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Female Masculinity

3.86 of 5 stars 3.86  ·  rating details  ·  1,278 ratings  ·  54 reviews
Masculinity without men. In Female Masculinity Judith Halberstam takes aim at the protected status of male masculinity and shows that female masculinity has offered a distinct alternative to it for well over two hundred years. Providing the first full-length study on this subject, Halberstam catalogs the diversity of gender expressions among masculine women from nineteenth ...more
Paperback, 329 pages
Published October 26th 1998 by Duke University Press Books (first published October 5th 1998)
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Emma Sea
Wow, fifteen years old. In many ways it’s kind of depressing that, in general, our culture hasn’t moved beyond a gender binary.

I always had three main peeves with Halberstam. One is zir insistence that “masculinity” is not a synonym for “men or maleness” (p. 13). Well, yes it bloody is. No matter how much we want to challenge language and forge reclaimings, masculinity is, in our culture, a synonym for maleness. Therefore as soon as one talks about female masculinity, one is talking about women/
Halberstam makes some generalizations about the slippage between butch dyke and FTM identity that come off as troubling (even though her blurring of butch/transman resonated strongly for me personally). Perhaps it was her style or her lack of "theory power" as writer, but I remember that her tone towards female masculinity - "trans guy, butch dyke, we're really all the same!" - bothered me at times. I did benefit, however, from her discussion about female masculinity and film.
Sara Jaye
Groundreaking, awesome, and unfortunately, subtly (and on occasion not-so-subtly) less than glowing about femmes! Get with it, people: you CAN glorify one identity without putting others down.
I think that part of the reason that I didn't love this book as much as I had hoped is because it's a bit outdated. It was published in 1998, and certainly the queer and gender equality movements have changed dramatically over the past decade. Had I read this book closer to when it had been written, it may have resonated with me more.

Female Masculinity is incredibly well-researched and includes a lot of fascinating information about the history of female masculinity. Several chapters focus on pr
To anyone in technical or hard science fields, "social science" is a contradiction at best, and sociology and queer studies are social science's less rigorous younger siblings. At one point near the beginning, Halberstam debates whether the more scientific approach to studying female masculinity is surveying people in a nonrandom way and subjectively interpreting the results--and here you say, OK, finally someone is rejecting this completely flawed methodology as legitimate research--or, wait fo ...more
Jamie Bernthal
It was hard to find an appropriate star rating, because this book was timely and important, and I like citing it, but at the same time it's disappointing and I don't like reading it. Halberstam is an excellent figurehead for queer theory, a genderf*cking barely academic professor who sometimes tries too hard to get down with the kids. She is famous for writing accessibly and for using unconventional primary sources - usually children's films and TV, which has led to wonderful lines in later book ...more
Given the fact that this book was published in 1998, Halberstam does a great job discussing masculinity among women, dykes, transsexual men. It stroke a chord with me when I read it.

Some don't like her operating of the language when discussing trans identity, but I think this was a result also of the time when the book was written - since then, the language and discourse has much progressed and Halberstam's subsequent book on transgender/transsexuality (2005, In a Queer Time and Place: Transgen
Kythera Anevern
Dec 28, 2011 Kythera Anevern is currently reading it
Shelves: lgbt
Thus far, this title is extremely heavy reading. Halberstam's style is brutally academic and dense (sometimes such that I wonder if there was a word count that the author was striving desperately to meet). It's rather off-putting to have to slog through such heavy-handed writing to try and get at a subject I'm desperately curious about, but I'm determined to finish this book.
Jess P
sometimes, (subversive) gender scholarship feels like drinking too much coffee: i know maybe i should slow down, but it just tastes too good!
Basically, "Where's my phallus?" Butch, please.
Emma Degrand
Tough reading. For realz. The book is dense and academic, although still accessible if you've got the time.

You can definitely see the gender-binary within the pages of this, despite the concept being about masculine women. As a co-worker put it, gender is "one hot mess", not a "spectrum", necessarily, as it tends to leave out asexual and intersex folks. Genderqueer, genderfuck, guydykes and girlfags are all rather left out of the equation with the spectrum concept.

Regardless of the tendency to
I only read the introduction to this book for my thesis, but I feel like there is a huge theoretical problem with this book. The closest Halberstam comes to defining masculinity is when she writes, "If masculinity is not the social and cultural and indeed political expression of maleness, then what is it?" She then spends much of the introduction attempting to uncouple masculinity and maleness (not that maleness is a stable or clear category upon which to build a definition anyway). So, if mascu ...more
Oct 12, 2011 Heather rated it 5 of 5 stars
Recommends it for: Gender and women's studies folks--must read
The cultural importance and impact of this book is obvious even from the number of reviews here, and the very recent dates of those reviews though this book was published in 1998. This book levies a strong critique against the ways that masculinity studies has concentrated all of their efforts on the power of white masculinity, in effect re-centering the white male middle-class body.

Halberstam has laid the groundwork in "Female Masculinity," to imagine bodies (and masculinities) in ways that pre
Three and a half stars. This book is important as a groundbreaking exploration within the sociological landscape. While some of the theories may be a bit forced (like the theory that female masculinity has heavily influenced the development of male masculinity--personally, I think many men are inclined to ignore, avoid, or attempt to render it invisible), the multifaceted and detailed analysis of female masculinities (plural) warrants serious consideration. Halberstam arcs through time, attempti ...more
Aug 14, 2010 K rated it 4 of 5 stars
Shelves: lgbtq
I want to start out by saying that I think this is a wickedly smart book. Halberstam's argument technique is to think of a counter-point before you even have a chance to voice it, and I think that's really powerful. This book is not only great queer theory, but also feminist theory and deal a lot with race issues in pop-culture/America, and I think I would have liked to see even more of that. Some problems, of course, but I don't think the point of theory is to be perfect, but to be read and to ...more
"The butch resists the position of becoming an object of scrutiny and returns the stare with hard resolve. In my introduction, I talked about the relay and looks between artist, viewer, and subject in the photographs of Grace and Opie, and in my chapter on queer cinema, I discussed the possibility of the butch gaze. This look, the look of a raging bull, the stare down, the challenge, lets the viewer know that this is the stage where this bull can rage, and though she can fight... she'd rather re ...more
Anne Paschke
Halberstam does an excellent job of writing a book which is academic in tone but readable. She chronicles female masculinity in both historical and contemporary manifestations, and deftly describes labels and supposedly monolithic identities as variable, contextual, intersectiional, and open to critical analysis. She references texts ranging from the scholarly to the popular (her reading of the movie Babe [yes, the pig one] as an example of denaturalized identity is fabulous) and as a result, my ...more
I think it leaves out none sexual female masculinities such as ambition, security of children (regular child safety), degrees of work related masculinity needed. The ability to be assertive in any situation. Finally we need to ask what is masculinity and does it belong in any specific gender category?

Sassafras Lowrey
Accessible theory that explores the variations of butchness and other women assigned folks who embody masculinity
I always feel full-to-bursting with thought provoking content by the end of a Halberstam book. This time, they've given me inspiration for my own exploration of masculinity.

This book is an affirming look at the history of contributions women have made to masculinity, an exploration of the fuzzy space between butches and trans men, and an unpacking of the complex narratives in our culture around female masculinity.

You can certainly find those who will detail for you the limitations of Halbersta
From a review I wrote for Women's Theory Class: Throughout her thoughtful and challenging project, Halberstam argues that masculinity should no longer be considered the domain of the mail middle-class body, but acknowledges, with Eve Sedgwick, how difficult it is to not presume an essential relation between masculinity and men. She concludes by saying that masculinity does not belong to men, has not only been produced by men and doesn't even properly express male heterosexuality. She argues that ...more
Kristen Ridley
I love this book. It's slightly outdated at this point, as a lot has happened in the queer world since it came out, but it remains the only serious (and accessible) work devoted to the topic of female masculinity. As much as there is to chew on in this book, it still feels a bit like a brief summary in places; there are some topics and ideas that I wish Halberstam had spent a lot more time exploring and unpacking. But in the end, wanting more is the greatest criticism I can make.
Amy P.
Halberstam's writing style at one point was not resonating with me. I am not a fan of a little theory and a lot of example. However, toward the end of this book I really got what she was doing and her theories became realizations. By the end of this book I knew what she was saying and agree that masculinity can exist for females irregardless of the binary male. This book is full of a well thought-out theory and Halberstam does a great job defending it.
I think this book is awesome!! It does lack in discussing the hierarchal understanding of butch females and female to male transexuals and it doesn't really challenge what masculinity assumes in opposition to femininity. However, I didn't really know there was alot of tension between the butches and the tranny's in the first place so that's ok.
Helpful in drawing my attention towards category-boundary cases as important signifiers of the structure of a category itself, rather than outliers. Actual analysis and cases chosen I found less illuminating, as far as gender goes. But I've yet to find anything much illuminating about gender, by any author.
Feb 20, 2014 Andi added it
Shelves: review
While I really enjoyed reading this text, I almost felt like even though Halberstam was saying that female masculinity should not be assumed as indicative of sexuality, that she still directly connected them as essential. But that also could have been me. Loved it anyway!
Oct 11, 2007 Jesse rated it 3 of 5 stars
Recommends it for: academics.
Absolutely important book that is the base for many gender studies and studies about butches and FtMs. Conflates female masculinities in ways I'm not entirely comfortable with. But important read and amazing work that sets a foundation for many future works.
This book reads like a PhD disertation, which in hindsight, it probably was. The topic is really interesting but unfortunately the language is not accessible at all to the reader. A pity really, because there are so few books written about this topic.
ONTD Feminism
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It's been a while since I read this, but it was a very interesting overview in how ideas of masculinity have been co-opted by cis and trans women in the LGBT community.
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Judith "Jack" Halberstam is a Professor of English and Director of The Center for Feminist Research at the University of Southern California.
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