Facebook, one of my guilty pleasures, has been dominated this week by discussions on Caitlyn Jenner and her transition from a man to a woman. Naturally, opinions have been mixed, but one very common opinion has been perplexing to me. I have seen several people complain that they are basically being forced to read/hear about Jenner. “Shoved down our throats” is being commonly expressed. This refrain is pretty ridiculous.
I’m a bit perplexed by people who think anything in the news is being “shoved down their throat.” That’s usually code for, “I’m not comfortable with the content of the story and don’t want to hear it.” It generally has a deeper meaning, because no news story is mandatory in our (mostly) free society.
Media is entirely optional. Seriously, if you don’t want to read stories about Caitlyn Jenner, don’t click the links. Hit “mute” on your television. Quit acting like you’re somehow being coerced to read about it. You’re not. If you would prefer to see news about ISIS, global warming, Elon Musk, President Obama, or any other possible topic, take 2 seconds to look for it. I encourage it! It’s all out there!
As for those who lament that coverage is being wasted on a celebrity when there’s “more important news” out there – that’s just laziness. Sure, celebrity news is vapid and pointless. But it’s not new, and it hasn’t replaced more substantive stuff. Media coverage of famous people has existed as long as there have been famous people. And it’s never been the only available news. Sometimes it feels that way, but if one is willing to put forth the effort, they can find whatever information they want. There really isn’t a finite amount of news, with one new bit pushing out another. Even implying that is insulting.
One benefit of the internet is the sheer scale of information available to us. If Jenner isn’t your thing, then ignore it and move on. Quit acting like you’re Alex from A Clockwork Orange, and you’re being restrained, with your eyes forced open. Nothing close to that is happening, although that thought does inspire some amusing imagery.
There are plenty of alternatives to celebrity gossip. Go find the news that you care about.
Of course, Jenner’s story is a bit bigger than mere “celebrity news.” In recent years, the western world has begun publicly acknowledging the existence and rights of transgendered people. It’s created awkward conversations, confusion, and anger. So, it’s just like any time we as people expand our definition of humanity. In America, we’ve often tended to think of straight white males as “the norm,” and everyone else as “different.” That’s gradually (and thankfully) changing. Well, now, we’re starting to acknowledge that cisgender may not be the default setting of humanity. There’s enough variety out there that “default” doesn’t really exist. And again, this is a positive social change.
If you’re just not happy that transgender issues are becoming socially normalized, well, sorry, but welcome to the 21st century. And feel free to change the channel.