I recently published a blog suggesting that people stop viewing I Am Cait. A day later, I saw a message from Jennifer Boylan, encouraging people to watch the new season. She promised that there was some hard-hitting dialogue ahead. She also admonished us to be more civil. I am, if nothing else, a great admirer of Ms. Boylan, so I watched the show.
I agree with Jennifer Boylan: We do need to engage one another in civil dialogue. We do need to love those who hold different views. But I’m not so sure that we need to watch this show.
Let me start with the good: These are all wonderful women – Cait included. They are likable. The dialogue is honest. The show does not shy away from uncomfortable issues and feelings. But, by the end of the show, I was left with many concerns:
The show presents us as glamor gals. I felt as though I was watching a blue-blooded cocktail party on wheels. The visual focus was on the outfits, the suitcases, and makeup kits. At any moment, I expected to hear Cait blurt out, “Let them eat cake!” Imagine our indignation if we watched a group of rich, white men discuss the plight of migrant workers while fly-fishing on the Wind River. TV is a visual medium. The visuals of this show are at odds with what Ms. Boylan wants us to hear.
The dialogue leads nowhere. I am all for encouraging a healthy exchange of ideas. But mostly what I heard on this show was a repeated exchange of stereotypes. Cait: Republicans are good people; Democrats will destroy the economy. Everyone else on the show: Republicans and religious conservatives are out to get us! I admire the effort of the other women to confront Cait. But in the end, what I saw was a wealthy, conservative woman coddled by her friends. Whenever she came across an inconvenient truth, Caitlyn dug in her heels: “No! We’re not going there!” “It just happened to be a Republican who said that.” Caitlyn gets her way. Her baseless assertions that the economy is going down the tubes flies in the face of the evidence. And yet it is challenged by nothing more than a collective gasp. Where is the education?
The emphasis on sexuality feels misplaced. I don’t disagree with any of the discussion about sexuality. For anyone interested in who we love and how we struggle to integrate our past and future lives, it is an interesting conversation. But I think that we risk far more important issues by giving this topic so much prominence. I want the world to accept me as I go about my job, shop in a mall, or go the bathroom. Understanding my sexuality is a very low priority. Leave that for a graduate seminar. A woman shouldn’t have to reveal her knickers in order to get the world’s attention.
We hear the wrong voices. I wanted to hear so much more from Kate (Bornstein) and Chandi. What fascinating women! Jennifer added some very intelligent observations. But this show sends the wrong message: If you are rich and famous, you trump everyone else in the room (pun intended). Next to Cait, these incredible women allow themselves to come across as secondary. They are Cait’s retinue. In fact, Cait should be begging to be on their show. Women have fought hard to have their intelligence taken seriously. This show does not give due respect to some very brainy women.
At the end of last night’s episode, there is a preview of next week’s show. The preview says it all. We hear Cait’s voice in the background: “I want to see the girls broaden their horizons and have some fun with this.” As she says this, we see a video clip of Chandi getting on a horse. What a lucky woman. Cait might as well say, “Let them eat cake!”
I hope I haven’t pissed these women off. They are incredible people. I would count myself lucky to spend an hour with any of them – including Cait. My concern is with the show’s premise and format. Try as they might, I don’t think that Cait’s friends stand a chance. Their insights deserve so much more emphasis. And the show’s structure puts Caitlyn on the defensive. Given the setting – several friends ganging up on her in front of the nation – it is hard to expect her to listen to learn. Based on her recent comments to the press, it doesn’t appear that her thinking evolved while filming season two. I admire her willingness to share herself so openly. I only wish I saw more evidence that she is learning from the rest of us.
POSTSCRIPT: In the interest of balanced reporting: my wife, Mary, begs to differ with me. While she shares my concerns, she feels that I am throwing out the baby with the bath water. Of Cait she says: “She is the loudest voice you have.” Maybe that’s why I find myself shouting. — But if both Jennifer and Mary say I should watch the show, I will continue to tune in. They are both wise women. But I will be watching with a wary eye.