A semantic construct that cultural feminists have all too often used as a club with which to beat us.
On the face of it socialization is a pretty simple concept and is an educated way of describing the process of teaching, in this case sex roles/gender roles.
However, among the things I have learned from post-modern folks are ideas like deconstructing and sub-textual readings.
Socialization as a concept requires more than a simple face value reading for it is fraught with both sub-textual readings and religio-political ideological purposes depending on its contextual usage
I wrote about socialization in a previous post “Green Blankets”
One of the more unfortunate aspects of the term socialization is that way too many people who throw it about like a hand grenade or who get all defensive about it being used as a weapon are rather clueless regarding the multi-layered/multi-textualizations by which the term can be read.
The above is academic way of saying many people do not have the vaguest idea what they are talking about.
Transkids are a special case and as such, we fracture rules. Especially rules laid out by those enraptured with the idea that socialization is everything and nature is nothing. I want to call that the John Money school, yet having read his books I doubt he was that firmly in the nurture camp.
Then there are what we have come to call the essentialists. Jane Alpert and her “Mother Right” are of this camp. So are all the patriarchal misogynistic desert religions. Biology is destiny and women are other meaning lesser. If most patriarchal religions are to be believed women are intrinsically evil and are the cause of rape, war and all the other evils to befall humanity. Pandora opened the box, Eve tempted and all that.
It is easy to see why people who change their “god given” bodies would be seen as problematic in this context. Especially when altering what many consider an ascribed characteristic i.e. sex that endows the positions of superior and other (the premise of Simone de Beauvoir’s The Second Sex). Why would one willingly give up membership in a group that bestows privilege on “all” its members albeit upon some with a far greater degree and upon others to a far lesser degree often based upon the ephemeral quality described as manliness?
Now all things considered it is fairly easy to see why a movement dedicated to women’s equality would be less than enchanted by “essentialism”. Since essentialism decrees an innate and immutable nature to man and woman. In turn that connotes a naturalness to male supremacy and locks women into the position of other or lesser in much the same way racism and the idea of white supremacy means that people of color are inferior and deserving of perpetually being handed the shitty end of the stick.
Which brings us back to socialization. The idea of sex role difference being taught. I believe much of what are more accurately called gender roles are the result of socialization.
That statement says less than it appears to say when it comes to answering some even more primal questions of why one child gravitates to one set of gender role behavior and the other to a different set.
The easy answer is indoctrination from the point of birth. So why are there transsexual and transgender people?
Ahhh there go those f**king transsexual and transgender people phucking up my goddamn Ph.D thesis that I wasted six years of my life on. Took on a life time of indebtedness and several lifetimes worth of ass kissing to get only so I could be part of an army of people applying for the two positions in the world open to some one with a Ph. D. in this subject.
Or.. I have this wonderful 750 page book with 120 of those pages being references that has sold in the many thousands and could become a required text book. If you think I’m going to let these phucking transsexuals screw it up for me as well as making me look like a moron by totally blowing off my wonderful theory about socialization being the key to gender role development you’ve got another think coming.
The point is many of the people at the top have a vested interest in supporting their theories and trashing anyone who messes up their theories.
We are Cybele’s Knife in cutting through bullshit theories when it comes to why of a fair degree of sex role development if not gender role development.
Two or three things I know about us.
We don’t enter the world tabula rasa (blank slate). We start influencing the sort of early socialization right from day one…
My mother described me as being a very different infant than my brother, smiling and vocalizing early. Wanting to be held and cuddled. I was sick as an infant and my mother let me have the dolls and toys I wanted.
Not that uncommon. Nor is the sudden freak out at 4 or 5 and the taking away those “girl’s toys” FYI I could have thought this an imagined memory except I found the toys in a box in my grandmother’s attic when I was doing some work there as a teenager.
Transkids get their socialization the way everyone else does with a twist. Parents and peers punish us for socializing as a member of the sex that is at the heart of our core “sex identity” (That sense of self that says I am female or I am male).
I work retail. I see how families, particularly those in “Christian” patriarchal religions are in full blown gender panic with fear their children might grow up gay or lesbian or heavens forbid transsexual.
Nothing sissy about my toddler in camouflage or tomboy about my six year old daughter in Bratz skank clothes. No sex education for these kids either only abstinence training and virgin rings.
We live in a world divided along homosocial lines where homophobia is the rule. Non-sexual relationships, friendships between men and women that reach the level of non-sexual same sex friendships are rare.
When they happen, the bonds are often shared interests. On the other hand, I have girl friends with who I don’t have all that many common interests.
Socialization might best be looked upon by breaking it into components. But even this requires us to think in an imaginary binary of black and white instead of a tonal scale of near infinite shadings.
One of the strong points of Dr. Benjamin was that he saw maleness and femaleness as clusters with variations rather than black/white. The same can be said for gender.
Gender is kind of like being a member of a team with certain rules. The term socialization hints at the idea that these rules might not be actively taught but rather be taught by society indirectly.
Now the indirect teaching/learning process passes the Cybele’s Knife test as both transkids and normborns could learn the team rules for the sex/gender of their core identity.
The direct indoctrination process doesn’t work as well unless you cheat a bit on the thinking and say, “The reason transkids have this gender/sex identity different is because mommy screwed up.
But Cybele’s Knife looks at what parents did to break their transkids of being trans. Serious psychiatric abuse in some cases and yet even electroshock and lobotomy often cannot kill that core identity.
Further transkids learn enough from the world they grow up in to often adapt so completely to the gender role they were ostensibly not socialized to as to completely assimilate as members of the sex to which they are surgically reassigned.
Indeed if one actually reads Raymond her worst venom is not directed at those who inadequately present in a stereotypically exaggerated manner but rather at those who are indistinguishable in thought and appearance from women identified feminist women.
So perhaps “socialization” is far more complex a process than the glib usage as tossed off insult. Perhaps it is one of those layered and nuanced processes filled with sub-texts and like complex computer programs with sub-routines entered when certain if/and goto conditions occur.
Further… When does the process of socialization end? Does it occur only during a finite period? Or is it something that can occur as one adapts to new and different conditions as in the case of the immigrant who comes to a new land with different language and customs and adapts to that new culture.
Let us look at socialization and something more common than transsexuality or transgenderism. If socialization were the only element then gay and lesbian people would not be between 5 and 10% of the population as children are socialized to be heteronormative with many parents taking the same sort of harsh measures they use towards transkids when they think their child may be growing up to be gay or lesbian.
With gay or lesbian kids it is even harder to cite the broad cultural exposure to the other culture that transkids can cite. It is a heteronormative world. More so 40 years ago before Stonewall and less so today although parents often scream bloody murder over the idea that their child might see Heather has two Mommies or And Tango Makes Three as though simple exposure to illustrations of gay or lesbian characters would undo all that socialization.
That would lead me to think perhaps people aren’t all that secure regarding the idea that gender role/sex role or gay/lesbian is purely the product of socialization.
These are only a few observations on socialization. I think it is important that the idea that it might be inter-active and open–ended offer topics for dialogue with those in the lesbian feminist community who use “socialization” as a club.