Bill O’Reilly’s comments on Miss Universe as an object lesson on transmisogyny

I have posts coming down the line–one about the Haas convening in Houston, a movie review, and so forth–but this sparkling example of transmisogyny just came into my field of vision, and I’ve just got to talk about it.

You’ve heard that Jenna Talackova wants to compete for Canada in Miss Universe, and that she’s been rejected because of her trans status.  I don’t want to judge women who choose to compete in pageants–it’s their right to do anything they choose with their bodies.  Nonetheless, it’s inarguable that pageants are patriarchal.  The judges examine women’s bodies in a way that’s often compared to cuts of meat.  They judge women’s worth on the basis of how well they perform a certain constricting femininity, one that is designed to please men.  The contestants aren’t just asked to mold their bodies to please men, but their personality, their way of speaking–there are categories in pageants to determine whether a woman has an “acceptable” conversation style or “acceptable” opinions.

Under these circumstances, you may not be so surprised to hear that Bill O’Reilly favors including trans women in Miss Universe.

This is what transmisogyny looks like.

O’Reilly has mocked trans folks before, comparing us to ewoks, saying in reference to gender presentation in the workplace, “If your name is Fred, you can’t look like Dolly Parton.”  But when a trans woman seeks to involve herself in a patriarchal project like a pageant–O’Reilly is all over it.  All of a sudden instead of comparing trans people to aliens, he’s asking, “What right does the Miss Universe pageant have to violate this lady’s right to be a woman?”  Of course, the moment Talackova’s performance of womanhood dissatisfies O’Reilly again–the moment she thinks for herself–mark my words, he’ll be on the air saying that she’s gone too far.

This is because O’Reilly believes that women should not have autonomy, and trans women even less so.  What he has proven here is that trans women can only get even a particle of respect from him–oh, he still mocks Talackova’s identity in the clip, mind you–if they perform femininity to exact patriarchal specifications.

God forbid, though, that trans women present in too feminine a style–as indicated by O’Reilly’s older comment on “Dolly Parton”–then, they’ll be the object of O’Reilly’s disdain again.  This is part of the misogynistic pathologization of femininity on a larger societal scale, but especially, and in its most deadly context, when femininity appears on a male-assigned body.

And this is how most people think about trans women’s bodies and lives!  How insidious.  I hope this helps you to understand how transmisogyny works–that it is different from cissexism or transphobia.  To me, O’Reilly seems like a good object lesson.

UPDATE: According to Jenny Boylan’s tweets (and I trust her), Miss Universe has decided they’ll include Talackova after all.  This will be very interesting to watch!  What if I livetweeted Miss Universe?  I’m pretty sure that would end in tears.


UPDATE, the revenge: They’re considering including her again, but haven’t decided.  Donald Trump apparently has strong opinions.  Strange bedfellows.

8 Responses to “Bill O’Reilly’s comments on Miss Universe as an object lesson on transmisogyny”

  1. 1 Kristen from MA April 2, 2012 at 8:47 pm

    I’m going to take your word for it – I don’t dare to click ‘play’ since O’Reilly makes my skin crawl.

  2. 2 Miri April 3, 2012 at 1:17 am

    I did click play… I wish I hadn’t… Honestly, the guy’s slimy crap is of no interest to me, nor is it surprising, it’s more the women’s reactions that bother me. Once again, women selling out other women, because we’re not “real” women…

    So, apparently Jenna’s a liar, and the rules barring anyone born female from entering are perfectly reasonable, given the private nature of the organisation. So, her gender isn’t really “real”, and discriminating against trans women isn’t really “discrimination”, not like if they tried to bar black women from entering or something…

    The rules… comparing to professional sports (which has a history of pulling the same crap) is absurd. It’s beauty contest, for fuck’s sake. Depending on one’s transition status, the arguments around trans women in women’s sport have varying degrees of merit, due to the possibility that there may be an advantage (but then, a 6’3″ cis woman with an overabundance of testosterone is going to have an advantage as well, so the merit is very marginal at best). But again, it’s a beauty pageant. What is the concern here? Are they afraid that a trans woman might have an advantage? The common cis views surrounding transsexuality suggest that this really shouldn’t be a problem, after all, trans women are all ugly, aren’t they? Or are they afraid that she might win? Because, that would be a horror beyond all imagining…

    Are there any trans men who would like to try to compete, just to illustrate the fucking absurdity of the rules?

  3. 3 Susan April 3, 2012 at 3:10 am

    Psst. Maybe it’s me, but the video is only a second long.

  4. 4 Susan April 3, 2012 at 3:11 am

    Sorry about that, it is me. The video works.

  5. 5 David April 3, 2012 at 3:11 am

    I, too, will take your word for it. I become nauseated when I see or hear O’Reilly.

  6. 6 Lush April 3, 2012 at 8:44 am

    I think that if anything is being proved here by O’Reilly’s behaviour, it is that he will say anything & band with any cause JUST to get people watching his vitriolic diatribes.
    He has made his views on GLBTIQ issues abundantly clear over the years & NOW he sides with a trans woman??? Spare me!!!
    I would love to think his ratings are dropping. Maybe the recession is really starting to bite?? Mr & Mrs We Don’t Think-For-Ourselves maybe can’t afford cable any longer?? (You have to pay for him where I come from, I don’t know if he is on free to air in the USA??)
    Actually, what I would really like to think is that people are waking up to the hatred he spouts & are thinking better but I know that at this moment in time ’tis a mere pipe dream.
    If she wishes to enter, good luck to her I say.
    London, UK

  7. 7 Matt April 6, 2012 at 3:49 pm

    Based on O’Reilly’s libidinal history and his past comments that you cite, I am certain that his position on Talackova is exclusively based on how well she passes, and whether he could ignore her past for long enough to […].

    If someone looked like Tommy Lee Jones in a dress or William H. Macy in a wig, I’m certain O’Reilly would be right back to saying what a disgusting travesty it all is.

  8. 8 writealiving April 7, 2012 at 1:40 pm

    I was more disturbed by Janine Turner citing rules and when questioned if those were the rules she seemed dumbfounded. Did she read them?
    O’Reilly is too busy paying off cops in Nassau County to stalk his wife whom he believed to be cheating on him to be aware of anything of importance. He says things the way people throw things at the wall to see what sticks. Unfortunately many people think like him.

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