Review: Whipping Girl by Julia Serano
Title: Whipping Girl: A Transsexual Woman on Sexism and the Scapegoating of Femininity
Author: Serano, Julia
Length: 391 pages
Genre: Non-Fiction, Gender Studies
Publisher / Year: Seal Press / 2007
Why I Read It: Cass recommended it strongly, and it was our April read for Year of Feminist Classics.
Date Read: 13/05/12
Serano is a writer, activist, and biologist. In this book all three of those activities are pulled together into a fantastic book which discusses sex, gender, and as well as our culture and the ways in which we are constantly degrading femininity as being somehow ‘less than’ and a constant act. At times highly personal, the book was incredibly well-written, well-researched, and had a huge impact.
In discussing the media’s depiction of trans people, she talks about how transsexual women are always sexualized and how this is done in the medical profession as well, forcing trans women to meet certain ‘standards’ of femininity before the gatekeepers will let them through. The ways in which gatekeepers restrict who can and cannot transition and then ‘study’ these certain groups who they do allow to transition skews their studies hugely.
As a biologist, as well as through her experience living as a man, as genderqueer, and as a woman in our society, Serano has a lot to say about how society treats different people. She talks about her experiences while being ‘gendered’ by others as male and as female and the difference in how people treated her as a woman. She talks too about her experience with hormones and with the way her body felt to her. I thought this was all fascinating and so important to those of us who don’t have this experience. She talks about the importance of trans voices in academia and in the media, and she certainly shows the dangers of not having them and, through her book, the benefit of actually listening.
Another topic that came up again and again is the ways in which transphobia and misogyny work together as transmisogyny to further victimize trans women, even excluding them from some female only spaces, as if their lived gender had no relation to who they were. Gender entitlement, no matter how it is expressed, damages others, and I couldn’t agree more with Serano on this point.
Fantastic book that should be read by all. If you are interested in transgender issues, feminism, gender issues, in masculinity or femininity, or in the ways in which we all interact, definitely pick this one up.