By: MaryKate Schwerdt
Chodorow makes a very good point when she says the constructed ideal of woman is much easier to achieve than that of a man. I think this is because the traditional role of a woman has been (literally) dumbed down and simplified. She is maternally raised to become maternal as well, but being this definition of woman has clear actions that need to done in order to fit the mold. This mold mandates woman should be a nurturing and submissive mother. How does she become a mother? She has a child. How does she become nurturing? She cooks and cleans for the people living in her home. All she has to do is emulate the mother she grew up with. So by “simplified” I do not mean that these tasks are inherently easy, but rather, like Chodorow says, these tasks form an ideal path leading to that particular ideal of woman. However, I do mean actually dumbed down because no shape or form of academics are even considered in this agenda, which I hope the fact that I’m writing this response for a college feminist course proves that agenda is less popular today than it was in 1978, when Chodrorow was writing this piece, but I digress…
Her other point that stuck out to me was that “boys are taught to be masculine more consciously than girls are taught to be feminine.” I agree with this in the sense that femininity is supposed to come naturally to women, with almost no work involved. These maternal and nurturing traits are seen as instinctual behaviors rather than crafted habits- stick a baby with a woman and she should know how to care for it, regardless of her exposure to childcare techniques. Man, on the other hand, is something a boy works to attempt to become by rejecting dependency on woman and emulating behaviors of numerous idolized males. Because this male behavior is perceived as a sculpted behavior that requires practice, repetition, and performance, it is seen as less easily attainable, as opposed to the perceived inherency of female behavior, and is therefore more valued in the Capitalist gender scheme. Man has a specialized set of skills he worked for years to cultivate, valued over the traditional female skills for the same reason a surgeon’s skills are seen as more valuable than a dog walker’s. Since this value system is constructed around a gender binary, his foundational idea of what it means to be a man is not to be a woman. He defines himself by what he is not instead of what he is.
This skewed value of man’s skills over woman’s along with Chodorow’s observation of the father’s absence relative to the mother show a type of elite sacredness associated with man because the role is not readily available, leading to a notion that women are born while men are made. Once they are made, the fashioning process elevates them to another realm above women and children. However, as Chodorow points out, there is no end of the road for a man, the title of “man” is unattainable because there is no definite action he can carry out to label him as such. Woman, on the other hand, arrive to her destination, sometimes a little too soon, because a ceiling has been placed on her potential. Her worth is measured in completed actions, like the Capitalist worker employed for specific menial and repetitive tasks, the optimal end product being groomed children ready to assume/work on their appropriate gender roles. Man is not subjected to such tangible measurements.