Thursday, February 20, 2014


I have been reading Julia Serano's book Excluded over the past few weeks.  It has taken a long time because the book is like a giant stack of broccoli - good for me, but difficult to consume in a single sitting.  Excluded talks about how feminist and queer movements can be made more inclusive, specifically to trans folks.  I read and reviewed Serano's earlier book Whipping Girl and I feel like the two books are really similar.  Both are heavy on big words and challenging concepts and neither is fun reading because both clearly illuminate so many things that are wrong with the world.

Serano talks about things in a way that meshes very nicely with one of my favourite catchphrases - it is complicated.  Biological determinism is wrong, because we know that men aren't born to wear pants, play football, and use wrenches.  On the other hand gender is not a strictly social construct because we can look at examples of people who were strictly socialized as one gender and yet absolutely knew that they did not fit that way whether because they were trans or subject to infant genital reassignment surgery.  The fact is that gender and the ways in which people discover who they are is complicated.  Acknowledging that explanations are long and difficult and that pat answers are hard to come by is a hallmark of a clear thinker and this book has plenty of acceptance of complexity.

Serano sits pretty close to where I do in a lot of ways because she is remarkably left wing in her politics but is entirely willing to call out people who are extremists no matter which side they are on.  She believes very strongly in everyone having the freedom to do what they want rather than a reactionary movement that ends up oppressing people in a different way than the current regime.  I feel very strongly that the most practical way to improve people's lives is to make small incremental changes to the system rather than declare that everything sucks and it is time to burn it all down in a revolution.  There is a long road to walk to societal change and while building a teleporter to get to the end right now has appeal I advocate instead just taking it a single step at a time.  Sociological teleporters have never worked and don't seem likely to start now.

This is a good book.  It is informative, logical, and true.  It doesn't go down smooth and easy though, and takes effort to consume like most self improvement projects do.  So if have some time and want some metaphorical broccoli I highly recommend Excluded.

1 comment:

  1. I like the term "sociological teleporters". Especially as someone who is impatient.

    Amusingly, I am currently reading "Peter the Great", which is fantastic (and won a Pullitzer) and Peter is "Great" partially because he teleported Russian society. And not just a small distance - this was no "socialogical dimension door".