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Whipping Girl: A Transsexual Woman on Sexism and the Scapegoating of Femininity Paperback – May 14, 2007

4.5 out of 5 stars 84 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews

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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Product Details

  • Paperback: 408 pages
  • Publisher: Seal Press; annotated edition edition (May 14, 2007)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1580051545
  • ISBN-13: 978-1580051545
  • Product Dimensions: 1 x 5.5 x 8 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 13.6 ounces
  • Average Customer Review: 4.5 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (84 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #208,804 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

By Joanne Herman on July 2, 2007
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.
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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!
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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.
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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.
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While there are other reviews of Ms Serano's book that stress the sexism and femininity aspects, her discussion of the emotional and psychological pain of being inherently transsexual stand out to me as the most comprehensive presentation of this experience that I have read.
The author goes deep into the discussion of sexism as the basis of not only homophobia and transphobia, but also the driving force behind patriarchy and the binary system. Sexism, as Serano sees it, insists that males are superior to females and that masculine characteristics are superior to feminine characteristics in both genders. Many women buy into this concept. Even feminists seem to agree, since they accept trans men into their society - they gain male privilege by transitioning - while rejecting trans women as "not real women."
As Ms. Serano states early in her book, transsexuals "lie at the intersection of multiple forms of gender-based prejudice." She discusses her rationale for this statement in her Transsexual Manifesto, identifying by her own experience and research the myriad forms of gendered discrimination experienced by transsexuals (and all gender variant people). The author calls for a rebellion against sexism in all its forms, but reserves a particular animosity for cissexism - the idea that those whose gender variance is at odds with their assigned gender are unnatural, unreal, and/or are trying to "put something over" on the dominant society.
The overwhelming societal and media attitude of fear and loathing puts tremendous strain on all transgender people, but even more so on transsexuals. Trans women are depicted negatively in most media, even when the media outlet thinks they are reporting "accurately" and compassionately.
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