Whipping Girl: A Transsexual Woman on Sexism and the Scapegoating of Femininity
Enlarge cover
Rate this book
Clear rating
Open Preview

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

4.21 of 5 stars 4.21  ·  rating details  ·  2,619 ratings  ·  269 reviews
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 tow...more
Paperback, 390 pages
Published May 14th 2007 by Seal Press (first published April 23rd 2007)
more details... edit details

Friend Reviews

To see what your friends thought of this book, please sign up.

Reader Q&A

To ask other readers questions about Whipping Girl, please sign up.

Be the first to ask a question about Whipping Girl

Community Reviews

(showing 1-30 of 3,000)
filter  |  sort: default (?)  |  rating details
Trevor
Sep 17, 2013 Trevor rated it 4 of 5 stars
Recommended to Trevor by: Laia
Shelves: social-theory
I was talking to Lorena about this book – Lorena is my go-to person for all things gender related. She lived as a lesbian for many years and so knows stuff I can’t even guess at. I told her that the strangest thing about reviewing this book (I tend to review while I read nowadays – one of the odd changes goodreads has wrought) is how each of my mock reviews started with me stressing how straight I am. It’s the strangest thing. Like someone about to review a book by a Nazi might start by mentioni...more
Julian
Jul 04, 2007 Julian rated it 5 of 5 stars
Recommends it for: everyone
Shelves: queer, non-fiction
COMPLETELY AWESOME IN EVERY WAY. Gender analysis and theory that is somehow not wanktastic and jargony, is fresh, clear, and not all bogged down in a bunch of agenda driven bullshit, and based on the author's experiences as a trans woman. As I read this book, my primary thoughts were "This makes SO MUCH SENSE!" Parts were like reading the inside of my own head. Parts gave me an insight into things I will never experience myself. Brilliant.
Sarah
This book has two halves, one of which I loved and one of which was pretty terrible.

The parts where she discussed, analyzed, and criticized transgender issues from terminology to medical processes were awesome. Serano is a wonderful writer who really knows what she is talking about in this section. She challenges assumptions, educates, and really makes the reader think. I especially loved her final conclusions, that the focus should be on confronting gender privilege instead of simply performin...more
Tara Jay
There are things I love about this book, mostly Serano's more personal writing, and some of the writing about her experiences on estrogen are beautiful/heartbreaking. All of her writing on hormones feels very spot-on to me, as do her theories on "the scapegoating of femininity."
But there were too many little unfair jabs at non-binary/genderqueer folks, and some of them felt really hurtful and maybe she made me cry. It's pretty clear that Serano doesn't think that identifying outside of the binar...more
Zanna
Aug 01, 2014 Zanna rated it 5 of 5 stars
Recommended to Zanna by: Alicia
I failed to distinguish personal interpretive note-making from writing for an audience here, and wrote too much about this book to fit into the space.

The full review-summary is in three parts here:
Part I
Part II
Part III

Needless to say, I found the experience too important and overwhelming to review properly. I'd like to highlight these descriptions:

Transphobia is an irrational fear of, aversion to or discrimination against people whose gendered identities, appearances or behaviours differ from s...more
Lia
I'm reading this five years after it was published (in 2007) and, it seems, after loads of people I know who have discussed this book specifically and also absorbed its ideas into their critiques of so many issues (particularly in discussions around transmisogyny), so it doesn't feel as fresh as I'm sure it would have when it was first published.

Even so, it's pretty incisive. In Part 1, "Trans/Gender Theory", Serano disambiguates a lot of concepts that are confused in discourse around sex and g...more
Sherwood Smith
I am beginning to wonder if "It's good to be cis" parallels "It's good to be rich." Being rich makes all these other problems of life invisible--you want something? You get it. Or you order someone to get it for you. The wish is the deed. For the rest of us, the wish can be a receding mirage as we struggle to make a penny stretch, to squeeze time from job and other obligations, yadda. So, yeah, it's nice to be rich . . . but no one comes along and helpfully legislates that we all have to be rich...more
jessi lee
Mar 09, 2008 jessi lee rated it 5 of 5 stars
Recommends it for: feminists
Recommended to jessi lee by: mr. strikeback
i love this book. i was just quoting it in my "cultural diversity" class in counseling school & now half the class promised to read it. it's the best feminist text i've read in years.

things that i'm grateful for: the term "transmisogyny"; the discussion of oppositional sexism; the sharp analysis of media representations of trans women & absence of trans men in the media; the discussion of the history of cis academics & scientists using/abusing transsexual people; the discussion of ci...more
Elizabeth S. Q. Goodman
My original review is below. My viewpoint has changed as trans activism have become much more personal to me, and this book is the best "education for trans allies" book that I know of. Furthermore, it's really good if you've ever felt constrained by social gender constructions. Seriously--it's a lot of good thinking about where stuff comes from and how to deal with it.

-----
A friend recommended it to me; one really has to process her ideas a lot before dissenting, I think. I say this not because...more
Jen
I read this book for a class about gender, specifically people that identify as transsexual or transgendered. I was fairly disappointed with this book on the whole. I have to say that it was very informative about a lot of topics that I, as someone who does not identify as transsexual, hadn't even been introduced to. However, my displeasure resulted from the tone of Serano's writing. I felt like the whole time she was explaining things, she was saying, "Oh, you cissexual people can NEVER underst...more
Emma Sea
Well. Phew. There's a lot in here. I have a lot of notes. It took me two months to read this book, because I'd get frustrated about her insistence on the biological origins of "femininity" and have to close the book. I'd really like to sit down with Julia over a bottle of wine and argue with her about that, because she makes some really interesting and valid points, but I deeply believe she's wrong.

But it's a clear, articulate, engaging, awesome book, which neatly unpicks the whole "woman in a...more
Carl Vine
This book opens with a quote by Audre Lorde and, near the end, it references bell hooks to explain living as people on the margins. The latter example was the only time a woman of color living in 'white America' is acknowledged. As somebody with a PhD in Biochemistry, who has access to the time to read the political works of Lorde and hooks, Serano has failed to interrogate whiteness as an identity construct of power that seeks to further its dominance on all. Failing to understand her whiteness...more
Teagan
Jul 15, 2012 Teagan rated it 5 of 5 stars
Recommends it for: Anyone who is, knows, or loves a trans person.
Picking up this book was such an empowering moment. For the first time in my 27 years of being transgender, I saw myself reflected properly in print. Julia Serano was like a more experienced, smarter, older sister, showing me that it is ok to be myself, whatever shape that is. She showed me that we're not crazy, broken or disgusting, and some of us are clever and funny and capable. She deconstructed media representations that have troubled me since childhood and explained the origin of stereotyp...more
Joel
I was entirely disappointed by this book. The author is a male-to-female-spectrum transsexual woman who is also an evolutionary biologist. Due to her scientific background, I was super excited to see what she had to say about her experiences and what she feels it's all about.

Instead, however, she uses the book to make exceptionally un-thought-out claims which lead her to wildy specious conclusions. I read a friend's copy of this and wound up marking it up so much that I'm not even sure the orig...more
Vaughn
Feb 13, 2009 Vaughn rated it 4 of 5 stars
Recommends it for: all "MTF spectrum" people, women's studies scholars, and especially MTF crossdressers
Shelves: gender, favorites
I read most of this book in one night. The theory half of the book was astute and well-argued, but it was the second half, chapters 10, 15, 17 19, that spoke to me. Alternately sent cold shivers down my back and had me marking up the margins with "Yes!", "**", et cetera. Just a very good book on trans misogyny unless part II personally connects with you. In which case.. Best. Book. Ever.
**Update
The preceding review is not really a critique in any way, just a reaction shortly after finishing th...more
simon
this book is a breath of fresh air in the world of trans theory/non-fiction. personal and political, truly feminist all the way down. great critique of the objectification of trans people and bodies in the growing world of academic queer/trans studies. strategically argues for understanding the struggles for gender liberation as a coalition of allies rather than trying to fit everyone under one trans "umbrella". muscled it into my grad queer theory class to offer some balance to all the non-tran...more
Shea
This book was recommended to me during a conference I went to for work back when I was with AmeriCorps, and I did not get a chance to read it until last week. I nearly forgot about the recommendation actually, but I stumbled across it while working and immediately decided to read it. Serano tackles two major issues in this book: 1) "mainstream" feminism in society and 2) transsexualism in society. The former I was very acquainted with and recognized many of the authors that Serano talks about, a...more
Zoe
Jul 04, 2012 Zoe rated it 1 of 5 stars
Shelves: feminist, z
She's into the liberal subject, and I can't get behind that. It wasn't all terrible, but it does a lot of essentialism and demonstrates a lot of the flaws of identity politics. She dismisses performativity and construction but clearly doesn't understand the concepts, then obsesses over a real/artificial dichotomy which "makes sense" because she's trying to posit that trans women are women too, but doesn't make sense because real and artificial can't apply to gender (hence, we reach her goal but...more
Bryn
Jan 28, 2008 Bryn rated it 5 of 5 stars
Recommends it for: This is kind of required reading for anyone who wants to be my friend.
Shelves: gay-gay-gay
Yes yes yes yes yes. Finally.
ellen
I am still digesting this book, it's been a long time since I've read a feminist manifesto of sorts and it's taking me some time to wrap my head around it.

First and foremost I think voices like Serano's are incredibly important, to the feminist movement, the queer movement, and within mainstream society. I agree with the majority of what she has to say, about the nature of sexism and cissexual privilege, the ways in which trans voices and experiences are silenced, and how the fears and expectati...more
Carolyn
Really fantastic. In this book Julia Serano makes a series of, in my mind, exceptionally clear and persuasive arguments about gender expression, illuminating and demolishing the very problematic, deeply rooted notion that (to steal from the book's rear cover) "femininity is frivolous, weak and inherently inferior to maleness and masculinity." Her experiences as a trans woman inform much of this book but this book certainly isn't exclusively for trans people. I think this book deserves to be an e...more
Emily Cohen
Julia Serano is brilliant, as in, a scientist. Since it says transsexual in the title, then maybe some people don't want to read it. That's dumb. This book helps me understand a mountain of wtf. WTF why wasn't this required reading in my B.A. Julia uses like, smart, clear language that actually (sorry androgynous Judith Butler?) makes sense, and has like, you know, examples to back up her theory. Though this is HARD work to get through, because a) it's deep and b) all this internalized trans and...more
Imogen
This is totally the best book on transwoman stuf I've ever read, but a lot of it still didn't resonate with me- specifically her experience with hormones and their effects, how easy she found it to be appropriately gendered by other folks, and her experiences with the queer/trans community. Still though, totally badass and right on, for the most part, and I would totally recommend it to anybody who's ever wondered about the reality of being a transwoman.
Jim
Because I do spend time in my negative assessment of academic books and scholarly texts, I feel like I have to note that it is obvious that Serano has truly done the research in putting this book together. Her arguments are straightforward and logical, and the references are there to back up what she is saying. This book also functions as a great overview of the literature on transsexuality. It's also extremely accessible and not difficult at all to read.

Serano suggests that trans women are "ri...more
Heather K (dentist in my spare time)
88% price drop to $1.00 at Amazon US! 6/16/14!
A
Way behind on reading and reviews, so unfortunately this won't be too in-depth. What I can say:

I read this while also reading She's Not There, a book with a much more personal take on being transsexual. One might say that book, in its presentation as a transsexual person apart from the cliched narratives and drive of the author to be more authentic, is implicitly political. But Serrano's book puts its polemics front and center, using the personal as a part of its theory, as a political tool.

I li...more
Liz
this is a good, accessible primer on the intersection of misogyny and transphobia, and I found it pretty mind-expanding at the time I read it. Femmes of any gender will find something in it. I like that it focuses on both hegemonic/mainstream society and queer subcultures, and the way she unpacks the unthinking Queer fetishisation of particular lifestyles and identities is good and necessary. later complaints: the point of intersection of two or more oppressions will always be qualitatively diff...more
Angela
There's been a lot in the news recently about trans women, so reading "Whipping Girl" felt particularly topical. (one of those modelling reality shows features a trans woman this season, a trans woman just won a discrimination suit against the government, there was that "second most beautiful woman in new york" article...)

"Whipping Girl" fills a cultural void, providing those outside the transgender communities with vocabulary, some degree of understanding, and a counterpoint to cultural repres...more
Shawn
I've read quite a few books on [trans]gender politics over the years. Memoirs, political manifestos, research, etc. This book blows everything else I've read away in terms of clarity. Julia Serano has a very logical way of dissecting theories and trends into their most basic and fundamental parts. And she has a knack for observing the side effects of different theories and approaches to activism.

The unfortunate thing about Serano's style, in this book anyway, is that it can seem very combative,...more
Tamara K. W.
Feb 27, 2013 Tamara K. W. rated it 5 of 5 stars
Recommends it for: trans* women, transfeminists, feminists, friends and family of trans* women
Shelves: transfeminism
What can one say about this? It's transfeminist canon, originally, thoroughly, and significantly altering (if not framing singlehandedly in many ways) the discourse. There are a few problems (namely, the omnipresent binarism-by-default and unquestioning representation of gender as largely static), but overall, this is overwhelmingly EXCELLENT! The various pillars of cissexism, oppositional sexism, and the institutionalized transphobia that has nefariously been reflected in psychiatric 'gatekeepi...more
« previous 1 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 99 100 next »
topics  posts  views  last activity   
FABClub (Female A...: Whipping Girl (Monthly Memoir June '13) 10 21 Jan 15, 2014 11:59AM  
fMh: * Whipping Girl Introduction and Trans Woman Manifesto 17 57 Dec 11, 2012 07:58PM  
fMh: Whipping Girl Chapter 1: Terminology! 6 27 Dec 09, 2012 12:13PM  
fMh: Reading a book together? 6 34 Nov 24, 2012 11:31AM  
  • Nobody Passes: Rejecting the Rules of Gender and Conformity
  • Transgender History
  • Gender Outlaws: The Next Generation
  • Feminism FOR REAL: Deconstructing the Academic Industrial Complex of Feminism
  • GenderQueer: Voices From Beyond the Sexual Binary
  • Brazen Femme: Queering Femininity
  • Exile and Pride: Disability, Queerness, and Liberation
  • Trans Liberation: Beyond Pink or Blue
  • Yes Means Yes!: Visions of Female Sexual Power and A World Without Rape
  • Butch Is a Noun
  • Color of Violence: The INCITE! Anthology
  • Persistence: All Ways Butch and Femme
  • Whores and Other Feminists
  • Sexing the Body: Gender Politics and the Construction of Sexuality
  • Queer (In)Justice: The Criminalization of LGBT People in the United States
  • Colonize This!: Young Women of Color on Today's Feminism
  • Sex Changes: The Politics of Transgenderism
  • Queer Theory, Gender Theory: An Instant Primer
328504
Julia Serano is an Oakland, California-based writer, spoken word performer, trans activist, and biologist.
More about Julia Serano...
Excluded: Making Feminist and Queer Movements More Inclusive Take Me There: Trans and Genderqueer Erotica Trans/Love: Radical Sex, Love & Relationships Beyond the Gender Binary Best Sex Writing 2013: The State of Today's Sexual Culture

Share This Book

“It is offensive that so many people feel that it is okay to publicly refer to transsexuals as being “pre-op” or “post-op” when it would so clearly be degrading and demeaning to regularly describe all boys and men as being either “circumcised” or “uncircumcised.” 26 likes
“The hardest part has been learning how to take myself seriously when the entire world is constantly telling me that femininity is always inferior to masculinity” 21 likes
More quotes…