06/16/2015 04:23 pm ET Updated Jun 16, 2016

Caitlyn, Feminism, and What it Means to Be a Woman


Since Ms. Jenner's Vanity Fair debut has blanketed traditional and social media, there's been a focus on Caityn's style choices and her glam representation in Annie Leibowitz's throwback Hollywood siren photoshoot.

In a New York Times op-ed piece entitled What Makes a Woman?, Elinor Burkett addresses the stereotypical definition of women long perpetuated by a male dominated society. Still, Ms. Burkett includes the landscape of female experiences such as menstrual periods, sexism in the workplace, unwarranted interactions on the subway, and forgetting to take the birth control pill to define what it means to be a woman.

When I first read Ms. Burkett's piece and the responses, I thought about what about what my gender means to me. Do I adopt the societal expectations that the crap shoot of XX means I was destined for motherhood, to cry at The Notebook, and prefer to read the September issue of Vogue or gossip in People Magazine while I get a mani-pedi?

How does feminism fit into our definition of womanhood? I consider myself a "lipstick feminist." I grew up during the era of Women's Lib when women burned their bras and eschewed makeup for loftier ambitions. I am an ardent and vocal supporter of women's rights and empowerment but I've never traded in sensible shoes for stilettos because I shouldn't have to.

Women seem to be defined by our appearances. If a woman chooses to wear satin corsets or a dress and heels, she lives to please men. When a woman aims for the corner office in a tailored suit or chooses not to have children, she's bucking against natural convention.

Caitlyn Jenner can choose to see womanhood as a bastion of emotional sensitivity with hair extensions, fake eyelashes, and slinky gowns. The woman who doesn't choose the path of motherhood is no less of a woman than the one who has birthed 19 children and counting.

We can be strong, ambitious, smart, and assertive. We don't have to cry when we see a bug or wait for Mr. Right to help us change the oil or pay the bills. We can wear heels and lipstick or tennis shoes and a sweatshirt.

We get to choose how we define what it means to be a woman and we also get to define feminism. There's room for stay at home mothers, women with career ambitions, the single mother who struggles to support her children, the wealthy Upper East Side wife, and, yes, Caitlyn Jenner.