Last night I was in kind of an odd, let's see what's happening out in the world mood so I suggested to the S.O. that we watch MSNBC while waiting for it to get late enough to link to the With-Luck-You-See TV local news live stream. Since WLUC out of Marquette started streaming the local news, we've started watching it primarily to catch Karl Bohnak's weather forecasts. That, and to see how excited he gets when there's snow predicted -- the man is a snow junkie.
Anyway, every so often I get curious about what's happening out there in pundit land. What is the topic du jour? Are they still obsessing about Ferguson? Are the chattering classes willing to concede any Democrats other than Hillary Clinton exist? What's the latest dumb thing to pop out of some politician's head?
The answer to the Hillary question is, of course, that no, the media is still thoroughly obsessed with Mrs. Clinton. They're wondering why no other Democratic candidates are emerging without ever stopping to reflect that maybe, just maybe, if they actually talked about a few of them (e.g., Jim Webb) the public in general would figure out there are other possibilities. I'd hate to see the Democrats degenerate into the sort of clown car spectacle going on among the Republicans at the moment, but it would be nice to hear about someone other than the former Secretary of State.
So what else is happening in the world? What topic is worth eating up air time on "Politics Nation"? Holy wah, Bruce Jenner has come out as transgender. The bad plastic surgery finally makes sense: he's transitioning to being a woman.
Question: why does anyone care? It's been a long time since he was on a Wheaties box. There have been plenty of other well-known people deciding they'd been born in the wrong body (Chaz Bono, for example) so why should any of us take any interest in Bruce Jenner? You'd think the public would have collectively seen enough of him on reality tv, thanks to his being the stepfather of several Kardashians. But according to the panel dishing on Jenner's transition, the public is fascinated. Jenner has become tabloid fodder, and the tabloids have not been kind. (Or so they say; I don't recall seeing anything particularly dramatic screaming at me from the covers of the tabloids when I've been standing in the check-out line at Larry's Market lately.)
I will concede that having heard this news, I had some not particularly kind thoughts myself, like "Is the man insane? Is this a symptom of dementia?" But then I have that same reaction whenever I hear about any man deciding he should actually have been a woman. I am a woman. I've had a pretty good look at the downsides of being born female. Back in the '90s I thought economist Deidre McCloskey was totally insane when she announced she identified as a woman. I'd met McCloskey, I'd heard her speak back when she was still Donald. Donald was a balding, bearded man -- it was, to say the least, difficult to imagine that person as a woman.
I have no doubt that there are persons born, so to speak, into the wrong bodies. Gender identity is a lot more fluid than many of us want to admit. I also know there are persons born with ambiguous identity based on genitalia and get labelled as female when male would have been more accurate and vice versa. And I can totally understand why adolescents and young adults would struggle with this. But once you hit your 50s (McCloskey was 53 when she publicly became Deidre) or 60s (Jenner is 65)? What man in his right mind would want to be a post-menopausal woman in modern day America? I know feminists do a lot of blathering about the wisdom of crones, but the reality is that it is not particularly easy being an old lady. You're effectively invisble. You have no power. No one takes you seriously unless your name is Hillary, and even then half the time you get mocked by the media.
Still, setting aside questions about why Jenner felt compelled to do this so late in life, what makes Jenner's transition newsworthy? Why eat up broadcast minutes over something so banal? I have no clue. I just have a hunch that somewhere on this planet, somewhere that was definitely outside the borders of the United States, there were people tuning into "news" programs and seeing actual news.
Bottom line? Next time I'll suggest streaming Al Jazeera.