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Whipping Girl

by Julia Serano

genre: non-fiction, gender, feminism, transexuality, psychology, human sexuality

This book opens your eyes to numerous mind-blowing social processes you were probably unaware of. Find out why I gave it 5 out of 5 stars!

Summary

(Taken from Goodreads)whipping-girl-julia-serano

A provocative manifesto, Whipping Girl tells the powerful story of Julia Serano, a transsexual woman whose supremely intelligent writing reflects her diverse background as a lesbian transgender activist and professional biologist. Serano shares her experiences and observations—both pre- and post-transition—to reveal the ways in which fear, suspicion, and dismissiveness toward femininity shape our societal attitudes toward trans women, as well as gender and sexuality as a whole.

Serano’s well-honed arguments stem from her ability to bridge the gap between the often-disparate biological and social perspectives on gender. She exposes how deep-rooted the cultural belief is that femininity is frivolous, weak, and passive, and how this “feminine” weakness exists only to attract and appease male desire.

In addition to debunking popular misconceptions about transsexuality, Serano makes the case that today’s feminists and transgender activist must work to embrace and empower femininity—in all of its wondrous forms.

Review

I have been particularly interested in transgender issues for a while now. I’ve watched lots of YouTube videos of transgender people sharing their experiences, talking about discrimination they face, and how to be respectful towards them (appropriate terms to use, questioning etc). I became intrigued by transgender people simply because I had never been exposed to anyone who identified so. My parents, while not hateful people, always found sexual minorities strange and unnatural. Their little comments about gay people or cross-dressers or some other sexual minority snuck into my mind somewhat. It snuck in my mind in the sense that until I exposed myself to numerous homosexual couples on YouTube, I found it strange to watch two people of the same sex kiss even though I passionately believed in their equal rights. Now it looks as natural as a man and a woman kissing. As I tried to become as socially aware of sexual minorities as I could, I noticed that a particular sexual minority seemed to garner more hate than the others, even though attitudes towards homo/bi-sexual people were improving by so much. Transgender people, particularly MTF transgender individuals (male-to-female). Hence, my desire to expose myself to some great transgender YouTubers.

But, like many of my curiosities, my need for a scientific, academic perspective grew. When I was looking for books to read up on the reason why society has so much hate reserved for transgender individuals, I came across this book on Goodreads. And it had great reviews. So I grabbed it!

This book was really, really good. It broke down so many social processes (the main two being oppositional sexism and traditional sexism) that contribute to the societal disgust/hate for transgender individuals. It’s exploration of the scapegoating of femininity was amazing too. It really pin-pointed and articulated the reasons behind so many inconsistencies and double-standards in society in regards to gender and gender expression. I also really appreciated that it didn’t leave discussion about masculinity out of the picture. When discussing femininity (and the perceived inferiority of it), I think one must discuss the dynamics behind masculinity as well. I highlighted so much of this book. There were so many poignant observations of society and it’s struggle with non-conforming gender expression.

While I enjoyed the entire novel, the first half of the book blew my mind but the second felt a tad repetitive and less revolutionary. I suppose the first half focused the most on transgender issues and societal perspectives of transgender people, while the second half has a lot more focus on criticizing certain aspects of second wave feminism (in regards to the rejection of femininity). Even though the second half didn’t finish on the high note the book started, the book overall had been so informative and eye-opening that I gave it the full 5 stars.

I really appreciated Julia Serano’s openness when writing this book. She is a trans woman and shares lots of her experiences with the reader as we explore different transgender social issues. It was fascinating to read about these experiences grounded in a social theory that sought to explain the reactions of others. It’s not a difficult book to read. The writing is very accessible and she explains any new terms to make sure people are following the new concepts she explains.

Overall, I definitely recommend this novel for anyone interested in social issues in general, transgender issues, gender expression, feminism, and femininity versus masculinity. I was surprised (although retrospectively I shouldn’t have been) at how much the book focuses on societies perceptions and expectations of femininity versus masculinity in explaining the disgust/hate that surrounds transgender individuals who break the “unspoken” gender rules. You won’t regret picking up this book!

5 out of 5 stars

amazonbutton2 copyThis book is for you if you:

  • Are interested in social issues, particularly ones about transgender individuals, gender expression, feminism, femininity, masculinity
  • Enjoy reading books where the author shares their experiences in a context-appropriate manner to bring real life examples to their social theories

This book is not for you if you:

  • Cannot handle hearing/reading about any sexual minority

 Ermisenda Alvarez

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