Whipping Girl: A Transsexual Woman on Sexism and the Scapegoating of Femininity

One of the things I hate most is when people talk about shit they know nothing about as though they’re experts. We’ve all witnessed it. And Julia Serano is a woman after my own heart as far as this goes. Because there are certain experiences that need to be lived in order to be properly and fully understood. Here she is calling out all the so-called “experts” on gender and transsexuality for their ignorance and hypocrisies, and you can feel her anger.

So is this a book by an angry lesbian feminist? Yes. But the more you pay attention the more you’ll realize that this is not a bad thing. In fact, it’s very much a good thing. Because one thing I didn’t expect this book to be was sad. To learn about all the ignorance this subject is steeped in and the very real negative effects this has on the great many people living it day in and day out is nothing if not upsetting. If the revelations herein don’t upset you, then I have to wonder how much you really care about this subject, and why then you decided to pick up this book. It should also be said that issues of feminism affect men, and likewise issues of transsexuality affect cis people. We’re all part of this world together and we don’t live in a vacuum.

This is a relatively new kind of gender-studies book in that it’s written by a feminist lesbian trans woman. This is a look not from the outside in, but from the inside out from someone who is in a position to experience discrimination, often perhaps unintentional, due to her inclusion in three different groups. To use the language of Hubbub‘s Emily Cockayne, she is an inpert, as opposed to an expert, as she relates to us her knowledge from first hand experience. She’s incredibly intelligent and makes her points very well, but she’s also completely unashamed of herself, and her personality – and anger – reverberate through the pages. This woman has earned her attitude and the right to speak authoritatively on this subject, and it’s for this reason that I really love this book.

Not only is this book heavily saturated in personality and real-life experience, but it brings to mind issues that many of us have probably not considered, as well as how these issues effect all of us as a whole. Julia Serano opens up and allows us to take a deeply personal look into her life as she experiences it and experienced it during the various stages that she went through on her journey to becoming the person she is today. This might sound especially appealing to those very curious people who want a look into something somewhat “taboo,” but while it’s definitely interesting, it also has a way of deeply humanizing this subject, and in the process showing us how very important it is for this to be done. Julia Serano is not only incredibly smart, but incredibly brave, not just in that she has been extraordinarily true to herself but in that she’s offered us the chance to see things from her own perspective in such an unashamedly honest way. By the end of the book you’ll no doubt see femininity and LGBT* issues from an entirely new perspective, and this to me is what makes this book an utter success.

Have a look at the video below for a discussion with Julia about her book.

Why I Only Read Men’s Magazines

When I was a kid, trips to the library with my dad were routine. When I didn’t go with him he would always come home with a big stack of magazine back issues, some for him, some for me. His picks for himself were Men’s Health, Esquire, and the odd GQ. His picks for me were Cosmo, or Elle. With a side by side comparison easily available, it was clear to me which pile was superior. Though by then my opinion was already pretty firmly established.

My school library in junior high and high school always had a selection of Seventeen available. It was the only thing they had that wasn’t about cars or computers, two things I didn’t particularly care about, and when you’re trying to work on your algebra and write papers in French, there isn’t always time for good literature. So I always grabbed the Seventeens, and always walked out of the library a little more pissed off than I was when I walked in.

It’s not that they were completely without value. I enjoyed the article about the chick who played Topanga back in 1998, I guess. But even to my 15 year old mind, there were already some problems that started to really stand out. Every Traumarama had to do with something happening in front of the contributor’s crush. Obviously you don’t want the boy you like in junior high to see you with, say, a period stain on your pants or something, but the message I got from this being the only person you could be embarrassed in front of was that pleasing boys was incredibly important. It didn’t matter if you looked stupid in front of your teachers. It was all about the boys. This was at a time when I was being told what to wear by my friends based on what the boys would like, and I was told that I shouldn’t have turned down a date from a really nice guy I just wasn’t attracted to because it would have made me popular. I do regret not saying yes, but that’s because he seemed like a great guy. The admiration of others had absolutely nothing to do with it.

Then there were the hair and makeup tutorials. Sure, I wanted to learn about those things, and I still do! But apparently I can’t do this or that hairstyle unless I have some Bumble and Bumble heat protectant spray or a Conair flat iron. Well, I was a kid and I worked at McDonald’s, so nevermind then. Feeling pretty must just not have been in the cards for a broke-ass like me. Then there was the article I saw about scooter safety. Remember those? They were huge. But the thing is, teenage girls didn’t ride them. Young boys did. I had one, but I didn’t ride it very far. My crush would have laughed at me (sarcasm). It immediately struck me that the people writing this magazine knew absolutely nothing about their audience, besides the fact that they were incredibly insecure, and this was an easy and profitable thing to exploit. That had to be how they got away with all the advertising not so subtly hidden in every article they had. But it doesn’t take a genius to know that. They even published an article called “The Pretty Disease,” and I was relieved to read all the angry letters to the editor a month later from girls intelligent enough to know that when it comes to diseases, looks are not exactly something you should be focusing on.

I don’t remember quite when I noticed that it wasn’t just Seventeen treating women and girls this way, that it was all women’s magazines. It was a gradual thing. But it got pretty damn repetitive to see that Cosmo seemed to be exclusively about sex tips to drive your man wild and the big story on Women’s World was always how someone lost 100 pounds, with a cupcake recipe coming in second. Every. Single. Issue. I had to mention out loud at one point “Is this really all women care about? Really?” to be met with fervent agreement from an older woman standing in front of me. So I’m glad I’m not the only one who notices something is wrong here. I’m not saying that there’s no value in wanting to feel attractive. But why must this be to the utter abandonment of all else? Why must we only feel attractive when we’re allowing someone else to profit? It makes us feel bad, and it gives us absolutely no credit.

It was for this reason that I never even touched the women’s magazines my dad brought home for me. I grabbed Men’s Health, full of cool articles about the body, even when it’s not being used for sex. I grabbed Esquire, for the thought-provoking pieces on people who influence culture in our society, no matter how good-looking they may or may not be. There were book reviews, cocktail recipes, and pieces on science and advancing your career, things you just never see in a women’s magazine, as if  “chicks just don’t care about that stuff.” And sure, I occasionally picked up a GQ because the men were hot, but at least it wasn’t telling me that I needed to buy an overpriced lipstick to appeal to them.

The men’s magazines of course have their fair share of information on how to appeal to women. But at least they’re well-rounded. The articles never seem to rob men of their dignity, and there’s plenty in there about building up a strong sense of self. How to be classy, how to be a decent person, how to take care of your body, and how to be a success in your career. How to dress well just for the sake of dressing well and not becoming a person of walmart. Instead of getting the impression of the target market as being vapid, insecure man/woman-chasers, I get the impression that these are some classy motherfuckers. These are people I actually want to have a conversation with. These are people I want to get to know, not just fuck. Remember that what you surround yourself with has a pretty strong influence on who you are. Which would you rather be?

Family

Everywhere I turn I’m being confronted with the idea that a family isn’t a family if it doesn’t have kids in it. Mostly people saying “I can’t wait to have a family” when what they really mean is having kids. A friend of mine from work once went to a “family party” with his own family, only to realize once he got there that what it really meant was it was a party for kids.

I find this insulting on two levels. First of all, are you saying your husband, wife, parents, brothers, sisters, cousins etc aren’t family when you say “I can’t wait to have a family”? What are they to you then? Oh, they’re not your “own” family? YES THEY ARE. What you mean to say is you don’t have kids. Don’t undermine your family because they are not your children.

I also find this insulting because these people are also implying that I don’t have a family. What exactly would you call Mike then? We’re married. Sounds like family to me. I also have pets that I love dearly, three parents, four grandparents, a brother, and a ton of aunts, uncles, and cousins. I’m very close to my cousin Jenna and I love her to death. And they want to say (imply, at least) that I don’t have a family because I don’t have kids? I have two words for them. FUCK YOU.

I have a family thank you very much. A big one. A great one. So does everybody, kids or not. You have a right to take your place at the family table. You’re just as good as anyone else. Your life isn’t about to begin, it already has. You are loved, and that’s good enough for me.

Mike, with his brother and sister.

Why I Don’t Want Kids

This is an unusual sort of post for this blog, but being childfree is a huge part of my life. I feel a responsibility to share this because way too many women continue to have kids for the sole reason that “that’s just what you do.” I want it to be known that this is a choice, an absolutely valid one, and for many people the best one. I often get asked why I don’t want kids, and it’s hard for me to answer besides saying “every reason there is.” What are those reasons? I’m going to be really blunt. But this is my decision. My opinions do not represent the childfree community as a whole. I also don’t disrespect parents. Just people who became parents for the wrong reasons, and parents who are bad at it.

On with it.

1. Tokophobia. The idea of pregnancy and childbirth is a huge turnoff, and it actually scares me. I’ve had nightmares. I won’t feel comfortable unless either Mike or I become sterilized. I would go through almost any means for this to happen.

2. The environment. The world is disgustingly overpopulated. Quite honestly I feel that having kids when there are over 7 billion people on this earth fighting for resources is just plain irresponsible .

3. I hate kids. It’s a negative stereotype of the childfree that they hate kids, but in my case it happens to be a true one. This does not mean I want to hurt them. It does mean I find them for the most part to be stupid, annoying, and boring, and I’d rather not be around them. I’ve met a small handful of kids I can think of whose company I enjoyed.

4. I can’t afford it. Kids are really insanely expensive. Having the attitude of “it’s ok, the government will give me money for them” is the same as saying “Why work? I’ll just go on welfare, sucka!” and one I find deeply disturbing. It’s a myth that childfree people have a ton of money. I think the majority of people cannot legitimately afford having kids. “Making it work” doesn’t count. If you are constantly in need of a sale and pinching pennies wherever you can, life sucks, and that also means it sucks for your kid. More so, because they didn’t choose this, they don’t understand this, and other kids are cruel. I don’t mean you need to be rich, but at least have enough money to avoid them going through junior high in an oversized “Just Say No” tshirt like I did. College alone is way too much. If I could afford that I would enroll myself. But I can’t, and neither could my parents. There goes a meaningful future.

5. I would be a shitty parent. I have a dog and if I didn’t believe that animal abuse is wrong I would have strangled her long ago, and that’s just a dog. Any kid of mine would suffer from neglect, resentment, and possibly emotional abuse. I’m not selfish enough to put a kid through that.

6. I’m not selfish. Go play in traffic if you call me that, unless you’ve adopted. I believe in adoption. Way too many kids out there need families while people who want to be parents are too busy replicating themselves instead of helping them. Newsflash: Your genetics are not superior. Who do you think you are?

7. Because I’m not selfish. By this entry I mean that I will not have a kid so that it can have a job to do to serve me. I will not have a kid just so I have someone who MIGHT take care of me when I’m old. I will not have a kid to “fix” my marriage. I will not have a kid to be fulfilled. If an adult cannot do these things on their own then they have a lot of growing to do still as people, and getting a baby to do it is pure stupidity.

8. kids are harmful to marriages. This is a proven fact. My marriage is great, and I’d like to keep it that way. I married Mike because I actually really enjoy spending time with him, not so I could treat him like a sperm donor.

9. I am very easily grossed out.

10. I have shame. I’m not willing to spread my legs and shit on a bed in front of a room full of people.

11. I have much better things to do than changing diapers, buying obnoxious toys, and cutting nail polish out of the carpet. Mainly educating myself, sharing knowledge, reading, writing, traveling, having other experiences. Having a great career. Contributing to the world.

12. My kid, as any, would be much less likely to become a doctor than a garbage man, sandwich artist, or criminal.

13. Aside from all the resource hogging, each human being in a first world country produces over 24 tons of CO2 in their lifetime. Then there’s their kids, and their kids, and their kids. It’s amazing how much damage a person can do.

14. Shitmykidsruined.com

15. Because I don’t feel it’s some super special magical thing. Even bugs have babies. What’s really special is using your brain and your unique talents to better serve the world.

16. Five minutes of Treehouse makes me lose my goddamn mind. And according to modern parents, kids are the all mighty rulers of the remote control 24/7. Mommy and daddy aren’t even allowed to watch the news or the precious babies will cry for the Wiggles.

17. Other parents. Have you seen the episode of The Simpsons where Marge is trying to satisfy the other moms at play dates and they freak out and catch an ambulance when the kids drink out of a cup with a number 7? That. Kids are overprotected and worshiped instead of actively molded into intelligent, kind, productive members of society. Kids should not be the boss of their parents, and this is what’s happening in modern families. They’re coddled, given their way, and awarded trophies just for showing up.

18. Other kids. Kids who get trophies just for showing up. Self-involved selfish little brats. They all treat each other so shockingly badly. I don’t want anyone to go through that hell. It was bad enough when I was a kid and there was still some tiny sense of human decency left. I got teased and made fun of in a brutal way, but nobody ever texted my naked picture to the whole school or threw me into a dumpster.

19. Non-parents have a lot more time and a little more money to volunteer and donate to worthy causes. One day I would like to be a tutor (although even volunteer tutors these days seem to need teaching degrees, so the hunt is not going well) or big sister.

20. It doesn’t last 18 years. It lasts FOREVER. I think a lot of parents would be better at it if they went into it actually acknowledging this.

If you’ve made it this far without being offended, thanks for being awesome 🙂 I’d like to close with a quote from https://childfreefeminist.wordpress.com

“It means being free of the dogma of a historic, ancient patriarchal society that believes women are only as good as their wombs. It means being free to choose what you want in your own life–whether that is to be a farmer in Singapore or a doctor in London. Being childfree means being free to do what you want with your time, your money and your body. It means being free of the silly politics of parenting. It means being free of being mindless consumerists with children products being shoved down your throats. It means being free of worrying about pedophiles, drugs, teenage pregnancy, teen suicide, bullying and another person’s political and moral choices that are beyond your control. It means being free to think for yourself.”

What’s Wrong With Sexy Halloween Costumes?

This is a question I’ve been asking myself for a long time. Everyone knows I despise sexy halloween costumes almost more than anything else. I really really do. But when I was asked this question for a feminist podcast I was confronted with the opinion that my strong distaste for this might be decidedly unfeminist. Shouldn’t women be allowed to express themselves sexually however they want? Isn’t it part of the problem that this sort of thing is so stigmatized and negatively labelled “slutty”?

Well I was reading an article on the lingerie addict and it made a totally great point. If you’re wearing your sexuality as a costume, doesn’t that say something about us as a society? You’re not owning your sexuality, you’re using it as a one night a year disguise. If you truly own your sexuality, you should be free to express it every night of the year. Dressing up sexy only on halloween turns the whole thing into a joke, and I feel like this does the opposite of what many feminists think it does. You just don’t dress up as yourself for a halloween costume. Sexuality isn’t supposed to be put in such a ridiculous light. I’m not saying you need to take it super seriously all the time, but this is just giving the wrong impression. We shouldn’t need to use halloween as an excuse to express this part of ourselves. I think this is contributing to why “slutty” is seen as a bad thing. I hope I’m being eloquent enough to get my point across here, I’m not always so sure I am.

The second thing I want to mention once again is what I’ve been saying forever. Halloween is supposed to be a scary time. If you fill it with strippers dressed like bumblebees, you’re taking all the fun out. Well, the kind of fun halloween is supposed to be anyway. Scary stuff is awesome. Fear is a very primal emotion, and it’s exciting. And if you really insist on the whole “sexy” part of it, it can even be a powerful aphrodisiac. If you take the scary out of halloween, what exactly are you left with? This holiday is going to die. Why would you want the most awesome day of the year to die??

What I propose is not my idea. I read it on another blog years ago. But it’s that we separate this whole business into two holidays. If women really feel the need to be all shy and demure 364 days of the year, let there be some kind of sexy holiday in the heat of august. Not Valentine’s day, but just a day where you can ho it up like nobody’s business. Sure, I’d take a bite of that. Let your inner slut shine. Then give halloween back to it’s spooky roots. This would be better for everyone.

But really, don’t be ashamed to express your sexuality in appropriate ways all year round. The ways to do this are so many I can’t even begin to get into it. But let me just say that you can ooze sexuality every minute of the day without looking trashy or inviting a sexual harassment lawsuit. You don’t have to show a lot of skin, you don’t have to bump and grind. It’s about your essence and how you feel about and carry yourself, and if you want to wear stilettos and a micro mini out to da club on the weekends do it up. Just don’t be stupid and freeze your ass off doing it outdoors in a Canadian late October.

Diversity in Marketing

Have you noticed that a lot of companies are claiming to be trying to broaden the definition of beauty lately by using girls about 2 sizes bigger than their normal girls? Have you seen all the debates about what does and does not accomplish this fact? I agree with most of what’s being said. Showing a beautiful size 6 girl and calling her “real” because she’s not a size 2 is a big load of hypocrisy. But you know what else? I know what I’m saying might be controversial here, but…

It’s not their job to promote beauty ideals. Should it be? Maybe. But my response to all of this hoopla is simply that while a size 10 woman with a B-cup and tattoos might be a mighty fine woman, it doesn’t sell products. In case anyone missed this part, companies of all kinds exist to make money. That’s it. Whether or not you agree with what is and is not beautiful about the women in their ads, the fact is that a majority of people would rather aspire to look like these “not-real” (barf) women, and therefore aspire to buy the product and spend their money. That’s the job of a business. Sell shit. Not make you feel better about yourself. Because if you feel better about yourself you don’t need them. No money is made, they have no jobs, and then they can feel bad about themselves while making for a pretty shit economy.

Now you could of course argue that it’s better marketing to be able to see yourself in the product. You should be able to relate to this model in some way in order to see it as being the right product for you. This is true, but only to an extent. Why? Because you will never look anything like 99.99% of the models you see. You’ll maybe find one or two ever, if any at all. This goes for whether you’re a porn-tastic blond or an average older lady sitting behind a desk all day. Everybody is different. A lot different. So sure a few women might see this model and say “wow, she looks like me, and with this product she looks fantastic,” but the majority of women will STILL think “I look nothing like that so what’s the point?” They can’t please everyone, but they have to do their best by appealing to as many people as possible, and so this means finding what is the most universally considered attractive. If you don’t agree with what they find attractive, well, I assure you they have years of college training and experience that will tell you it’s working despite your opinion. So they’re going to continue. They’re going to keep making money while you keep complaining and basing how you feel about yourself on some random touched-up shot.

I’m not saying you should feel bad about yourself for the sake of filling someone else’s pockets, quite the contrary. I’m just playing devil’s advocate here and reminding you all where these advertisers are coming from and why they continue to do this. Now if they start promoting anything besides the typical supermodel look, sure, you might think, “gee, that company has integrity. Good on them!” But will you buy their crap? Chances aren’t quite as good unless some part of your subconscious still wants what they have, because it thinks they’re better than you. It’s YOUR job, with the assistance of family and friends etc, to keep your self-esteem in check. Not Victoria’s Secret. If you let a few advertisements destroy your self image then a smaller butt isn’t going to fix it.

TL:DR: I fully agree with what you all have to say about the hypocrisy of all this etc. But the thing is, it’s not really the point. These companies exist to make money, and they can only do that by making you feel on some level that their models and the lifestyle they promote are better than yours. That’s how all of this works. If you think you’re just fine without their stuff then you won’t buy it. Sure it’s not sunshine and rainbows, but it’s the harsh, cold world we live in. Self-esteem is your own responsibility.

Why I Kept My Last Name

I’m married. Contrary to what some people might assume, I didn’t marry my brother. I just kept my last name. To me it’s not a big deal that I kept it, I wasn’t trying to be oh so progressive or anything. But it does bug me that so many people have that “that’s just what you do” attitude about changing it and don’t think twice about it. It kind of reeks of brainwashing, no?

I don’t mind if a woman takes her husband’s last name, but I do feel it needs to be an active decision and not a thoughtless assumption. You could even go a whole different route and choose/invent a whole new name for yourselves. I once heard about a couple who chose the name Dragonwagon. How cool is that? Anyway, it just doesn’t make sense to me for any person’s identity to take precedence over another’s. And yes, your last name is *usually* a pretty big part of your identity. I feel like to take Mike’s last name would negate my own family history and where I came from, and instead label me a German. But I’m not German. It’s weird enough I have an Irish first name and I’m not even Irish. My Grandma actually said she wished she could have kept her name (it was law to take the husband’s back then) because she got so irritated at people assuming she was French. And nationality is just the most basic, easy-to-write-about-and-explain part of it. It’s your whole history. If you’re adopted and you don’t know your family’s history, or you’re ashamed of it or whatever, you still may choose to keep it as a label that represents YOU as a person. I’m not at all willing to have part of me erased or ignored, even just as a word on paper. Especially so it can be pushed aside or covered up by somebody else as though they’re somehow more important. My husband is not above me, and while I joke about him taking my last name, I’m not above him either. We are who we are, it’s not going to change, so why make any move to show that it did?

Now the kid thing, well, people often argue that kids feel all insecure about having a different last name than their parents. Maybe that’s true for some of them, but personally it’s never been an issue for me. My mom went back to her maiden name when I was really young, and then changed to a new married name very soon after that, so I can hardly remember a time I had the same last name as either of the parents I lived with. And I totally did not give a shit. I never thought twice about it. It was the 90s, divorce was looking more and more like the in thing, and it was absolutely normal. And guess what? It’s still normal. It’s more abnormal to have a lasting marriage. So don’t start worrying about ridiculous things like people assuming you’re not really a family and you’re a bunch of slutty weirdos. You should have learned this when you were 6, families come in many forms. Mine is 2 people with different last names, and 3 cats each with their own fake last name. We’re the Bergeron-Dyck-Sawchuckson-Candide-(…Oh crap Mouse doesn’t have a last name! Let’s call her Haus)Haus household. Mouse Haus. Hehe.

Anyway, also on the subject of kids, it also irritates me when it’s just assumed the kids have to have the father’s name. It’s not a rule you know. That should also be an actively made decision. The mother is just as much a parent as the father, and she’s the one who had to carry the kids in her body for 9 months. Makes sense to me for them to have her name. But whatever you choose, you need to be actually choosing it, for an actual reason, not just doing it because hey whatever. I think that’s really insulting yourself. It’s a good thing me and Mike aren’t going to have any kids, because I know for a fact this is something we would majorly fight over. Unless we just agreed to call them Haus.