Recomended Reading: Whipping Girl



I recommend this book (Whipping Girl: a Transexual Woman on Sexism and the Scapegoating of Femininity by Julia Serrano) all the time.  If I know you IRL there is an approximately 70% chance I have recommended this book to you. So it only made sense in general to have it as my first recommendation for this blog.  However, beyond my love for this book, there is another reason that I am starting with it, which is that it is an extremely important book for any lolita or femmy sort of person to read.  Here Serrano makes a powerful case for the idea that the disdain and contempt people within and without feminist or queer communities have for things girly reflects not the inherently oppressive nature of these things, but negative associations and stereotypes of woman.  Simply, we perceive fashion, makeup, high heels, etc as frivolous, silly, and done exclusively for the sexual gratification of men, because we believe those things about women:
We need to recognize that anyone who assumes that femininity is inherently weak, passive, and only exists to appease men is merely promoting a male-centric view of femininity.
By [talking about] empowering femininity, I don’t mean we should all be more feminine. I’m saying we should strip from it all its negative connotations. The argument that there is something inherently contrived and passive and subordinate about expressing yourself femininely leaves women in a double bind. -- Quoted in this interview with Julia Serrano (which serves as a pretty good introduction to, or even condensation of, the book).

Because lolita is a hyper-feminine style of dress I have noticed many of the negative assumptions about femininity bleed into stereotypes about lolita fashion.  One of the strangest, to my mind, is that lolitas dress this way to please men.  Now, in addition to the fact that a cursory examination of the lolita tumblr and blog-o-sphere should reveal that a pretty significant chunk of the community (at least in the west) is not that way inclined, when's the last time you overheard a groups of dudebros talking about how sex-ay high-waisted blouses, booty-obscuring silhouettes, and bloomers are?  What's that? Never you say?  Yeah, me neither.  Where, then is this idea of doing it for the menz coming from?  I think it's from the idea that feminine gender expression is always a tool women use to get men, and never something a woman really just wants to wear or do.

The idea that femininity is only ever preformed to please men includes within it, even among people who would never cotton to such an idea, the implication that women exist only for men.  The idea that preforming femininity makes one weak implies that women are weak, that they can only gain strength, independence, and self-determination by becoming more like men.  I call bull shit, and so does Julia Serrano, but perhaps more eloquently and with better research.

2 comments:

Tenebris In Lux said...

I doubt my library has a copy, but I will look into this.

People usually guess or have to ask what gender I am (I dress as gender neutral most of the time) when I think: does it really matter? The men who give me the "ew" look clearly do not know the depth or the reason behind it. Not that I'm trans-gendered, but sometimes my 100% female anatomy feels alien.

Sounds like a good book. Will have to hunt for it.

Sabayon said...

I always find it interesting (in a sad and terrible way) when people become hostile or worried when they can not determine the gender of a random stranger they have never met and will probably never see again. I have seen this so often when hanging around my more gender ambiguous friends and absolutely no one who has this reaction can give a reason why they need to know this person's gender, how they are harmed by not being able to categorize a total stranger.

If I can put on my overly helpful librarian hat for a second, if you click on the link in the post it has a link to worldcat which will automatically tell you what libraries in your area have the book, and even though so few people use it, most public libraries have inter-library loan agreements so I am sure you can get it.

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