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

4.23  ·  Rating details ·  5,983 ratings  ·  495 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
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Dustfinger Yes! Definitely. It is really interesting conceptually and can tought me a lot about greater society at large.

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 ·  5,983 ratings  ·  495 reviews

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Sep 02, 2013 rated it really liked it
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
I loved this feminist book and learned so much from it. In Whipping Girl, Julia Serano, a lesbian transgender activist with a PhD in biochemistry, writes about how our society's fear of femininity leads to transmisogyny, transphobia, and various forms of sexism. She grounds her arguments in biology, sociological perspectives on gender, and her lived experiences as a trans woman. Serano integrates a wide range of viewpoints and writes in an intelligent, digestible, and compelling way. She address ...more
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
Jul 03, 2007 rated it it was amazing
Recommends it for: everyone
Shelves: non-fiction, queer
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.
Oct 18, 2017 rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
Anti-woman, anti-lesbian, not feminist. 👎🏻
Nov 22, 2012 rated it liked it
Shelves: non-fiction
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
Carl Vine
May 10, 2014 rated it did not like it
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
Aug 08, 2017 rated it did not like it
wildly self indulgent, often incoherent, manages to make some pretty colorful topics incredibly boring. odd and offensive takes on feminism. talks a lot and says very little worth refuting. i get it- you are very special and very smart. grateful to be finished reading this
Jan 07, 2014 rated it it was amazing
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
Sarah Cavar
Jan 07, 2019 rated it liked it
Shelves: 2019, queer-trans
A foundational, essential text for anyone in queer / trans / feminist studies — watch the terminology our generation considers second-nature be born before your very eyes. It’s illuminating to watch the ways in which Serrano has laid the groundwork for many of the talking points we take for granted in trans rights conversations today — her refutations of “socialization,” her clear and well-argued stance against transness-as-women-fetishism (an abhorrent stance backed by the psychiatric establish ...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
Emma Sea
Sep 02, 2013 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
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
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
jessi lee
Jan 31, 2008 rated it it was amazing
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 cis folks usin
I was lucky enough to be able to read the 2nd edition to Julia Serano's Whipping Girl. The original was published in 2007 and this 2nd edition was published just this year. I think it's important to note that the author herself points out in the Preface to the 2nd edition how much has changed since the book was published originally. That being said, I think it's probably best to get the newest available copy of this book because this is a topic that is important and yet so are the changes and cu ...more
Nov 10, 2008 rated it liked it
Recommends it for: all "MTF spectrum" people, women's studies scholars, and especially MTF crossdressers
Shelves: gender
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.
The preceding review is not really a critique in any way, just a reaction shortly after finishing th
Jul 15, 2012 rated it it was amazing
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
Nov 12, 2012 rated it really liked it
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
Sep 29, 2013 rated it really liked it
Shelves: fab-13
A heartfelt appeal to feminists to fight more for the right to be “feminine” – however each individual person defines that for herself. She makes a valid point that femininity has been almost universally derided, laughed at, and scorned. What is this but another form of misogyny? This does not mean that we have to accept society’s definition of what femininity consists of, or its sexualization of femininity. I am embarrassed to admit just how completely oblivious I was of all of the various poli ...more
Shreya Vikram
Revolutionary in its repeated insistence that the perceived inferiority of feminity to its masculine counterpart is the sole reason for gender-based discrimination, Whipping Girl is sometimes insightful, sometimes redundant, sometimes radical and always challenging.

It's been a long time since I've read- and enjoyed - a book that challenged my own beliefs so pointedly. I seem to have fallen squarely in the category of feminists who believe the concept of feminity and masculinity are as a whole c
Leta Blake
Dec 08, 2013 rated it it was amazing
I have lots of thoughts about lots of things in this book but this probably isn't the forum for them. Regardless, this book sums up a lot of my own feelings about misogyny and the role it plays in homophobia, transphobia, and sexism. It was informative in a bunch of other ways, helped clarify my own view of my subconscious gender (and it's probably not what you'd think if you know me). While there were some specific conclusions she came to (especially regarding the motivations of all cisgender p ...more
Jan 28, 2008 rated it it was amazing
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.
Sharad Pandian
This is a good book, if for no other reason, because it is an incredibly ambitious book. Julia Serano is a trans woman who’s also a biologist, and she offers a pretty comprehensive way to understand the current moment in trans politics. She’s insightful about representation, presents terms and explicit definitions to understand her views (eg: transmisogyny), and her own narrative is complicated and nuanced, while being accessible. On the downside, the book is littered with weak arguments, her po ...more
Lilia Ford
Mar 01, 2017 rated it it was amazing
I'd call this a must-read for everyone concerned about transsexual/transgender issues, feminism, and intersectionality. Beyond the ideas themselves, I loved how accessible this is: Serano conveys complex issues in a highly readable style, without dumbing stuff down. This is by necessity one woman's perspective, but much of Serano's writings concern the inherent and valuable diversity of perspectives, experiences, values and opinions. Also, because she is my age, Serano was able to help me make s ...more
Shea Ivy
Oct 07, 2007 rated it really liked it
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
Logan Hughes
Jan 26, 2020 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: righteous-rage, trans
It's deeply cathartic to read Julia Serano deconstruct and absolutely destroy pervasive myths and lies about trans people. I highlighted practically every line. Although this book was written over 10 years ago, and trans people have made significant strides in the past decade, this book still feels heartbreakingly fresh and relevant; I'd absolutely recommend this as a solid Trans 201 read for trans people and cis people with some understanding of trans, queer, or feminist topics. 

Serano focuses
Jan 25, 2008 rated it really liked it
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
Oct 03, 2016 rated it liked it
Shelves: books-i-own
I was far to confused by this book to be able to give it any more then 3 stars. I freely admit I was unable to comprehend a lot of what she was writing about. I couldn't keep up with the amount of words strung together I did not understand. I guess I could have just opened a dictionary eh.

That said, I still made my way through it simply unconcerned that there was some I wouldn't "get". There was a lot I did understand and it opened my eyes.

Some of this book I didn't simply "get" but rather I lov
Jun 02, 2016 rated it it was amazing
So much could be said about this book but I am at a loss of words.

This book is amazing. It is in no way the true "explanation to everything" but can open your eyes and view on gender and stereotypes.

If you truly believe in equality and have a desire to understand people this book is a must read. Its not some definitive text and a bit aged but it still holds kinda true it seems for a lot of people. Even if the focus lies on mostly male to female transgender people and the issues they face the boo
Jan 25, 2016 rated it really liked it
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 paragr
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Julia Serano is an Oakland, California-based writer, performer, biologist, and activist. She is best known for her 2007 book Whipping Girl: A Transsexual Woman on Sexism and the Scapegoating of Femininity, which readers of Ms. Magazine ranked #16 on their list of the “100 Best Non-Fiction Books of All Time.” Her other nonfiction books include 2013’s Excluded: Making Feminist and Queer Movements Mo ...more

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“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.” 51 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” 38 likes
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