Whipping Girl: A Transsexual Woman on Sexism and the Scapegoating of Femininity Paperback – May 14 2007
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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)
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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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Top Customer Reviews
"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.
Her varied experience slowly going from one side of the fence to the other, exploring along the way, gives her perspective real merit in my opinion.
Beyond that she also takes great care to shine a light on the issues from a myriad of perspectives and opinions.
This book should be anyone's first stop when concerning gender related questions and gender related research.
Most Helpful Customer Reviews on Amazon.com (beta)
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.
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.
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.
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.