Patricia Hill Collins through her theory in Shifting the Center: Race, Class, and Feminist theorizing about Motherhood expresses the need for incorporating perspective into feminist theory. “Mothering occurs in specific historical contexts framed by interlocking structures of race [and] class”, expresses Collins with her presenting of Spelman’s writing. I totally agree with this because in the context of my family structure it does not resemble the family archetype expressed in many of the theories we have already encountered in this class. Spelman also says that “despite the significance of race and class, feminist theorizing routinely minimizes their importance.
By not incorporating race and class into feminist theory “those who are working class or from racial ethnic groups [are seen] as less autonomous, and therefore as fitting objects for the elite male domination.” (Collins, 1994) To properly theorize on females and family structure because working with race and class helps define the experiences of woman in society.
In “Shifting the Center: Race, Class and Feminst Theorizing About Motherhood” Collins says, “Native American, African-American, Hispanic, and Asian-American women, motherhood cannot be analyzed in isolation from its context”(56) She highlights the fact that women in overlooked and arduous communities have taken motherhood and acted it out in a manner in which counter the assumptions of the dominant culture. For racial ethnic women in America, motherhood is much about survival as shown in her statistics. It is also a search for self-identity and a struggle for maternal empowerment. Collins does not wish to promote one group’s motherwork over another, instead she feels that we should move towards a median, which will in turn point towards feminist theorizing embracing differences as a vital part of being united.
In Motherwork and Physical Survival, Collins quotes “When we are not physically starving we have the luxury to realize psychic and emotional starvation,” from Moraga p.29. Understanding that racial ethnic children who are “physically starving”(61) have no assurance that they will physically survive, although commonly seen in society, still created a painful reality check within my thought process. The statistics behind Hispanic children and poverty, where Collins states that one third of those children who survive infancy live in poverty, made me realize the complexity behind mothering. Mothers hold survival in their hands and have an immense responsibility beyond the paternal figure and their “domination in the political economy and the household.”(57) Referencing back to my home town and actualizing that in my lifetime I have known people who live within this statistic, helped me internalize Collins work.
When reflecting on my community it immediately brought me back to my family. As a Latina with immigrant roots, the mothering that came about when my grandmother brought all 9 of her children to the U.S., can be considered heroic. Brining them into an impoverished community where people were known to either be caught in the system, live on the streets, or become involved in violence, she had to create a home environment in which they stayed out of it. Though the Hispanic statistics behind mothering and survival are astonishing, I believe that (when actually embraced) Latina mothers have the instinctual ability to create an environment in which their children stay focused on what they are expected to do or become in their lifetime. Concluding with Collins saying “survival, power and identity shape motherhood for all women”(72) and noticing that these factors should stop being marginalized for the sake of accurate theorizing, we can move towards the her hope of creating that median.
The section I most identified with was under the subheading:Motherwork and Identity. In the Black community, as well as other non-white cultures, the notion of ‘passing’ is a prevalent theme. I’ve witnessed this phenomenon in my family and amongst my close friends. A cousin of mine(fair in complexion) insists he’s white. Even if he’s old enough to understand the concept of race, he’s not hearing it . One of my close female friends(she’s from a blended family of Black and Indian) was ridiculed as a child for her darker skin. Some of her female relatives refused to date/marry ‘pure’ Black men, for fear of producing children with dark skin and kinky-coily hair. Literature also sheds light(no pun intended) on this occurrence. In Sapphire’s Push, Precious mentions, ” I would be light skinned, thereby treated right and loved by boyz. Light even more important than being skinny…Boyz overlook a lot to be wif a white girl or yellow girl…”(Sapphire 113)
But as Collins states, “since children of color can never be white, assimilation by becoming white is impossible”.(Collins 69)The bleaching of the skin to lighten its appearance and the pulling of the nose to straighten its structure can be considered attempts to assimilate into White culture, or to whiten the Black race. Interestingly enough, it’s rare, but not uncommon, for Black males to forgo part-taking in this. I believe that mothers-Black mothers in this instance are definitely more conscious of the role that “racial privilege”(Collins 68) plays in their children’s lives.
Some might argue that interracial dating for Blacks is a way of assimilating, but these same individuals are often times the ones labeling others sell-outs. Just a few weeks ago, my Pakistani friend and I were waiting for the train on 145th street. A Black girl said to her friend, “I hate to see Black women with White men.” I can’t understand why she would say such a thing, nor do I care.
From This Sex Which Is Not One by Luce Irigaray the opening sentence capsulizes the excerpt in its entirety “Female sexuality has always been conceptualized on the basis of masculine parameter”. Although this is a serious piece I read the piece as Irigaray have a sarcastic tone. Irigaray says men view female vaginas as “not comparable to the noble phallic organ, or a hole-envelope that serves to sheathe and massage the penis in intercourse”.
Irigaray also makes example of Freudian theory to present the absurdity of the thought. Freud says women have “penis envy” and “she attempts by every means available to appropriate that organ for herself”. Because of the subjugation women have had to endure through society I do agree that anyone would want the power associated with a symbol, including the phallus, I nor do I believe that Irigaray believes that most women want an actual penis. I speak for Irigaray because she replies to Freud by saying his theory is “masochistic [and leads her] to a desire that is not her own [and to] dependency upon man.”
Irigaray also present that man does not understand the female sex organ and this lack of understanding has been a factor in the degradation of women. From the male prospective the woman has more than one sexual organ with the clitoris and the lips, which confuses and eludes males understanding, in Irigaray’s theory, which has made men hold little value in her pleasure. Irigaray says that a woman should not try to boxer pleaser in to “simply one” but instead (re-) discover and “identify herslf with none” in particular.
The reproduction of mothering: psychoanalysis and the sociology of gender is according to different reviews one of the best contributions to the feminist psychology, but while reading this essay I couldn’t help but feel a bit angry at the many imbalanced stereotypes of men and women. Through all my readings I couldn’t and don’t understand why the author has chosen to base all of her opinions on the Freudian Oedipus theory. I have never been one to agree with that theory in itself and less in what Chodorow’s idea of what a mother daughter relation is based on. While reading her theories I couldn’t help but think of precious and the role that her parents played in her life.
According to Chodorow, the daughter falls both in love with the mom and the dad and then falls into some triangle with both parents because the daughter also becomes worried about the relationship with the father with the mother, Can we truly say that this was the case with Precious in Push?
While reading this essay I truly couldn’t help but ask my self as a modern women and as a daughter is it envy the underlies my heterosexuality or that my desire for men is a result from the desire for my mother? I think not. I would have to say that the authors ideas are a bit far fetched for my taste, yes I might want my mothers approval and for her to love me but it isn’t because I desire her or want to go back to being one with her. I can say that I identify with my mother as mother rather than an object of desire. I disagree with the author’s idea of what a female/ male role is and how masculinity come s about. My brother is a mommas boy but he is also very much a man, I have heard him many a times saying that because of my mother strong willingness he was able to become the man he is.
I rather think is funny that the author feel the need to associate the female sex drive with mothering instead of two separate beings. Why can’t women have a sex drive and enjoy it without the quilt that they must at some point through the process reproduce. Where is the true feminist?
Nancy Chodorow’s essay The Reproduction of Mothering is an exposition of how gender socialization originates and is perpetuated through a women’s mothering. The mother as “the salient parent and caretaker” is responsible for the upbringing of her children, in addition to the reinforcement of their gender identity. It is the mother that conveys the information and indicators to her children about their identity. However, the way in which boys and girls learn about their gender identity is different.
The mother is able to the channel information to her female child about her female identity through their “ongoing relationship”. The female child is to “develop a personal identification with her mother… She learns what it is to be womanlike in the context of this personal identification with her mother and often with other female models.” The male child will learn of his masculine gender identity in a different way from the female child. His identification processes are not “continuously embedded in and mediated” by his mother.
The male child is free to maturate and evolve in his learning about the masculine role. He does not have to be like his mother or father. The male child is “taught to be masculine more consciously”; aware of his surroundings and his place in the world. This is not the case for the female whose “taught the heterosexual components of her role.” She does not receive the freedom to develop her role in society more consciously. For her very existence serves a purpose, and that is to be a parent.
Chodorow reveals her understanding of the culture of mothering in order to expose what is wrong with the way social roles of women are fixed and flat. I believe that she wants to invoke a feeling in her reader to examine family organization, as well as the ideologies that dictate these social roles. For we must learn these embedded ideologies in our culture in order to unlearn our social roles.
The Sexual Sociology of Adult Life from The Reproduction of Mothering: Psychoanalysis and the Sociology of Gender by Nancy Chodorow breaks down the relationships in a family and how a child’s relationship with their mother is in direct relation to their gender and gender roles.
In the piece, Chodorow explains through the view of social scientists that “Because the first identification for children of both genders has always been with their mother, and because children are first around women, women’s family roles being feminine are more available and often more intelligible to growing children than masculine roles and being masculine. Hence male development is more complicated than female…”
It is interesting to think that because a girl’s first identification is with her mother and that they are both female, that would make female development less complicated than it would for male development. I am not sure that I agree with this idea. What if a girl does not identify with the gender role possessed by her mother? What if she takes on a gender role that is not expected from society? Would it still be less complicated?
Another interesting passage in Chodorow’s piece is:
“When men do “women’s” chores–this activity is often organized and delegated by the wife/mother, who retains residual responsibility (men babysit their own children; women do not).”
This statement resonated with me because I often hear things like a father “babysitting” his children, or doing the “woman’s” work for the day. Does this have to do with a child’s first relationship being with its mother? Do these feminine roles exist because of this?
Chodorow later says, “A boy’s oedipus complex is directly tied to issues of masculinity, and the devaluation of women is its “normal” outcome. A girl’s devaluation of or hostility toward her mother may be a part of the process, but its “normal” outcome, by contrast, entails acceptance of her own femininity and identification with her mother.”
This is particularly intriguing because this explains that although two children, one male, and one female identify with their mother at first, this later develops into two different relationships. One where the male child devalues women, and the other where the female child accepts women and identifies with women because she is a woman and can relate to her mother. Though I think that this is too much of a black and white way of looking at things, it does explain an overall thinking of society.