ilianasdarkblues's Reviews > Girl, Woman, Other

Girl, Woman, Other by Bernardine Evaristo
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really liked it

TW: mentions of deadnaming & misgendering

This is not a review of Girl, Woman, Other by Bernardine Evaristo but rather a discussion about the non-binary rep in the book! I really loved the book, but the non-binary and trans representation was harmful.

Firsts things first, the non-binary rep shouldn’t have even been there in the first place. Including an AFAB (assigned female at birth) non-binary character in the same book as 11 women normalizes viewing AFAB non-binary people as women. This is transphobic. The addiction of a non-binary character in a book about womanhood (as the Goodreads blurb suggests) is not inclusive, it’s deeply harmful. The author could have easily replaced Morgan with a trans woman, but the only trans woman included in the book was a side character. None of the 11 women main characters were trans. Not one. Why put a non-binary character where they don’t belong, instead of making sure the stories of trans women are in the spotlight?

The second thing I want to address is the title. You know when a website/app/whatever asks you to submit your gender and the options are usually: male, female, other? I’m guessing Evaristo tried to do something similar with the title but here’s the thing. Male and female are genders (actually sexes, but in this context I’m talking about gender identity) while the words Girl and Woman describe a person. Gender identity can be “other”, but a person can’t. It’s alienating. Non-binary people are not others.

Let’s get into the deadnaming . The author refers to Morgan before they came out (to themself and others), by using their deadname and the wrong pronouns. I cannot even begin to explain how harmful and unacceptable this is. A trans person’s deadname can be the cause of a lot pain and trauma and you should NEVER use it when referring to them. But Evaristo normalizes deadnaming, normalizes disrespecting trans* folks.

As if that wasn’t enough, outdated terms like “born female/male” and “preferred pronouns” were continuously used by the trans* characters themselves and are passed off as correct. Not every trans person knows the best terms to use in relation to their identity and that’s completely fine. But coming from a cis author, who was supposed to research before writing a book?? Why were these terms even used? They just perpetuate stereotypes and make it harder for trans* individuals to gain the visibility they deserve!
Now, as I mentioned before, there is only one trans woman in the story and the representation is not great either. I’m not really qualified to talk about this one but I will mention that there were several questionable comments, one in particular intended as humor. (possibly?)

The actual rep itself wasn’t bad, at least reading it from my perspective. We follow Morgan from childhood to adulthood, as they discover and embrace their gender identity. My issue with the rep lies in its very existence and the way it was handled, rather than in the enby character.

All of the above bring me to this:
After reading the book, it’s only natural that readers and reviewers will: 1.view Morgan as a woman, 2.consider trans* people as “other”, as different and 3.deadname/misgender Morgan in their reviews and possibly other trans* characters/people too. See how much harm it’s doing?? That’s not to say readers don’t have part of the blame for this too, considering, you know, they are their own person and respecting trans* people is basic human decency. The amount of low key (or outright) transphobic reviews I’ve read is ridiculous. No, this isn’t the story of “12 women” and no, you can’t refer to all the characters in the book as a whole by saying “the women of the story”. I know everyone makes mistakes, misgendering someone can be one of them. But for how long will we keep justifying mistakes for the sake of cis’ people comfort?? I don’t want your shitty apology, I want to see you do better.

In my opinion, the represantion did more bad than good in this case and we would have been better off without it. I’ve been thinking about all of this for days and I truly don’t want to believe that the author is that ignorant and clueless about trans* issues. But the alternative is way worse so...
Sorry for the Ted Talk, thank you if you reached this far.
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Reading Progress

June 3, 2020 – Shelved as: to-read
June 3, 2020 – Shelved
March 11, 2021 – Started Reading
March 14, 2021 – Finished Reading

Comments Showing 1-2 of 2 (2 new)

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Read By RodKelly Asking sincerely how you came to a four star rating when your review is mostly a negative critique of the author’s handling of non-binary and trans representation?

ilianasdarkblues Read By RodKelly wrote: "Asking sincerely how you came to a four star rating when your review is mostly a negative critique of the author’s handling of non-binary and trans representation?"

This isn’t a review (I mention so in the first paragraph), but my thoughts on a specific part of the book! The non-binary character only appeared in one chapter and I thought it was unfair to rate it under 4 stars, considering I really enjoyed the rest of the book! I don’t typically cut off many stars when it comes to bad queer rep, I’m kind of used to it. Your question is making me reconsider though.😂

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