Bette Midler tweeted & deleted a ‘joke’ where she deadnamed Caitlyn Jenner


Is Bette Midler a legend? Of course she is. But does that mean that she’s above criticism? Not really. Like so many legends, Bette is quite active on social media, particularly Twitter. Bette tends to use Twitter to knock off one-liners, most of which are groaner-jokes in the vein of the Joan Rivers Style of comedy. Over the weekend, Better decided to go after someone in the Kardashian-Jenner family. This is not the first time Bette has tangled with the Kardashian-Jenners, after Bette famously started that “controversy” this spring about Kim’s nude photos. But this weekend, Better’s target was Caitlyn Jenner. And Bette’s “joke” didn’t sit well with people. She tweeted out:

“Now that @IAmCait has been cancelled, will she go back to being Bruce? Will Kris take him back? Do I smell a re-wedding?!”

Yeah, the trans-awareness movement has really done a good job in adding to the discourse of HOW we discuss trans people these days. While this joke might not have raised eyebrows five years ago, the learning curve on trans issues and how we discuss them has been steep. To the point where I wince whenever someone deadnames Caitlyn. Whenever someone refers to Caitlyn as “him,” I shake my head. We’ve moved past that, people. We’re in a better place now. We’re in a place, as a society, where we no longer tolerate deadnaming a trans person for the sake of “humor.”

The reaction to Bette’s tweet was severe. Twitter users commented with stuff like “I hope @BetteMidler apologizes for her terrible transphobic comments and takes the time to educate herself on trans people’s rights/dignity.” And “Just shows, you can be as gay-friendly all you want, but to some, transphobia comes so easy. How tired and pathetic.”

Bette ended up deleting her original tweet and then tweeting this:

I was like, “why is she tagging Hillary Rodham Clinton in this mess?” But this HRC stands for Human Rights Campaign. Anyway, Bette’s apology has made it worse, right? We’re in a new era of how we discuss trans people. This isn’t “the temper of the times,” like something that will come and go. This is the arc of history bending towards justice, acceptance, tolerance and love. I could take or leave Caitlyn Jenner, but she doesn’t deserve to be Bette Midler’s transphobic punchline.


Photos courtesy of WENN.

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60 Responses to “Bette Midler tweeted & deleted a ‘joke’ where she deadnamed Caitlyn Jenner”

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  1. Naya says:

    I think the joke here is that Cait wasnt really trans and this was all a money grabbing ploy from a family that is probably not above this. I didnt see as a joke about legitimate trans just a joke about Cait being a phony.

    • Jo says:

      Agreed. I don’t feel that Caitlyn Jenner is representative of the community, but as someone outside of that community, I could be wrong.

      • Rebeca says:

        Sometimes I think that too. However, there are plenty of Republican women out there who are obviously voting against their own self interests. Sometimes I think, “What’s the difference? She’s just another Republican woman.”

    • Hadleyb says:

      THIS times a million.

    • Kitten says:

      This is how I took it as well.

    • Fallon says:

      Exactly how I took it.

    • Mata says:

      That’s the way it came off to me. She was shading Caitlyn specifically, not transgender people. The questions she asked about Kris and the rewedding are like she’s asking about future Kardashian plot lines.

    • detritus says:

      Yeah, but again, calling someone who has transitioned a phony is kind of the problem isn’t it? Doesn’t that have shades of saying they aren’t a ‘real’ woman?

      An outside observer doesn’t get to evaluate and judge the validity of someone’s transition, let alone make it the butt of a joke. From all accounts this is something Caitlin has been dealing with for decades.

      Bette seems to really dislike the Kardashians, and go for them frequently, which to me is almost punching down. Like they are the easy joke, rise above that ish Bette. And again, joke about Caitlin being a shitty person, voting republican, whatever, but her transition is off the table.

      • applepie says:

        Maybe you are thinking too much! Kardass family can take it I’m sure. All publicity is good publicity to them.

      • Detritus says:

        I’m sure they can, and they do probably love every tiny bit of attention. It’s more the people who are transitioning without the same support system as Caitlin that I would be worried about.
        Ones who see her very well documented transition, with very nicely done work, and see how she is still othered and considered not enough, by someone who should know better and is supportive of the LGBT community. Or she is of the LGB parts at least, the T part is what we are discussing here.

    • Yesitstrue says:

      I agree.

    • Pandy says:

      Yeah, it was pretty benign ultimately. But that photo of Caitlyn! She looks like Melania Trump lollll.

    • LoveIsBlynd says:

      Do people really think any human being would go to this length for a publicity stunt? Come on people. It was “idle musing” on the part of Bette Midler that was frankly mean spirited. I never watched the show, but it’s highly implausible this was fabricated. Helloooo

    • Vox says:

      Yeah, I agree it was a jab at the fakeness of Kardashians rather than her being trans.

  2. Betsy says:

    Given Caitlyn’s clueless and privileged politics, I really can’t get too up in arms.

  3. bebe says:

    I read her joke as more an insult against the K’s who will do anything for money/fame/attention rather than an insult to trans people.

    I think Bette has a special dislike for all of them and is calling Cait a fake. Hence the “re-wedding”

  4. TheOtherMaria says:

    I took her tweet as a criticism of how thirsty the Kardashian-Jenner family is more than being transphobic, that said, she absolutely deserved to be called out for using the wrong pronoun.

    It’s 2016, folks really need to do better 😒

    Her “apology” is half ass (at best), she should have just deleted the tweet and left well enough alone rather than the tone deaf bs she typed up.

  5. Margo S. says:

    I agree with you. Way out of line. I didn’t like her follow up tweet either like blaming the times. We’re evolving! We aren’t going to go backwards.

  6. Heat says:

    I love Bette, and she is the last person on the planet whom I would ever accuse of being transphobic, or even trans-insensitive.
    She wasn’t thinking about the repercussions of her ‘joke’.

  7. Aang says:

    Agree with above posters. This was a joke about how far the Kardashians will go for ratings.

  8. Leena says:

    And as far as using incorrect pronouns, in the first sentence Bette correctly referred to Cait as “she”. Then used “he” when referencing Bruce (change to male and Kris and Bruce getting back together). Anyhoo….

  9. Clare says:

    I cant believe people are making excuses for this stupid and hateful ‘joke’. Yes we all love to hate the Kardashians, they are fair game etc…but the punch line of this ‘joke’ was a woman who has transitioned. while Caitlin Jenner may be part of the evil Kardashian machines and perhaps it’s ok to hate her because of that – jokes like Milder’s normalize trans phobia and are hurtful and hateful towards the trans community – not just Caitlin.

    It’s not ok.

    • Nev says:

      Between this and commentors excusing use of the words coloured people on the other post. Sad.

      • Onerous says:

        Right? I feel like it’s Opposite Day around here today! For all those explaining the joke – yeah… we all get it. But that doesn’t make it ok. It was in very poor taste, amplified by her ridiculous apology.

    • littlemissnaughty says:

      That’s a lot of “hate” you’re accusing her of. I don’t think the joke was okay and she of all people should know better. But she’s not hateful. Caitlyn, on the other hand? Her political opinions are pretty hateful.

      • Clare says:

        Agree that Caitlin’s politics are ridiculous and hateful – but that doesn’t make her transition fair game for attacks or ‘jokes’. And, I’m not saying Midler is hateful, I don’t know her. The language she used, however, is hateful language even if she didn’t mean it that way. I mean, using someone former name..come on..

    • QQ says:

      TESTIFY!!! Clare! I keep scrolling and gas facing, and I don’t even LIKE the Kardassholes ffs

    • Katie says:


  10. Jayna says:

    They are all fame hos using everything for a story on their reality show, fake weddings, fake issues that get resolved by the end. I got her joke. Caitlyn said she would be back to appearing on KUWTK. The joke is, we are so jaded by them now. What will they do next for ratings?

  11. Kate says:

    I don’t think it was meant to say anything about Caitlyn being trans. I’m with everyone else. I think this was about the K Klan’s endless and shameless pursuit of money and fame.

  12. Peaceful Canuck says:

    I think people assume that just because Bette is popular with the male gay community doesn’t mean she is not transphobic.

  13. Kitten says:

    People offended by Bette’s joke are also offended because other people AREN’T offended lol. So bizarre, this world.

  14. Trixie says:

    While I don’t think the joke was funny, from my reading of it, I don’t think Bette incorrectly used the names and pronouns. When referring to Caitlyn, Bette used “she”, but when referring to Bruce, Bette used “he”. And Bette wasn’t calling Caitlyn “Bruce”, Bette was referring to Caitlyn during her time as Bruce and asking if Caitlyn will go back to being Bruce – making a distinction between Caitlyn and Bruce. It’s not a funny joke, but Bette wasn’t deadnaming Caitlyn.

    • Lucrezia says:

      ??? You need to look up the definition again, because what you are describing IS dead-naming. It’s not quite as obnoxious as refusing to ever say Caitlyn, but it’s still dead-naming. You don’t use different names to refer to pre- and post- transition. There’s no reason to. You don’t need to make a distinction between Caitlyn and Bruce, it’s the same person. Caitlyn won a gold medal in the decathlon. Caitlyn was married to Kris.

      Imagine someone’s birth name was something ridiculous (Kitten Moonbeams Rainbow Joy) and they changed it simply because it didn’t suit their personality. Wouldn’t it be weird (and rude) to refer to them as Kitten Moonbeams every time you were talking about some time before they changed their name?

      • Robin says:

        Caitlyn did NOT win the gold medal. Bruce did. Caitlyn was NOT married to Kris. Bruce was. It’s not “dead-naming” to refer to someone by their previous name, if that name was valid at the time. Good grief.

      • Sarah says:

        That makes no sense to me. Caitlyn couldn’t have won the gold because it was a men’s event. Caitlyn couldn’t have married Kris, because gay marriage wasn’t allowed back then.

        To say Caitlyn won the gold may be sensitive but is technically incorrect. I think saying that Caitlyn, before transitioning to a woman, won the gold as Bruce Jenner, is technically correct.

        And I agree with others, her politics are hateful and privileged. Shameful, really.

  15. lilacflowers says:

    Oh, Bette, why do you have to give the Kardashian/Jenners more publicity? Go out on tour, make a movie, do something else to get yourself in the news. It isn’t as if you don’t have actual talent.

  16. original kay says:

    This is what puzzles me. When Caitlyn transitioned, she was immediately the new face of the trans community. It wasn’t earned nor deserved, imo.

    Since that time, again imo, she has done absolutely nothing to further any cause, to help that community, and in fact, has made several comments that bring back that movement, such as as comments about what to wear being so important now that she transitioned. I paraphrase here, but I hope my meaning is clear. She’s done nothing to support the rights of women, nothing to help anyone, and has used transitioning to cash in for her own benefit.

    So while it’s a lame joke, I don’t think Caitlyn should be shielded by people for it being a transphobic joke. Defend her if you must, but not under the guise of it being transphobic, because I think Caitlyn has proven time and again she doesn’t give a hoot about the trans community. So why protect her under that title? It’s like supporting women just because they are women. That’s ridiculous. You support people based on merit. That’s equal rights, again imo.

    I think she’s a terrible person, in pretty much every way. So does that mean I don’t think she deserves to be defended? Yep, that’s what I mean. Let her fight her own battles because she sure doesn’t help anyone else.

    • embertine says:

      Yeah, but the issue is not Cait, who is as bad as all the rest of that family for reasons which have nothing to do with her being trans. The issue is the splash damage to other trans people who don’t share Caitlyn’s privilege.

      • Original kay says:

        I disagree. The joke was about Caitlyn, not the trans community. People made it about the trans community. Bette did not.

    • Lady D says:

      ” She’s done nothing to support the rights of women, nothing to help anyone, and has used transitioning to cash in for her own benefit. ”
      This is how I feel about her. She was in a position to do a massive amount of good for the trans community, she could have changed so much, and created entry for trans people in so many ways, and she refused unless she was paid for it. She is still in a position to help, but it’s all about the clothes, status symbols, attention and golf scores for her. She is just as vapid and disappointing as the K clan.

  17. Nev says:

    Really people?!!!!!

    To insinuate even as a joke that Cait or trans people can flip back to being a man or woman for any reason is problematic and in bad taste.
    Bad joke. Really bad joke.
    Bette needs to get over her bitterness about the Kardashians success. Seriously. Get over it already. They made it big. They are huge celebrities. They have money and extravagant lifestyles. There. So what?

  18. Lucky jane says:

    It was a dumb thing to say… I am sure she realizes that now. I mean, I wouldn’t go there. I highly doubt she meant it to be hateful. I don’t believe this is her being transphobic. That seems like a stretch. We know what she is talking about, right? This has nothing to do with Caitlyn being transgender… If anything, Midler is treating Caitlyn like she would any of the Kardashian/Jenner women. She isn’t treating her differently just because she is transgender.

  19. justme says:

    Bette’s joke was aimed directly at the scourge of society, The Kuntrashjennerians and I have no problem with what she said. I have a problem that she felt the need to apologize. Caitlyn Jenner is a joke and cares only about clothes, makeup and money. She is not a role model for the trans community IMO.

  20. Nikki says:

    I took it to mean the Kardashians are so fame and money hungry, NOTHING is sacred; that even a sex change would be fair game. BUT, I appreciate the viewpoint of those who found it offensive. This whole discussion is very thought provoking for me. I’m 60 years old, and it’s great to hear others’ perspectives so I don’t get stale or narrow in my thinking. I do think I’m much more aware of other people’s challenges or struggles due to readers’ comments on race, weight, gender, culture, etc. Thanks y’all!

  21. Neelyo says:

    Bette’s been clueless before. She made some stupid remarks about gay marriage in the past too. She’s since changed her mind on that subject but for all of her bawdiness, she seems rather conservative in her real life.

    That said, Twitter is the dumbest platform ever and everything said on there must be taken with a grain of salt. Not every idea can be condensed to 140 characters.

  22. Angel says:

    Either about trans identities being fake or about the Kardashians being fake, crass either way.

  23. Stephanie says:

    While I find this joke tasteless and backwards in thinking, Bette did not call Caitlyn him. Caitlyn was “she” while Bruce was “him.” It matters here bc she is recognizing them as separate entitites and not dismissing Cait’s womanhood. The problem is suggesting that Cait will have a change of heart. Like it’s a choice or something.

  24. KiddVicious says:

    I took it as a slam against the Kardashian/Jenners, not the trans community.

  25. Keats says:

    I mean…I’m pretty sure the intent was to drag Caitlyn specifically and not the trans community at large. But when, in doing so, you imply that transitioning is a casual decision and people go back and forth, I don’t really think it’s worth the cost of poking fun at an already marginalized group to take a cheap shot at someone. I like Bette fine but this is not a great moment in her twitter presence.

  26. JenniferJustice says:

    It isn’t funny and of all people to make such a poor joke, Midler should eat a piece of humble pie. You’d think someone who made such a career and tons of money off the LGBT community would be more sensitive and politically correct. Midler was a favorite among the transgender and cross-dressing populations in the 80’s and 90’s. There’s no excuse for her ignorance which is why I don’t believe she is ignorant….just mean and will do anything herself for a bit of relevancy.

  27. kanyekardashian says:

    In Bette’s defense, most of her jokes are written by Bruce Vilanch, who is openly LGBT.

  28. Inkblotter says:

    I think this joke exists in one of those gray areas, and a person’s reaction sort of depends on how close they are in proximity to the trans community and their feelings about the community as a whole, or how they feel about the Kardashians in general. I generally think it’s silly to dismiss someone’s POV as “faux net rage” or as being “too sensitive” because the reader doesn’t like the person(s) involved, or because the offending party is a “legend” and can do no wrong. Blind favoritism is a huge hang up in my opinion. That said, I can see both sides of this issue. Yeah, Caitlin Jenner is a tool, but Bette could have gone about that a little differently as well. She has stepped in it more than a few times, but it’s not the end of the world