Classically, psychoanalysis and feminism have not had a very good relationship. Freud himself was hardly a feminist. Beyond his open opposition to the feminist movement of his time, he saw women as genitally defective and morally inferior. His Oedipus complex gave pride of place to the father, thereby colluding with the institution of male dominance and a rigid division of sexual labor. According to Nancy J. Chodorow's recounting in ''Feminism and Psychoanalytic Theory,'' the first important psychoanalytic challenges came from Karen Horney and Melanie Klein.
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The work of Nancy Chodorow has had far-reaching and important consequences for psychoanalysis, for feminist theory and for how the sociological and analytic study of gender and gender categories. Nancy J. Chodorow is a psychoanalyst in private practice and a professor of sociology at the University of California-Berkeley.
She is the author of the above-mentioned books as well as numerous articles, chapter contributions and commentaries in the fields of object relations and psychoanalytic feminism. When The Reproduction of Mothering was published two decades ago, it put the mother-daughter relationship and female psychology on the map. This book was recently chosen by Contemporary Sociology as one of the ten most influential books of the past 25 years.
Her points in this book can be separated into four main ideas: 1 How most women come to think of themselves as heterosexual, 2 Why women have the urge to mother, 3 What personality traits are specific to women, and 4 How the pattern of male dominance might be understood and might be changed.
In the revised edition, Chodorow sharpens these critiques through revision. This is in keeping with the tradition of Freud, who forged new ground in areas such as the death instinct and the seduction theory, and then amended his theories after considering additional material obtained from his patients and from society.
In the Preface, she discusses the progression of her thinking from until the present and writes now as the psychoanalyst she has become while remaining connected to the feminist sociologist and anthropologist whom she was when she wrote the book. In formulating her summary conclusions of psychological improvement for both sexes with shared parenting, Chodorow acknowledges the changed economy of The development of shared parenting has challenged the traditional mothering role resulting in a paradigm where mother and children have insufficient time for each other.
I myself have often thought that I wish I could somehow contact patients I treated in my 20s, before marriage, before children and apologize for some of the interpretations that I made at that time.
These interpretations were intellectually and theoretically driven, but impractical and probably insensitive now that I have personally experienced the tremendous growth, transformation and personal drain that come from combining professional growth, intellectual growth and parenting young children.
Instead, each of these is created with a characteristic emotional tonality for the individual p. In the initial segment of her book, she traces the classical model of Freudian development. The female seeks privilege that the boy has attained: The boy is more valued by the mother as an object and is a source of her own Oedipal gratification and yet he has the need and the ability to detach himself from the mother.
The female solves her conundrum by translating her envy of the male privilege into heterosexual desire. The father has to be in exactly the right place at the right time, as do the naked bodies of both sexes. Chodorow continues with an elaborate description and explanation of heterosexual object choice.
What happens when the girl does not become identical to her mother? What happens when the girl rejects aspects of her mother? When the girl has the image of her mother, which features of that image does she adopt, does she accept, does she pass on and why? What relationship do these issues have to the actual mother of her childhood? This results in the mother resenting all of her own offspring as competitors for the idealized mother.
One may wonder what role female sex drives and awareness of sexual seductiveness and efficacy play in this? Not all women consciously or unconsciously desire to be mothers and many in our society actively reject that role. Another essay would be needed to discuss how this has played out in the Judeo-Christian world, but it is important to give women validity for the full range of their femininity and for the freedom to express themselves in whatever modality they choose.
In a key section of the book, Chodorow discusses the psychological development of adult females and adult males, giving reasons why women tend to be more empathic, due to the fact that their ego boundaries are less firm. She posits that if women are seen by society and view themselves primarily and exclusively as mothers then any liberation of women will continue to be experienced as traumatic by society. Chodorow makes a plea for a far fuller and more informed male responsibility for childcare and for women to strive for and to be granted economic and emotional freedom.
She presents excellent reasons for change and presents us with a new model of a family that is potentially more life engendering and vitalizing for both parents and children. Chodorow hypothesizes that in a society where mothers provide nearly exclusive care and certainly the most meaningful relationship to the infant, the infant develops its sense of self mainly in relation to her p Insofar as the relationship with the mother has continuity, the infant comes to define aspects of itself in relation to internalized representations of aspects of its mother and the perceived quality of her care.
It experiences a sense of oneness with her and subsequently develops itself only by convincing itself that it is in fact a separate being from her.
She is a person whom it loves with egoistic primary love and to whom it becomes attached. She is the person who first imposes on it the demands of reality. Internally, she also is important. The child knows its father from the beginning as a separate being, unless the father provides the same kind of primary relationship and care as the mother. It is very much in the nature of things, therefore, when the father expresses his own interests p.
The child can develop true hate and true ambivalence in relationship to a father whose wants differ from those of his child. Interestingly, children are more obedient to their father not due to any greater strictness on his part nor from the fact that he represents authority, but because the archaic foundations of an original natural identity of interests has never existed in relationship to the father. According to Chodorow, a boy must attempt to develop masculine gender identification and learn the masculine role in the absence of a continuous and ongoing personal relationship to the father and without a continuously available masculine role model p Psychologically, boys appropriate specific components of the masculinity of their father that they feel would otherwise be used against them, but they do not as much identify diffusely with him as a person.
Boys are taught to be masculine more consciously than girls are taught to be feminine. When fathers or men are not much present, girls are taught the heterosexual components of their role whereas boys are assumed to learn their heterosexual role without teaching through interaction with the mother.
Chodorow realizes that masculine identification is predominantly gender role identification. By contrast, feminine identification is predominantly parental.
In an article published in the Radcliff Quarterly Winter , Chodorow discussed the concept of woman-mother as an obvious, taken for granted, world historical fact that had not been seen as worthy of noticing in any of the social science, psychoanalytic or popular literature. Chodorow is concerned that these work-share programs seem to be based on the belief that children do not need their mothers, and that mothers should not be particularly aided in their mothering.
In other countries, such as Norway, working mothers can take almost one year off with pay after giving birth and three years with a guarantee of the same job. Norway has publicly funded childcare for children over age three, and a workday that goes from a.
The author feels that the future of mothering depends on a number of different developments. On the economic and political level, policies need to foster and support mothering not just for the sake of children but for mothers themselves.
She advocates for decent maternity leave policies, an end to punitive work practices and for family policies that might allow mothers to work less and spend more time with their families. In her new preface, Chodorow acknowledges the criticism of her book as generalizing across gender lines and expressing concerns that she repudiated bodily experience and drives.
In her attempts to create an account of female psychologies in which women are not appendages to their libido p xiii. She pays tribute to the feminist movement and acknowledges that many mothers indeed do wish to share parenting and that many fathers do wish to participate in the parenting experience. Currently, our culture has changed and with it the roles of mothers and fathers have become more equal than could have been imagined in the s.
However, the issue of childbearing remains a reality, and it is from this biological realm, combined with its psychological implications, that this book must be considered both valid and groundbreaking.
In this book, Chodorow presents papers written over the past 15 years combining previous essays with new essays from which she gleans some original, interesting and provocative thoughts and questions. In The Reproduction of Mothering , Chodorow argued that males become dominant due to inadequacies in the mothering that they received, and in the turning from mother to father as an object of identification. Chodorow expands on this argument in the later book by accessing research of Chasseguet-Smirgel and Grunberger.
Of particular interest is the finding that men, in their attempt to deny their own needs for love, often become intolerant of those who can express the need for love p Women have not repressed these needs and still want love and confirmation and may be willing to put up with limitations in their masculine lover or husband in exchange for some evidence of caring and love.
Men must defend themselves against the threat of intrusion by women and at the same time, because needs for love do not disappear through repression, tend to find themselves in heterosexual relationships. In adulthood, he will tend to look on relationships with women for narcissistic-phallic reassurance rather than for mutual affirmation and love p. Chodorow feels that because women have maintained a close identification with their mothers, their inner lives are far richer than those of men, and they do not need the other sex with the same intensity that men crave women.
Chodorow argues that men fall in love more romantically than women because the affective side of their natures has been repressed. This appears to be the basis for male aggression against females. Chodorow argues that Freudian theory does not just suppress women but gives us a theory concerning how people, women and men, become gendered and sexed, how femininity and masculinity develop, and how sexual inequality is reproduced, a task which no other major classical social theorist has made central to their thinking.
Both Chodorow and Freud suggest that these processes do not happen smoothly, and that these combinations and permutations are fraught with contradictions and strains.
If issues are not resolved adequately and at appropriate times, people develop conflicting desires, discontent and neuroses. In spite of a push towards heterosexuality, women still want relationships and closeness to women, and male heterosexuality is embedded in Oedipal devaluation, fear and contempt of women as well as a fear of the overwhelmingness of mother and of acknowledging emotional demands and needs p Chodorow views male dominance on a psychological level as a masculine defense and a major psychic cost to men built on fears and insecurities rather than on straightforward power.
Chodorow proceeds to discuss the difficult minefield of the relationship between men and women. She writes about her difficulty in finding a convincing explanation for the virulence of male anger, fear and resentment of women and aggression towards them.
The end product of this closeness, in many societies and across civilizations, is that women become defined by their relationship to others yet maintain a secure sense of identity as women.
While Freud feels that this is a positive event, Chodorow feels that in order to separate so early and so profoundly, the boy pays a price by repressing his feminine self in order to break his tie with his mother and not feel close to her. According to Chodorow, these differences have complex implications for later relationships. The complexities of this situation are illuminated by sociological and clinical findings p Conventional wisdom has it, and much of our everyday observation confirms, that women are more often the romantic ones in our society, the ones for whom love, marriage and relationships matter.
However, several studies point to ways that men love and fall in love romantically, and women sensibly and rationally. Most of these studies argue that, whereas women can be economically dependent on men, women must in fact make rational calculations for the provision of themselves and their children. She postulates that the reason for women initiating divorce at an increasing rate in current society is due to the income available to them, to recession hitting masculine jobs as much as feminine jobs, and to the feminist movement removing the stigma of divorce.
According to Chodorow, this process is furthered by men themselves, who persist in maintaining distance as a result of their own Oedipal resolution, which has led to the repression of their affective relational needs p This work is a valuable contribution to students and practitioners of feminism and of psychoanalytic theory.
A knowledge of how we become who and what we are, and how subtle unconscious process are at work from earliest infancy yields patterns of misunderstanding, inequality and prejudice that exist within our culture as well as within each one of us individually. According to Chodorow, psychoanalysis is a theory that enables people to examine their life situation, to make sense of it and therefore to act to change it. This book contains an intense and complex overview of the work of Sigmund Freud and others from Klein to Lacan , and their work on psychoanalysis, on sexuality and on gender.
Chodorow focuses on specific theorists and indicates trends in psychoanalytic writings and thinking that warrant reflection. Her plea is for more explicit attention to the development of heterosexuality in both men and women and for more explicit attention to the development of love and passion in homosexuals.
Interestingly, Chodorow postulates that a consistent thread running through the stories of psychology and culture is the accommodation that most men and women have to make to deal in psychological terms with male dominance.
Men have social and familial power and cultural superiority, and Chodorow presents examples of their sexual dominance as well. Chodorow deals with the question of how men and women love and indicates that there are as many kinds of masculine and feminine love as there are men and women, and these views are shaped by personal psychology, by family and by the culture in which one exists.
All of these will enter the individual case of how any woman or man loves p Chodorow, like Freud, uses clinical experience to portray gender and sexual variability and to challenge cultural and psychoanalytic normalization.
A caution about generalizations pervades the book with a request to analyze patterns of gender differences as a means to make differences intelligible, but to avoid interpreting generalizations as universal, which would deny the specific individuality and cultural difference that exists among men and women p. Although this book does not answer the question it raises, it posits that there are as many solutions for what makes one a sexual being as there are humans in the world, and rejects any categorization of normal versus abnormal sexuality.
7.4: Nancy Chodorow's Psychoanalytic Feminism and the Role of Mothering
The work of Nancy Chodorow has had far-reaching and important consequences for psychoanalysis, for feminist theory and for how the sociological and analytic study of gender and gender categories. Nancy J. Chodorow is a psychoanalyst in private practice and a professor of sociology at the University of California-Berkeley. She is the author of the above-mentioned books as well as numerous articles, chapter contributions and commentaries in the fields of object relations and psychoanalytic feminism. When The Reproduction of Mothering was published two decades ago, it put the mother-daughter relationship and female psychology on the map. This book was recently chosen by Contemporary Sociology as one of the ten most influential books of the past 25 years. Her points in this book can be separated into four main ideas: 1 How most women come to think of themselves as heterosexual, 2 Why women have the urge to mother, 3 What personality traits are specific to women, and 4 How the pattern of male dominance might be understood and might be changed.
Nancy Chodorow's The Reproduction of Mothering: Psychoanalysis and the Sociology of Gender helped rehabilitate psychoanalytic theory for feminism, which had rejected it on the grounds that Sigmund Freud's sexism invalidated all psychoanalytic insights, particularly those about women, femininity, and culture. Chodorow's book served as an introduction to object-relations theory and the work of Melanie Klein, D. Winnicott, W. Fairbairn, and others. Object-relations theory focuses on the child's early relations to objects--persons, parts of the body, and toys or other "comforting" things. The most significant of these for object-relations analysts is the mother. Object-relations theory concentrates on the importance of the child's relation to the mother before he or she has a fully developed sense of self.
EVERYBODY'S MOTHER IS A WOMAN
Learn more about the actions Yale University Press is taking. In Feminism and Psychoanalytic Theory she brings together a series of essays that trace the evolution of her thinking about self, society, and gender from its early beginnings to its mature development. This book will be a valuable resource for anyone interested in both feminism and psychoanalysis. According to Chodorow, psychoanalysis is a theory that enables people to examine their life situation, to make sense of it and therefore to act to change it.