julia serano

Gender Focus Reads: Excluded by Julia Serano

photo of a hard copy of Julia Serano's "Excluded: Making Feminist and Queer Movements More Inclusive", with several post-its sticking outby Jarrah Hodge

I received a review copy of Julia Serano’s newest book Excluded: Making Feminist and Queer Movements More Inclusive last fall, and I knew it was going to be particularly important. Serano’s last book Whipping Girl: A Transsexual Woman on Feminism and the Scapegoating of Femininity has been a hugely impactful book for many trans* people and feminists and was even named the 16th most important feminist book of all time by Ms. Magazine.

Moving into 2014, it’s clear this book – and the discussions it provokes – are more necessary than ever. Last year saw more than 790 individuals and 60 organizations sign on to the Statement of Trans-Inclusive Feminism and Womanism, but it also saw trans people continuing to struggle – often without wholehearted feminist support – for acknowledgments of basic rights and freedom from violence. It saw the unjust imprisonment of CeCe McDonald, Vancouver Rape Relief invite an anti-trans speaker to their December 6 memorial event, and British media harassing trans teacher Lucy Meadows, leading to her suicide. And literally this past week, a similar event occurred when Grantland writer Caleb Hannan outed a trans woman, Dr. V., and published a cruel, misgendering article even after her suicide.

The continuing injustice and exclusion should unite us as feminist and queer activists, rather than dividing us, and Serano’s book considers how we can get there.

The first part of Excluded is a collection of Serano’s essays since Whipping Girl, outlining exclusion within feminist and queer movements, including femme and bisexual communities, and at events like the Michigan Womyn’s Music Fest:

“I realized right there at the lake what a mistake many women from Michigan make when they insist that trans women would threaten their safe space, destroying a rare place where they feel comfortable revealing their own bodies. Because there is never any safety in the erasing of difference, and no protection in the expectation that all women live up to certain physical criteria. The only truly safe space is one that respects each woman for her own individual uniqueness.”

The essays are particularly helpful for understanding the big picture if you haven’t read Whipping Girl or experienced the kind of discrimination she talks about first-hand.

The second part is new material introducing Serano’s proposals for creating inclusion. Serano states:

“One-size-fits-all approaches to gender and sexuality – whether they occur in straight male-centric mainstream, or within feminist and queer subcultures – inevitably result in double standards, where bodies and behaviors can only ever be viewed as either right or wrong, natural or unnatural, normal or abnormal, righteous or immoral…we should distance ourselves from these one-size-fits-all models, and instead embrace an alternative approach – what I call a holistic approach to feminism.”

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Gender Focus Reads: Whipping Girl by Julia Serano

by Jarrah Hodge

I’m a bit late to the party reviewing Julia Serano’s book Whipping Girl: A Transsexual Woman on Feminism and the Scapegoating of Femininity for Feminist Classics Book Club (it was April’s pick) but really wanted to cover it for the blog anyway since I think it’s a feminist must-read. Cass at FCBC said Whipping Girl “changed [her] entire understanding of the intersection of feminism, femininity, and trans identities”.  I had a similar experience.

Perhaps Serano’s most provocative argument is against women’s groups like the Michigan Womyn’s Music Festival, who create “women’s only spaces”, even occasionally including trans men while excluding trans women. She argues that feminism needs to embrace trans issues, specifically the issues of trans women since all our oppression is linked through a general scapegoating of femininity. She points out how reality shows focus more on trans women than trans men and particularly highlight the before/after pictures and videos of trans women putting on makeup. “We are ridiculed and dismissed,” Serano writes, “not merely because we ‘transgress binary gender norms’…but rather because we ‘choose’ to be women rather than men.”

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Posted on by Jarrah Hodge in Books, Feminism, LGBT 1 Comment