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.
I’m a feminist but I’ve never taken a class in gender studies or otherwise groked the different schools of feminist thought. Serano is there for me, breaking down trans/gender theory (as it stood when this book was written) and how it relates to her as a trans woman. She goes through the myriad forms of sexism and misogyny, the depiction of trans women in the media, and how LGBTQIA people of different sorts figure in feminist thought.
My brain is frying trying to sum up everything in a few paragraphs, grah. So I’ll say this – if you care about gender at all you should read this book. It filled in my knowledge gaps and I feel prepared to be an even better ally to the non-cis people in my life. Not perfect (I could have done without the last couple of essays) but a necessary read.
Good news – this book is getting a second edition, yea! In fact, it will be published in a few days with a new preface covering changes in transgender activism since the first edition. I can’t wait to pick it up and read the updated sections.