Traditional masculinity and the policing of it thereof—it’s weird, toxic, misogynistic, and homophobic. No wonder queer lady me has a hard time grokking it. Redefining (or, rather, broadening the scope of) masculinity in the same way it redefined femininity, I think, is feminism’s next greatest challenge. And that’s where today’s features fit in—a transwoman examines how women and femininity are dismissed by our society as a whole, and an academic examines gender roles and views towards sexuality in high school.
Whipping Girl by Julia Serano
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 toward femininity shape our societal attitudes toward trans women, as well as gender and sexuality as a whole. Serano’s well-honed arguments stem from her ability to bridge the gap between the often-disparate biological and social perspectives on gender. She exposes how deep-rooted the cultural belief is that femininity is frivolous, weak, and passive, and how this “feminine” weakness exists only to attract and appease male desire. In addition to debunking popular misconceptions about transsexuality, Serano makes the case that today’s feminists and transgender activist must work to embrace and empower femininity in all of its wondrous forms.
This came to me by way of Melissa over at The Feminist Texan [Reads]—in her review of F ’em!, she mentioned that it was, essentially, required reading. It looks amazing.
Heather Palmer at American University absolutely loved it and how it broadened the dialogue about transwomen’s issues; Sandra Alland, writing for Xtra!, enjoyed it as well, especially Serano’s accessible but precise language (although she seems to think Serano invented “cisgender”, which was coined in the 1990s).
Whipping Girl was published on May 14, 2007.
Dude, You’re a Fag by C. J. Pascoe
High school and the difficult terrain of sexuality and gender identity are brilliantly explored in this smart, incisive ethnography. Based on eighteen months of fieldwork in a racially diverse working-class high school, Dude, You’re a Fag sheds new light on masculinity both as a field of meaning and as a set of social practices. C. J. Pascoe’s unorthodox approach analyzes masculinity as not only a gendered process but also a sexual one. She demonstrates how the “specter of the fag” becomes a disciplinary mechanism for regulating heterosexual as well as homosexual boys and how the “fag discourse” is as much tied to gender as it is to sexuality.
I don’t get teenage boys. The way they construct their masculine identities and play them out fascinate me from an anthropological perspective, especially since the masculinity they pattern themselves on is often so narrow and often defined against what’s perceived as feminine and, as the title very vividly points out in its use of the slur, what’s perceived as gay. I think this popped up on Feministing, but I can’t find the post.
Thomas at Yes Means Yes thoroughly enjoyed it, although he notes that the introduction, which makes sure everyone’s got a working knowledge of the theory, can stop the reader in their tracks. Hugo Schwyzer heartily recommends it.
Dude, You’re a Fag was published on June 4, 2007.