further thoughts on socialization
November 3, 2013
In discussing my earlier post on socialization I got into a discussion on FB with another trans girl about whether or not, um, the general message is tailored depending on how people perceive you and/or based on your assigned sex/gender.
I asked this question in an ask i got about this:
What is the difference between a five year old girl being told to talk softly and defer to boys and a twenty-five year old woman being told the same thing?
The response she gave was that as an adult, she has the ability to resist this message and a lifetime of habit thinking that this ‘defer to boys” notion doesn”t apply to her. I”m not going to say anything about the latter half of the statement since this is her experience and okay.
I do take some issue with the first half because girls of any and all ages do resist this and all other messages that tell us we are worthless. We may not resist it entirely (impossible in this system) or even with great success (depending on your personal context the punishment for resistance can be mild or severe).
I don”t necessarily disagree that how other people treat you based on their erroneous perception or understanding of your gender has a profound impact on your developed behaviour/attitude.
I guess what I”m not understanding is how, if we are to label this sub-section of our experiences (ie, other people”s perception of us) as ‘male socialization”, but not the general cultural messages we all internalize….
Then in a singular sense we most certainly cannot talk about ‘male socialization” or ‘female socialization” as things that exist. We can only talk about ‘male socializations” and ‘female socializations”. For if we talk intersectionality seriously, as we must, then we are socialized as a whole person based on the nexus of intersection parts of our identity and oppressions.
Because it is incoherent, on this notion of socialization (or any i suspect) to assert that Asian girls are socialized in exactly the same way as white girls (all other things being equal). And it only gets more complex once we factor in all other aspects and considerations.
Indeed, it gets complex enough that we could assert, easily, that each individual is socialized in unique ways that cannot be assumed true of any other person, since no one else shares our exact context. Not even my sister was socialized in the same way that I was1.
Because using the example above, how do we reconcile that ‘girls should be quiet and defer” with the ‘angry” stereotype that Black (and girls) often have to navigate?
This possibility of individual specific socialization is why I chose to speak at the marco level. Since, to use my circular room/pot metaphor, even the individuals side by side, with considerable overlap, still are seeing a slightly different angle of the pot.
But in aggregate the pot (ie, message) that girls are worthless and men gold, is what we are all looking at.
And I guess both my fb interlocutor and i are guilty of the same error of generalizing our invidual experiences. Since, to some extent, I don”t see ‘male socialization” as something that occurred in large quantities in my life partly based on my family/race situation and because, even as an Asian perceived boy, many of the so-called ‘male behaviours” were not something I was raised to embody, particularly not in a culture that consistently emasculates and/or femininzes Asian men/boys. I can see how a white person probably had a very different experience.
In any case, the macro message remains the same. And it is still an error to speak of ‘female/male socialization” as if it were one monolithic experience. Because intersectionality.