by Leanna Keyes, ’14
In the parody video “Sh*t Sorority Girls Say,” one (drag-costumed) man bubbily suggests, “Let’s raise awareness!” as if such a goal is silly or ineffective. And yet, in the face of the catastrophically cissexist* interview Barbara Walters conducted for trans* Miss Universe contestant Jenna Talackova, I’m reminded of just how far we’ve come and how very very far we still have to go.
Riese of Autostraddle already did a great breakdown of many of the reasons this interview was a disaster, so I won’t repeat her words–go read them if you have the time, they’re worth it. The gist is that Walters asked Talackova a string of questions that were extremely invasive without even realizing that she was being wildly inappropriate. It was the standard slew of clueless-interviewer questions asked to trans* people: “Which bathroom did you use?” “Have you had the surgery?” “Did your boyfriend know?” and the like, all framed such that Talackova’s gender is based purely on her surgical status and ability to be read the way Walters likes–i.e., read as cis, female, conventionally attractive–rather than being something that Talackova herself is allowed to determine. My absolute favorite quote from this interview:
“So if I saw you undressed you would look like a woman to me, totally? Yes?” – Barbara Walters
This is why we need Transgender Awareness Week. Continue reading