to a real woman – an ESPN woman!