Male socialisation

Are trans women socialised into male privilege?

Here’s Diane is Weird on the difference between autistic boys and girls- socialisation. When a boy complains… people generally give him the benefit of the doubt because boys are tough and never complain for no reason. When a girl complains about seemingly nothing, she is labeled a whiney drama queen.

When means that an early school aged girl on the autistic spectrum, when she is overstimulated, in pain, or confused has been programed from birth to shut up and try to make herself as small as possible while she figures out what is going on. Boys are entitled, girls are shamed. In order to function invisibly at the level that most autistic women do, you need to hate yourself and be afraid all the time.

That got me researching. Here’s the Sexual assault prevention and awareness center of the University of Michigan, on how socialisation to stereotypes causes battering. Girls are taught to be passive, smile, be nice, accommodating, take care of and be sensitive to other’s needs. Beyond “teaching,” our culture actively punishes girls who violate those rules. Such punishment includes social ostracism, ridicule, poor grades in school, and often times sexual harassment, assault, and physical violence…Batterers express emotions of anger, pain, grief and loss very well. They do cry…Men have been taught through social roles modeling and the media that they are entitled to the attention and services of women. Women are required to listen, be supportive, enhance their partners’ status with other men, fulfill the man’s sexual needs, and care for their children, cook, clean and maintain the household.

This is the Women and Gender Advocacy Center of Colorado State University: it is trans-friendly, and more kind to those men (which may be an aspect of the socialisation or personality of the writer). The most dominant form of manhood is called “hegemonic masculinity” which is characterized by several key tenets: 1.) distance oneself from femininity; 2.) restrict emotions; 3.) be tough and aggressive (avoid vulnerability); 4.) be seen as highly sexual with women; and 5.) prove one’s heterosexuality via homophobia. The site shows the Man Box:

The man box

Inside the box is a list of socially valued roles and expectations that constitute conventional masculinity, and the words outside of the box are used to confine boys and men into a narrowly constructed definition of manhood.

Luna Merbruja puts a trans woman’s perspective in Everyday Feminism. She argues that you must be male to benefit from male privilege. We are not male. Cis women were raised to cook, clean, smile, endure sexual harassment, be silently ashamed about their menstrual cycles, and prioritize child bearing and marriage. These are the supposed commonalities that bind cis women together as shared experiences that trans women don’t have. The truth is, as b. binaohan states in the “fe/male socialization” chapter of decolonizing trans/gender 101, we all have the same socialization. We are all taught what boys and girls are like, and trans girls are punished for not being manly.

Also on Everyday Feminism, Kai Cheng Thom argues that the denial of our true selves as children, the punishment for not being manly, is like gaslighting, denying the victim’s perceptions of reality, which traumatises us.

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SAPAC is angry. Men are entitled, and women suffer. WGAC less so: men suffer too. It points out that most murderers are men, but also most victims of male murderers. Anger matters: it affects what arguments someone will hear.

That list- Cis women were raised to cook, clean, smile, endure sexual harassment, be silently ashamed about their menstrual cycles, and prioritize child bearing and marriage– well, I was not raised to that. My sister was taught to cook, and when I went to University my mother did not want me starving, so gave me four simple recipes, which I still use, and a cake recipe I do not. The argument is that the violence we experience is equivalent, which is close to playing oppression olympics– at least, while the violence may not be directly comparable, so the question which is worse does not make sense, the violence we experience is traumatising. If you see on TERF sites women trivialising the violence we experience, you know that is hate, and violence in itself.

I puzzle these things out through my own experience. My questions:

How am I wrong?
How can I change to fit in?
How may I support myself without help?

and my virulent inner critic torture me. I seek to be invisible. These are not the responses of a Privileged individual; they are closer to Diane’s experience, programmed to shut up and make herself small.

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There is a difference. I fit the female socialisation I did not have better than many women: wanting to support others, and create reconciliation, if not particularly to clean my house- to be subservient– fits me. I could be called a caricature, and enrage women who do not fit it. So I insist: I do not manifest like this because I imagine it is womanly, or feminine, but because it is the real me. It was how I was, before I realised I am transsexual.

How that is linked to my desiring to express myself female- hair, make-up, clothes, self-expression on the feminine end of women’s expression- I don’t know. Either could cause the other. They could arise from some hormonal or genetic cause, or be unrelated. I don’t think I am saying,

people with that personality are supposed to look like that

because I don’t think that would be strong enough to make me seek physical transition. But if me associating my personality with women, rather than men, is the cause of my transition, then it is a clear case of me being oppressed, rather than empowered, by socialisation.

Titian, Bacchus and Ariadne

4 thoughts on “Male socialisation

  1. Hegemonic masculinity is a real problem. In places like Carmel, I’m viewed as rather masculine. In working class areas, not so much. I’ve been mistaken for gay several times. I’m a proud metrosexual.

    You must visit the Bay Area, Clare–you’d like it.

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    • I am sure I would. I will venture to Birmingham, possibly London, this month; probably not Wales, Scotland or France this year. Grayson Perry did a documentary on manliness in the City (as we call the financial trading sector): the discrimination is as virulent, but covered up by the right words. The Gherkin is a penis. He thinks the Shard is too, though that is less obvious.

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  2. The questions you raise about socialisation are almost impossible to fully answer I think, but it’s important to ask them. Is it perhaps that anyone who doesn’t fit with the dominant culture (masculine) is going to feel in some way inferior and subservient, not good enough? It doesn’t serve any of us really, not even the masculine men who must suppress their feminine side.

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    • I think gendered culture affects women worse than men. Walking to the supermarket today in welcome warm sunshine I heard a man carrying his daughter tell her how it was good to be in the Shade– twice, actually, once in the town centre then once just by Morrisons- and I thought, protect her with sunscreen, not by teaching her to fear the sun. But there is a kind of toxic masculinity which hurts everyone, even the men themselves- consider Mr Trump, always so angry and fearful!

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