Whipping Girl: A Transsexual Woman on Sexism and the Scapegoating of Femininity

Monday, August 22, 2016


Whipping Girl: A Transsexual Woman on Sexism and the Scapegoating of Femininity
Julia Serano, 2007, 2016 (new edition)

Challenge Book! Book Riot Read Harder Challenge 2016 - Read a book by or about a person that identifies as transgender

Premise: Scholarship and personal perspective on the interrelationship between attitudes around femininity and discrimination against trans women.

I borrowed this book from the library and got only a few chapters in before I decided that I had to buy my own copy so I could highlight all the best passages.

I’ve been looking for a book like this, one that articulates so clearly the need to empower femininity. In feminist and liberal spaces, we already question the idea that women can be equal to men only if they act like men (but not too much like men). Yet somehow many of us tend to miss that so much of this attitude can be connected to dismissing girls, along with denigrating traditionally feminine attitudes, interests, and practices.

Getting a fantastic analysis of issues facing the transgender population is just icing on the feminism cake. Serano uses her personal experiences, her conversations with others in the trans, queer, and lesbian communities, and extensive scholarship to explore the many facets of gender and types of sexism.

This book was originally written in 2007, so some of the terminology she uses is not what is most common today, and some of the issues are already changing. These elements are acknowledged in the preface to the 2016 edition.

Some of the most enlightening chapters for me explored the sexism inherent in most media representation of trans women and the double-bind in terms of gender expression that faced (and may still face) those seeking to transition.

Serano’s personal account explores the nuanced possibilities surrounding how much our gender expressions and sexual selves are shaped by hormones, intrinsic inclinations, and/or socialization. Overall her book is impressive in stating a firm, strong position for holding a nuanced, subtle view of gender and sex.

The only criticism I have is that a few of the chapters late in the book are jarringly different in tone. They aren’t bad, just different than the rest.

The book begins and ends with the call to empower femininity and for those who consider themselves feminists to dismantle attitudes which damage all feminine people - whether those feminine people consider themselves male or female or other.

5 Stars - An Awesome Book

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