Quoting once again from Aqueertheory’s nutshelling of Julie Serano, I thought this was very interesting:
Serano contributes significantly to feminist theory and practice by providing us with a concise way of categorizing the different forms of sexism in Western societies. She argues that sexism is a two-fold phenomenon, consisting of “oppositional” and “traditional” elements. Oppositional sexism is “the belief that female and male are rigid, mutually exclusive categories” (13). A man should not have any of the “attributes, aptitudes, abilities, and desires” commonly associated with women, and vice-versa (13). Anyone who does not follow this schema, any manly women or womanly men, should be dismissed and punished for disobeying the divine, natural and social order that deemed the two genders to be mutually exclusive opposites. On the other hand, traditional sexism is “the belief that maleness and masculinity are superior to femaleness and femininity” (14). This type of sexism specifically demeans all feminine persons (many of whom are females) by characterizing their activities as frivolous and justifying their exclusion from certain jobs and positions of social authority. Thus, according to Serano, sexism is a commonly held belief system that conceptualizes males and females as strict oppositional categories and sets up a hierarchy in which men and masculinity are considered superior to women and femininity.
Feminists and queer theorists have failed to recognize this dual aspect of sexism, which is one of the reasons why they often seem to talk past each other. Queer theorists have focused on oppositional sexism: they have analyzed and railed against binary gender norms, which push people to fit their identities and behaviors into carefully prescribed masculine and feminine boxes. On the other hand, feminists have concentrated their efforts on studying and fighting against the more traditional forms of sexism: the oppression of women and their social subordination to men.