Both Simone De Beauvoir’s “Introduction” to The Second Sex and Betty Friedan’s The Feminine Mystique touch on the identity and definition of a woman. Even Mary Wollstonecraft speaks about the manufacturing of a certain type of woman to fit into society in a manner that is largely relative to—and defined by—men. There is that set of gender norms and roles that have the power to drive a woman crazy, as highlighted in Friedan’s piece. One quote I particularly liked from De Beauvoir was that “science regards any characteristic as a reaction dependent in part upon a situation…does the word woman, then, have no specific content?” This quote brings about the suggestion, then, that gender identification itself is relative to each individual person and therefore the possibility in turn exists for variation from the usual norms.

The blog, Below the Belt: Deconstructing Gender includes a review of the book Whipping Girl: A Transsexual Woman on Sexism and the Scapegoating of Femininity,

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recently published by a trans woman named Julia Serano, who writes on “sexism and the scapegoating of femininity” and its effects on both transsexuals and gender definition as a whole.

The above mentioned blog really caused me to think about things that quite honestly had never crossed my mind in the past. When reading about feminism and the departure from previous gender roles and norms, the usual feminist normally doesn’t stop for even a minute to consider these standards to be something for someone to desire to conform to. It is precisely the case, however, in which many trans women find themselves, to have to depict that image of the quintessential “woman” – not necessarily out of a desire to embody the norm, but rather out of necessity – in order to be deemed “legitimate” enough to be allowed to make the transition. I have a friend who is in the process of making the female-to-male transition, and he was required to meet with a psychiatrist before being allowed to begin taking any hormones. This consultation is useful in the sense that one must be fully aware of the extreme emotional tax that can exist for a transitioning individual, however I think it a bit unfair for an outside opinion to determine whether my friend is, for lack of a better term, “man enough” to undergo this process.

Think about this for a moment…each and every person is infinitely different from the next. It’s OK for a woman to be a “girly girl” in a pink polka-dot dress (excuse the sweeping generalization) just the same as it is OK for the woman standing next to her to be kicking around a soccer ball and be more of a tomboy. Both are unquestionably considered to be female by society. Why, then, must transsexuals fit into this very narrow spectrum of what—and who—a woman or man should be. This takes us back to the very basis of feminism – working to break away from the stigmas that exist in society and allow every woman her right to self-awareness and expression.

In a society that becomes so uncomfortable when the lines between female and male become blurred, is there a place for trans women in the new wave of the feminist movement?? I say yes wholeheartedly. Thoughts from anyone else??

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