Archive for the ‘male privilege’ Category
I wrote this elsewhere as part of a conversation, in response to a question about trans men and male privilege. Specifically, in response to someone suggesting that trans men do not receive male privilege because they are apparently socialized as girls and trained to be women. With that in mind, a lot of this is really an answer to those comments.
Also, I’m throwing in a link to little light’s Fair and an article on sexism and trans people relating to Dr. Joan Roughgarden’s and Dr. Ben Barres’ experiences with transition, male privilege, and sexism.
The question of socialization is one of those topics where we all start debating how many trans people can dance on the head of a pin, and focusing onsocialization as if we’re all programmed like little computers while we’re growing up, as if gendered socialization is launched at us like laser-guided missiles and CAFAB children receive only socialization aimed at girls and CAMAB children receive only socialization aimed at boys, and all us trans people are just like cis people who share our CASAB until the day we start transition.
This is not only not true, it’s simply not relevant. You might as well argue that god implanted instructions in your brain on gender.
First of all, I would argue that the nature of socialization changes over time. For example, I doubt a two year old is being socialized in supporting rape culture. I suspect most of their socialization involves toilet training, playing, watching children’s shows. Sure, you can argue it’s there in the culture, and it is. But it’s something that CAMAB and CAFAB children both receive. The only difference is whether or not children perceive themselves as the target of the attitudesbehind this socialization. After all, men don’t exactly hold an exclusive patent on victim-blaming women for rape or domestic violence, right?
We’re all socialized into a sexist culture. We’re all taught that being a man means X and being a woman means Y. There is no outside for any of us.Women, just as men, are socialized to be sexist.
The talk about what this socialization means, however, always positions children (and eventually tweens, and then teenagers) as passive receptors who never react to that socialization. We don’t even talk about whether children who receive these messages perceive themselves as the target, the instigator, or both. We don’t talk about what these messages mean to trans children who may not perceive themselves as having a gender at all, or perceive themselves as having a gender that differs from their CASAB.
For example, I have seen several cis women assume that trans girls as children and teenagers interacted with images of the beauty ideal (models on magazine covers, for example) just like cis boys do, and don’t realize that this ideal really does have an impact on us and on our self-image, and that combined with body/gender dysphoria is one of the many reasons we can be suicidal. I know multiple trans women who pre-transition developed eating disorders in hopes of developing a more female appearance.
Socialization is not privilege. It is a way that privilege is perpetuated. Privilege is based on many things, most of those being how you are perceived and how other people treat you. Trans men who are passed as cis receive male privilege. Many trans men who do not always pass as cis receive male privilege depending on the situation and context.
Similarly, trans women during or post-transition who are passed as cis do not receive male privilege. But, trans women who are read as trans also do not receive male privilege, generally under any context. Being a trans woman is not culturally supported because being a woman is not culturally supported in the same way that being a man is culturally supported, and it seems like in many (but not all) contexts, trans men are given a pass on things that trans women are not, often times explicitly. I have heard Adam Carolla say this explicitly on Lovelines more than once, years ago. I have heard cis feminists (radical feminists and otherwise) make harsh characterizations of trans women and more forgiving characterizations of trans men even while being transphobic to both. I have heard trans men say things like this.
I am not trying to argue here that trans men have it good forever and always and trans women have it bad forever and always, but what I am saying is that there is not only privilege in being a man, whether trans or cis, but that there is privilege in being seen as reaching toward manhood (per cis perspectives) as compared to being seen as reaching toward womanhood (again per cis perspectives) and socialization is not the central factor either way.
I want to add to this that we don’t really discuss day to day pressures toward gender conformity and cisnormativity, toward having the right narratives, toward matching cis people’s standards of what men and women should be like, and how this affects us every day.
Power – in this case sexism, heterosexism, cissexism – normalizes through constant enforcement and women – cis and trans – are always failing at femininity. For trans women, this perceived failure has harsher (cissexist) consequences and higher enforced standards. Trans women who are too feminine are derided for trying too hard and thus really being men. Trans women who are not feminine enough or even masculine are derided for not trying hard enough and thus really being men. Trans women who are lesbian are derided for failing at womanhood, because the expectation is women are attracted to men.
Psychiatrists give us dress codes and standards of behavior. We have to give them the stories they want to hear – cisnormative, heteronormative narratives that establish our genders as static. Many times, we have to actually meet a dress code just to have our transness treated. Trans women are disciplined in modes of dress, behavior, and orientation just as any cis woman, and the penalties can be anything from violence to denial of necessary medical care to being constantly and maliciously degendered or misgendered. When we’re passed as cis the best we get is sexism and judged by the standards of the male gaze. It doesn’t matter whether or not we’re behaving with whatever “male socialization” or “male entitlement” is supposed to be, we’re not being granted any male privilege. We’re either women, or we’re genderless things and failing at both womanhood and manhood.
And you know, when you’re dealing with that every day? It’s going to affect you. I took four years of high school drama, and in that time I learned how to speak up and project my voice, and basically make myself heard – this was something that I completely sucked at until my first drama teacher made a point of teaching me how to do this. My first year out of high school, I lived with another trans woman who attacked me ceaselessly for “speaking too loud,” and I lost every bit of that for years. It barely took a full month before I was always speaking quietly again.You can’t underestimate the impact of daily sexism or male privilege and what that does to your socialization no matter what your age. And this happens to all adult women, we’re policed daily on being women, told how to behave, how to dress, how to talk. Everybody does this – men and women both do it to women. This happens on every level. It’s pervasive.
Socially and culturally, men are supported as men. Women are not supported as women. Yes, there is gender policing aimed at men, but there’s also stuff like Old Spice Guy, which praises and only gently mocks hypermasculinity*. But look at Axe commercials. Look at action movies. At television shows of all kinds. Look at magazines. Look at everything.
This extends to transition. The social scaffolding for female identity that’s supposed to help a trans woman become a woman per social definitions is by design the opposite of support. The process by which you become a woman involves making you abject, teaching you that support is something that women don’t deserve, and this is hard for trans women to defend against because being trans is also wound up in abject status – your success is determined by others’ approval.
Now, while trans men are also policed as men, and have to fulfill the trans narratives and try to “properly” be men, being a man is a valued state. Masculinity (and since men are conflated with masculinity) is valorized and admired over femininity and being a woman. While being trans is, as I said above, an abject status, being a man is supported as a good thing, the best of all available options.
This contrast affects trans men and trans women in different ways. Trans men are given leeway and respect that trans women are not. This happens on a daily basis. If you are given $100 a day for 30 days, would you expect to receive that $100 on day 31, or would you rely on your childhood where money may have been more tight? How about receiving that money for 365 days? Would you expect it on day 366? Are immediate punishment and reward systems overridden by past systems?
It’s not possible to reduce our socialization to our first 18 years, to our first 12 years, to our first two years (as I have recently seen one person try to do). We cannot coherently discuss trans people and male privilege while treating trans people as if we’re cis people, while ignoring our lives during and after transition and focusing strictly on our lives pre-transition. This is cissexism and straight up sexism to try to exclude experiences inconvenient to the assumption that trans women are supposedly really men and trans men are supposedly really women.
Note: CA/S/F/M/AB = Coercively assigned sex/female/male at birth
Note 2: I don’t want anyone to take away from this post that trans men do not experience sexism. They do, most especially pre- and often during transition. There are differences in how misogyny manifests against trans women because the intersection of transphobia and misogyny differs for trans men and trans women.