Identifying gender?

The woman in this painting wears an elaborate dress and dainty gloves, but her face is startlingly masculine. What looks like five o’clock shadow is probably an effect of aging art materials. Either the topmost thin layer of flesh-colored paint has faded, or it has sunk into the grayish paint that lies underneath. 

Similarly, Caitlyn Jenner’s Vanity Faircover encourages us to think about outward expressions of gender. Many women feel pressure to present the stereotypical ideal of female beauty that we see in this image. TV media has remarked primarily on her appearance, showing that Jenner is being treated just like her female celebrity peers. That’s a positive statement about transgender equality, but a sad recognition that society still values a woman’s looks above all else. 

Photo credit: Annie Leibovitz, Vanity Fair



—Juline Chevalier

Head of Interpretation and Participatory Experiences

June 11