Voices: Caitlyn Jenner, Piers Morgan and the male privilege of the ‘canceled’

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Donald Trump is interviewed by Piers Morgan (Piers Morgan Uncensored / Talk TV)
Donald Trump is interviewed by Piers Morgan (Piers Morgan Uncensored / Talk TV)

Like transgender activist and Fox News contributor Caitlyn Jenner, I also transitioned relatively late in life – 32 to her 65 – and made so many faux pas in the process that I wonder how I have any friends left at all. I had no clue what terminology to use, what theories to believe, or whose side to be on. And learning to parse the subtleties of these arguments was exhausting, embarrassing work. Unlike Caitlyn Jenner, though, I did that work. Not because I’m especially better than her – I’m not – but because my life literally depended on the small gifts of understanding I was offered by the community in those early days, and I was determined to pay it back.

Jenner, however, seems to relish lending her support to those who mock and denigrate the trans community — the Dave Chappelles, Joe Rogans and Ron DeSantises of this world — especially when she perceives them as being victims of “cancel culture.” So when she sparked heated debate this week by publicly canceling her upcoming appearance on Piers Morgan’s newest talk show, Uncensored, the host quickly responded with a taunting, “I thought you hated cancel culture?” The announcement came in reaction to a promo apparently showing Donald Trump storming out of an interview after being challenged on his false claims that the 2020 presidential election was “stolen” from him. Jenner and other Trump apologists accused Morgan of doctoring the footage to make Trump look bad. Morgan, on the other hand, is now milking every ounce of controversy, announcing yesterday afternoon that he now plans to extend the airing of Trump’s interview over two days instead of one.

This is unsurprising, as Morgan has described the show, slated to air – also on Fox – April 25 as intended to “annoy all the right people” and “cancel that cancel culture which has infected societies around the world.” And it’s no coincidence that this description so closely mimics Jenner’s own vow to “cancel cancel culture,” during her bid for California state governor last year. The root of all this fearmongering about cancel culture lies, for both of them, deep within the male privilege they inherited at birth.

If cancel culture has “infected” society, as Morgan claims, its current form is only novel in the sense that it’s now manifesting as a cry for justice from the masses. What is cancel culture besides an attempt to shift the balance of power? Of removing the person in question from the public eye in order to make room for conversations about their behavior that we can’t have while they’re still controlling the narrative? When the “canceling” is being done by powerful men, though, we just call it another day in the history of the world. Trump’s election debacle is the most notable example of this in recent history – don’t like the outcome? Just cancel the election! And Morgan himself went through his own period of publicly “canceling” guests in the early 2010’s, notably banning Hugh Grant, Madonna, and Kelsey Grammer from his shows.

Don’t like being challenged? Ban the outspoken.

Jenner’s reaction – don’t like the Trump promo…cancel your own interview? – is notable in that it doesn’t ring true as this sort of knee-jerk act of self-preservation. There’s something that feels scripted about it. Because even if the footage was doctored for shock appeal and Morgan went on to do the same to her, so what? Television shows do this constantly and people watch (or don’t), tweet about it for a day (or don’t), and then go on with their lives. I can’t believe the idea would surprise or distress Caitlyn Jenner, who has two children with Kris Jenner and knows her way around reality TV. No, this is the sort of thing that only gets blown out of proportion in Trump’s own world. The type of world in which a man who’s known for walking out of interviews will release two public statements in two days because he just can’t believe anyone could suggest he’d ever do such a thing. In which a man works very hard at only one thing – controlling the narrative of his life and legacy.

There’s a joke in the trans community that, as we navigate our second puberties, we all make the same self-defeating mistakes, poor fashion choices, and toxic relationships people do the first time around. And sometimes we even try on a demeaning gender stereotype or two. Like Morgan and Trump, Jenner wielded – for six decades – the type of male privilege and power that allows one to easily cancel those they disagree with. Having lost that power, she seems to be trying on the role of Ms “Stands by her Man,” casting Trump and other bastions of toxic masculinity as supporting actors. Seriously, skim her Twitter history sometime. It’s like she’s intentionally failing the Bechdel test as a way of life. And who knows — maybe that will get her canceled after all.

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