An important part of this total institution is the dormitory. "In the dormitory, away from the structured control of the classrooms, Deaf children are introduced to the social life of Deaf people. This unique pattern of transmission lies at the heart of the culture.2 This transmission of values takes place not only because students are part of a physical facility but because they are restricted in their access to other information and people. Hans Furth once described the Deaf as suffering from information deprivation because they were less exposed to incidental learning that takes place out of school, access to television, and adult voices.
He argued that the "content of Deaf education is meagre ... the time teaching them to talk replaces the regular standard curricula."3 Evans and Falk continue this argument: "in deafness one is isolated and cut off from the wider society-and this includes parents siblings, television, media and on and on. ... Students have 'colonized into a language community. They accept the 'total institution' as home where a shared language community and friends are to be found."4
The school becomes the primary socializing agent for young Deaf boys and girls. Among the education they receive are social role and actual models for what hearing adults and Deaf adults and men and women are supposed to be. Although in school Deaf men and women may be socialized with both gender and cultural attributes, many will select to identify primarily with characteristics which provide the most comfort; that is, Deaf people consciously choose to be full members of Deaf culture instead of marginal members of hearing culture. 5 For most women who are Deaf, the Deaf community is accessible and supportive where other Deaf women and men tan be peers. In the larger population of women who are predominantly hearing, they are unlikely to share a language, despite sharing gender. As a result, Deaf women identify far more strongly with being deaf than with being female.6
Perception of Gender Roles
Considering how important education is to the welfare of Deaf women, I initiated a research project to compare the means of gender socialization among Deaf women and their hearing sisters.7 One of the difficulties in conducting this research is that there is no standard sign for "gender" (although man-woman path theirs is used by some members of the Deaf community). When asked to define what they thought gender meant, what sex-role were, most Deaf women gave physical definitions of role differences including strength, body hair and shape. When asked to describe deaf-hearing differences, Deaf women and hearing women explained behaviour and attitudes as differentiating factors.
This research concluded that Deaf women identified primarily as Deaf and felt that other Deaf women would too. They considered their experiences of discrimination to be primarily because of being deaf, whereas their hearing sisters felt discrimination was primarily sex-based. Deaf women showed less awareness of sexism than their hearing sisters while their sisters showed legs awareness of Deaf cultural issues. Deaf women were able to identify being Deaf as a positive and strong identity and saw being women in more negative and weaker roles.
While it is likely that role confusion could have a negative impact on women as they develop into adults, there is some debate as to the negative or positive outcomes of what can be seen as reduced sex stereotyping among women with disabilities. "From a feminist perspective, we might see the failure of the culture to leave its heavy sex-typing brand on the disabled girl as liberation. Is independence and self-sufficiency the product of avoidance; is it the outcome of marginalizing the disabled girl or of repressing her sexuality?"8 it is unclear whether Deaf women have escaped sexual typing or are just legs aware of it. Some research shows significant differences in attitudes between hearing and Deaf men and women about vocational goals and behaviors, while others show similar patterns.
Linda Stauffer and Greg Long looked at attitudes towards vocational options for men and women among both Deaf and hearing men and women. They round that "Deaf young men and women graduating from high school still hold substantially more conservative attitudes towards sex roles than do their hearing peers9Other research indicated there was little motivation for Deaf women to be anything more than wives or mothers until later in life. Only after marrying and raising children did Deaf women consider careers or post-secondary education.l0