Yes Means Yes! edited by Jaclyn Friedman and Jessica Valenti
This week makes it a month since I decided to forsake Atlanta for Denver. And in those four weeks, I’ve been harassed on the street more than I ever have been in my life so far. (Not that I think Atlanta is particularly superior in that regard, only that being at a women’s college was a very different context. Although I will say that there is a Hollaback Atlanta and not a Hollaback Denver.) There’s nothing like waiting to cross the street after a long day at work and getting honked at, whistled at, or have someone grab their crotch at you to remind you that, by daring to be female and in public, your very corpse is considered public domain by an alarming amount of men. Between that and the success of Robin Thicke’s “Blurred Lines” (which I am not linking to), this summer has given me a fresh handle on the concept of rape culture.
It’s the last Sunday of the year, so you know what that means. Either I’m getting stingier or this year hasn’t been the best reading year for me—while last year’s year in review post was agonizing to curate, I did this year’s in a few hours. Hopefully, 2013 will ring in a higher batting average for my reading. But it’s not that I haven’t enjoyed my reading this year; I definitely have, especially my nonfiction reading—I mean, I discovered Tom Wolfe this year, so that is a definite plus. As ever, this list is culled from what I read in 2012, not what was released in 2012 (although I read more recent titles this year than in past years).
Whipping Girl by Julia Serano
In my middle school health class, there was a day that was going to be “boys versus girls”—a dialogue, if you will, between the two genders. I, of course, butched up as much as I could under my mother’s supervision and spent the entire class period siding with the boys; I remember rocking back and forth going, “Yeah, I don’t get that, why do you do that?”. I cringe to look back on it now, because it’s sort of the moment that captures how sexist I was and how much I hated femininity. To be fair, part was backlash against being forced to present against my own gender presentation (I’m about fifteen degrees butcher than the average Jane), but a lot of it was exactly what Julia Serano discusses in several of the essays in Whipping Girl—hatred and fear of the supposedly mystical and artificial feminine.
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.