Is Caitlyn Jenner serious – or is her bid for California governor a grubby PR stunt? | Arwa Mahdawi

The reality star’s run seems completely depressing – especially as she’s aligned with a party that wants to erode LGBTQ rights

What in the world is Caitlyn Jenner up to?

Looks like Caitlyn Jenner needs to drum up some cash quick. When it comes to her finances, the reality TV star is no longer Keeping Up With the Kardashians – she’s trailing miserably behind her famously flush extended family. According to her tax filings the 71-year-old’s annual income has dropped from $2.5m in 2015, when she had her own reality TV show, to $555,000 in 2018 and 2019. Barely enough to pay the pool boy!

Jenner’s tax returns wouldn’t normally be in the public domain; however, she was obliged to release them because she’s running for office. In late April Jenner, a Republican, announced that she would be challenging California’s Democratic governor, Gavin Newsom, in a special recall election. The last time California held a gubernatorial recall election, by the way, was in 2003. That famously resulted in the actor Arnold Schwarzenegger, a Republican, replacing Democrat Gray Davis. Will we see history repeat itself? Will Jenner, a political ingenue, oust Newsom? It’s highly unlikely. As Republic strategist and Lincoln Project co-founder Mike Madrid noted to the LA Times, Jenner’s bid is “more Gary Coleman than Arnold Schwarzenegger”; the late Coleman being a former child star who ran as a joke in 2003. Madrid added that Jenner’s campaign appears to lack any obvious strategy or rationale.

I’ve got to disagree with Madrid on that last bit. Jenner’s strategy seems very obvious: shoehorn herself in the headlines by whatever means possible, and turn that attention into money. It’s ripped straight out of Donald Trump’s political playbook. Jenner’s brazenness is also classically Trumpian; when she launched her campaign her website had just two components: “Shop” and “Donate”. She’s also hired a film crew to follow her around on the campaign trail. Jenner has said she doesn’t have a deal “for any television show or documentary” right now – but she’s clearly angling for one.

To be fair, Jenner’s campaign isn’t completely devoid of policy proposals. She doesn’t want trans women to participate in women’s sports; she doesn’t want tax increases; and she doesn’t want homeless people anywhere near her. Don’t think she’s completely heartless, though, she’s thought long and hard about that last point and come up with some innovative solutions for homelessness. Namely, move the unhoused people living in Venice Beach to somewhere where she never needs to see them. “We can find some open land; this is where you pitch your tent,” she explained in an interview. A very generous offer.

While Jenner may not have much political experience, she has proved herself adept at multitasking. She’s managed to balance running for governor of California with an appearance on Big Brother in Australia. Her trip down under, which comes just a couple of months before the election, hasn’t gone down very well with locals. The pandemic has led to Australia implementing tight border restrictions, leaving thousands of its citizens stranded abroad. Seeing Jenner waltz right in is something of a kick in the teeth to Australians desperate to go home and see their families. Particularly since Jenner isn’t exactly being a model visitor. She was recently caught chucking a cigarette butt off her hotel balcony in Sydney.

After sullying the streets of Sydney, Jenner plans to jet back to California for a statewide campaign bus tour. The whole exhausting charade is a depressing reflection of the way in which reality TV has merged with politics. It’s also sad to see Jenner, who is probably the most high-profile trans woman in the world, align herself with a party that wants to roll back LGBT rights. Particularly as a lot of Republicans don’t even bother hiding their disdain for Jenner: she was bombarded with transphobic abuse at the recent Conservative Political Action Conference in Dallas.

Jenner’s political aspirations are also a reminder that being from a marginalised group doesn’t automatically make you a progressive. Rather, it often makes you a useful pawn for conservatives who want to pink-wash their bigotry. While it’s very clear that Jenner’s campaign is a joke, nothing about it is funny.

Female athletes still battle sexist dress codes

The Norwegian women’s beach handball team have been fined for competing in bikini bottoms that weren’t skimpy enough for the International Handball Federation’s (IHF) liking. The team, by the way, have been complaining to the IHF about being forced to compete in a very revealing uniform since at least 2006. Meanwhile, Paralympian Olivia Breen was told her shorts were “too short and inappropriate” by an official while competing at the recent English Championships. You really can’t win as a woman.

New York Times shocked by women wearing crop tops in summer

Speaking of the policing of women’s clothes … the Times ran a bizarre article (written by a guy called Guy) about summer fashion. “Bralettes, itty-bitty bandeaus and crocheted bikinis are everywhere,” it gasps. It pairs the handwringing with lots of candid shots of scantily clad New Yorkers going about their business in a massive heatwave. The whole thing is creepy and weird.

UK politicians to examine lack of support for menopausal women

Almost one million women in the UK have left jobs as a result of menopausal symptoms, the Guardian reports. Now, a parliamentary inquiry will look into the economic impact of menopause discrimination, as well as how practices addressing workplace discrimination relating to menopause can be implemented.

Argentina introduced a new gender-neutral ID card

It now includes an “X” option in the gender field alongside “male” and “female”. Argentina is the first country in Latin America to officially recognize nonbinary people.

Activision Blizzard’s ‘frat boy’ problem

California regulators have filed a lawsuit against the video game company, which is behind popular titles like Call of Duty, for alleged gender-based discrimination stemming from a “frat boy” workplace culture. As Kotaku note, the case “against Activision Blizzard is proving what many women already knew – misogyny in the industry doesn’t come down to just a few bad apples at a few companies. It’s deeply ingrained in the culture at the heart of how the games business has operated for decades.”

The week in penis-archy

I’m sure I don’t need to inform you of this week’s big billionaire news: Jeff Bezos touched the tip of space with the most phallic object that ever existed. While I can’t deny the rocket was large, his intergalactic joyride was somewhat underwhelming. Still, Bezos came back to Earth with some good ideas about how to make the world even more dystopian. He now wants to pollute space.


Arwa Mahdawi

The GuardianTramp

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