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

Julia Serano
5.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (2 customer reviews)
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Book Description

May 14 2007
Biologist and trans woman Julie Serano reveals a unique perspective on femininity, masculinity, and gender identity
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.

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Product Description

From Publishers Weekly

With her first full-length book, biologist, writer and musician Serano positions herself as a Betty Friedan of the transsexual community. Making a case that trans discrimination is steeped in sexism and that trans activism is a feminist movement, Serano delivers a series of articulate, compelling and provocative essays that unmask many of the misconceptions surrounding transsexualism, gender and feminism. Where most books on the topic focus either on first-person accounts or clinical observations, Serano approaches her topic from multiple angles. Tempering her own experience as a transsexual woman with psychological documentation, historical research and sociological data, she explores the debate on biology versus socialization; the media's "lurid," "superficial" and "contrived" depictions of trans women; the psychology of transitioning; "boygasms" versus "girlgasms"; nonacceptance and marginalization of transsexual women by the feminist community; and the subtle shades of gray between masculinity and femininity. Though her writing is dense at times, Serano largely succeeds in breaking down complex issues and offering deep insights that will be valued by anyone interested in transsexualism or gender studies. (June)
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.

About the Author

Julia Serano is a writer and spoken-word artist on the subject of gender with a PhD in Biochemistry from Columbia University. She is a researcher at UC Berkeley in the field of Evolutionary and Developmental Biology and has performed her spoken word at such high-profile events as the National Queer Arts Festival, San Francisco Trans and Dyke March Stages, Ladyfest Bay Area, and The Vagina Monologues. Serano's work has appeared in Bitch magazine's BITCHFest, Clamor, Kitchen Sink, The Believer, The San Francisco Chronicle, and on Invisible Ink Radio (NPR). Julia lives in Oakland, CA.

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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars minor qualm Jan. 27 2012
Format:Paperback
I only took one issue with this otherwise fabulous book, but I think it needs to be said...

"When I was a child , I was sexually assaulted, but not by any particular person. It was my culture that had his way with me. And when he was through, he carved his name in my side so that I'd always have something to remember him by. It's the scar that marks the spot where my self-esteem was ripped right out of me. And now all that's left is a submissive streak that's as wide and as deep as the Grand Canyon."

I understand what she is trying to say, but using rape analogies to describe anything other than rape is tasteless at best and triggering/offensive at worst. That said, this book ruled and I recommend it to every human ever.
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5.0 out of 5 stars Required reading Dec 16 2012
Format:Paperback|Verified Purchase
As a MTF transgender myself, I found Julia Serano's book to be most interesting. She touches on so many points which resonated with me that I found that I was reading passages over and over again just to fully absorb them. An engrossing read which is completely open and honest, and pulls no punches about the transgender experience.
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Amazon.com: 4.5 out of 5 stars  54 reviews
88 of 97 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A breakthrough in feminist thought July 2 2007
By Joanne Herman - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Paperback|Verified Purchase
Julia Serano has managed to give voice to many thoughts I've had over the last five years since my transition from male to female, and has sewn them together into a lucid and compelling explanation of how things got so screwed up for us transsexual women. Her approachable, easy-to-follow writing style serves as an effective foil for her brilliant exposition. I feel positively empowered by her writing.

We are the women who give up male privilege for femininity. Serano shows how much this fact threatens the patriarchy, and how transition treatment standards (set largely by men) have tended to objectify and pathologize us.

If you believe the psychiatrists who say we transition just to wear pantyhose, you should buy this book to read the real reason.

If you feel it is just that transsexual women are excluded from such venues as the Michigan Womyn's Music Festival, you should buy this book for a convincing explanation of why such policies are flawed from the feminist point of view.

If your thinking has been formed by the feminists who've vilified us over the years, none of whom was transsexual, you owe it to yourself to buy this book to hear our side of the story.

And, if you are a transsexual feminist like me, not only will you buy this book, you'll be elated that we finally have our own manifesto.
46 of 49 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars The Most Brilliant Feminist and Transsexual Analysis I've Ever Read Sept. 5 2007
By Candice - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Paperback
"Whipping Girl" is not a light, airy autobiography, so if that's what you're looking for, go elsewhere- there are many wonderful ones. Rather, Julia Serano dives headfirst into some deep issues and instead of repeating the same old tired mantras, proposes new theories and different interpretations.

I found myself reading with my highlighter out because I was consistenly blown away by some of the arguments and insightful comments Serano made. Her very background makes her the perfect analyst: as a biologist, she has the foremost knowledge on scientific reasons for transsexuality and related subject matter, as a transsexual woman she has an intimate knowledge of the effects of both testosterone and estrogen, and of how society treats men and women. Feminists, students of gender, or just the average lay person could all benefit greatly from this book, in my opinion.

The reading can sometimes be a little dense- while much more readable than most, it still is primarily an academic text. And sometimes Serano can come off a bit cold and distant- not angry (or when she is, I believe it to be justified), but not exactly a warm and cozy narrator that draws teh reader in. Still, to me, that's a small price to pay.

All in all, it's something you have to read. But I thoroughly anticipate that this book will be revolutionary- a new, fresh perspective on feminism, transsexuality, and the queer movement.

Read it!
36 of 39 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A breath of fresh air among stale gender studies! June 6 2007
By J. M. - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Paperback
This book is amazing. Serano's analysis of sexism, misogyny, feminism, and queer politics are informed by her experiences as a trans woman, but bring important insight to anyone's experience with gender. This was the first thing I've read in years in the gender studies field that didn't feel stale.
16 of 17 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Articulate & Biting Rant March 6 2008
By James Loewen - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Paperback
Whipping Girl provides a fresh voice on matters of sexism and prejudice against femininity generally and transsexual expressions of such particularly. Julia Serano's perspective as a woman of transsexual experience, and a particularly bright and well spoken one at that, give this manifesto a brilliant and powerful credibility.

For me the deeply moving first paragraph of Chapter 15, Submissive Streak was worth the price of admission.

Serano's analysis (shredding) of the dreadful novel Middlesex by Jeffrey Eugenides was also refreshing after all the hoopla that book received from Oprah. I'm also indebted to Serano for the introduction of two new words, "autophallophilic"and "effemimania." Autophallophilic really helps to reframe the Bailey-Blanchard, Man Who Would Be Queen controversy.

Serano's tirade is well informed though I did tire a little of its relentlessness toward the end and longed for a bit of levity, just a little humor to make it a bit more palatable. In several places I felt she drew conclusions and made generalizations about human experience from her own youthful experience that might well evolve as she continues to observe and create. I certainly hope we'll be hearing more from her in the future.
10 of 10 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Whipping Girl: A shrewd analysis of femme-phobia in America April 28 2009
By Jade R. Delphi - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Paperback
I found Julia Serano's book, "Whipping Girl," to be full of very shrewd observations as to femme-phobia in modern American culture. Many of her observations were dead-on regarding bigotry towards not only trans women and effeminiate gay men, that is, hate being directed primarily toward the feminine itself, but towards the roots of fear of the feminine. The book explores why our culture discourages the feminine in individuals while encouraging the masculine, and on this level I found the discourse very insightful and accurate if somewhat academic.

Although her logic and common sense is very good, at times I found the book a bit too full of legalistic, persuasive argument and lacked in personal experiences that I could relate to. As a trans woman myself, although I agreed and understood whole-heartedly Ms. Serano's line of reasoning, I often found myself a little lost in the rhetoric which at times bordered on the partisan and philosophical. Sadly, at times the book's philosophical tone gets a little caught up in its own righteousness, vocabulary and hard-driven logic, and so loses heart in the process.

I would have enjoyed, and related, more I think to a story involving more personal and emotional anecdotes as well as the anti-transphobia partisanship that the book delves so deeply into. I suspect Ms. Serano's goal was to present a comprehensive and philosophical view from that of a trans woman feminist, which she does very well, and were I in a womens'-studies college class, this book might be an excellent text, however, for relaxing in the sun on a spring afternoon it began to seem a little dry and frankly made me sleepy.

I'm imagine the author might counter that there are many other books of the "personal anecdotal" variety which I could read instead, but that this volume was written as a serious exploration of feminist philosophy from a transgender angle. Assuming the intent was a serious (very serious) study of the roots of femme phobia and transphobia in American culture, the book succeeds brilliantly. As pure entertainment, however, I'm sad to say I found it somewhat lacking, although I don't think entertainment was its sole intent. Far from it.

Nonetheless, an interesting read with some great insights to bigotry towards the feminine in our culture. A good read for GLBT and trans folks with an activist bent.
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