I get really excited when I see gender critical theory being discussed in mainstream spaces. For example, today I watched a video by Laci Green in which she discussed the differences between radical and liberal feminists. ‘This is great,’ I thought as she explained the etymology of radical feminist ‘the wider world finally gets to hear what radical feminism is actually about!’
I prepared myself for the fact that it probably wouldn’t be perfect and there are some errors that, personally, I find easy to let go. However, something that winds me right up each and every time is the lack of emphasis given to socialisation when gender critical theory is discussed. I get so frustrated because it underpins the whole reason, in my opinion, why radical feminists don’t believe one can transition between ‘genders’.
Often it is parroted that ‘gender is a social construct’, so far so good. You can’t stop there though, my friend, please don’t stop there. If you stop there, people tend to then think that gender is mutable and up to the individual and how they socialise. That’s wrong. A social construct is created and maintained by society.
Money is a social construct, it enables us to believe that pieces of paper and discs of metal are worth anything. We are socialised from an incredibly young age to believe that certain paper has financial value and are taught how to trade it. We are taught that if you have more of it life will be good. If society had not told you that the $5 in your back pocket was worth anything you would not see worth in it. It’s not like you woke up one day and identified as a person with $5 in your back pocket. If you have $5 but wish you had $10 you can’t draw over it and then buy something worth $10. This is not because notes and coins are inherently worth anything but because society tells you whether they are or aren’t.
So, gender is a social construct because society tells us it is. From the moment your sex is found out society begins socialising you. It’s not something you can opt out of or change because it is entirely up to society. It’s not just what your parents tell you, it’s not what your teachers tell you, or friends, lovers, colleagues and so on. It is what the whole world is telling you every moment of every day of your life. It happens through every interaction you’ll ever have. Gender, as a social construct, depends entirely on society and very little of what you do as an individual can change that. You can’t identify as any gender other than the one society identifies you as because society creates and maintains social constructs like gender.
Once this key point is established and understood – let the debate rage on. The liberal feminist’s next point might be that let’s get society to socialise people as whichever gender they choose. My rebuttal would be; one, let’s abolish gender socialisation and let people have whatever personality (because that’s all gender seems to boil down to at the end of the day) they wish. Two, further socialisation does not erase previous socialisation. That is to say, once socialised as one ‘gender’, even when being socialised afterwards as a different gender that previous socialisation remains within those that are socialised.
*steps down from soapbox*