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.