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Archive for the ‘Week 6’ Category

The sex which is

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.


Donzell Evans


Momma’s babies. The reproduction of Mothering

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?

Women & the Unlearning of Our Social Roles

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.

Feminine and Masculine Roles: a Mother’s Influence


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.

Woman make me a man?

“The Sexual Sociology of Adult Life from The Reproduction of Mothering:Psychoanalysis and the sociology of Gender” by Nancy Chodorow presents the theory of gender roles and development by the basis of beginning with the mother as role model for males and females. Chodorow explains that mother is the first teacher and “being feminine [is] more available”, and through her teachings females learn how to be woman, while “A boy, must distinguish and differentiate himself from others in a way that a girl need not.” A females readily identify with the mother and build their identity by mimicking the example of the mother. Males that have a working father or an absent father after learning how to be woman from the mother must then learn how to be men and this is done by defining masculinity by that which is not feminine. The male learns this from short periods of time spent with a working father or by “a positive affective relationship to a person who is there.”

The effects of males striving for the non-femanine he is”taught to be masculine more consciously than girls are taught to be feminine.” Masculinity stresses being different that female/ feminine, “whereas females tend to identify with aspects of their own mothers role specifically.”

Males not having a specific role model as females idealize and fantasize what masculinity should be, “whereas femininity and feminine role remain for a girl…real and concrete.”


Males in attempting to find themselves place importance on societal differences, separating different social activities as feminine and masculine. Through the use of Freud, Chodorow explains that the male view of females as the lesser sex has become “what we (society) have come to consider the normal male contempt for woman.”


Through this article the overexertion of masculinity in society is from the male attempting to find himself. While the mother is a role model she is not able to teach a male how to be masculine. How males are taught to be masculine can be seen as a shock to him by making him negate all that he has learned.

Donzell Evans

Sharon O’Brien on Chodorow’s The Reproduction of Mothering

By Frank Miller

For Professor Veeser’s Biography class “Feminist Theory and Biography” by Sharon O’Brien was assigned over the weekend. In the article O’Brien asks her audience why the feminist biographer has failed to write a form of what she calls the “anti-biography,” which for many offers an outlet from the traditional biography that is connected to a “patriarchal as well as Western humanist definition of the individual self – a self imagined, although frequently not admitted, to be male” (126). To answer this question, she proposes that a tension between strains of feminist theory that both support and contradict traditional biography prevent women from writing biographies. O’Brien suggests that “more biographies of women are [needed]” and that “Women’s lives have been erased, unrecorded, or represented by patriarchal stories, and biography can be a powerful means for reinscribing women in history” (128).

In forming her argument, O’Brien touches on Nancy Chodorow’s The Reproduction of Mothering. She writes: “The psychoanalytic and literary theory derived from the work of Nancy Chodorow is opposed to deconstruction’s dismantling of the unified subject and the category ‘woman.’ This strain of feminist theory seeks to disrupt the equivalence of the masculine with the universal by defining women’s ‘different voice'” (127). O’Brien states that  various forms of the “different voice” have gained popularity in the United States because “many American feminists resist abandoning the notion of the ‘real’ or authentic self, even when they modify the definition of individualism in contending that the female self is more defined in relationship than in separation” (127).

It seems as if Chodorow highlights O’Brien’s “resistance to abandon the real self” in The Reproduction of Mothering. Chodorow proposes that young girls “can begin to identify more directly and immediately with their mothers and their mothers’ familial roles than can boys with their fathers and men” (265) based on the more “nurturing” role that a woman takes on than that of a man. At first glance the constance presence of a mother guiding them may appear as a benefit to girls; however, it is not. Chodorow contends that femininity is established at birth for girls, and is an inherent quality that cannot be escaped. Masculinity on the other hand is not inherent, but rather achieved or learned through some process. Chodorow writes that boys: “develop a sense of what it is to be masculine through identification with cultural images of masculinity…[they] are taught to be masculine more consciously than girls are taught to be feminine” (266). These “cultural images” may take the form of figures such as the legendary Stanford standout and Broncos quarterback, John Elway (goodlooking, tall, athletic, rich) or maybe even Batman (my favorite superhero as a child). Nevertheless which figure a male child picks, Chodorow points out that males have the opportunity of choice to “define themselves in seperation” while girls must define their female self “in relation” to their mothers without question. It is through “the different voice” that the American feminist is allowed to establish her “authentic self” and in essence break from her maternal-bound feminine qualities and develop her own identity similar to that males. Such freedom to form identity is an extension of self independence and expression that so many have fought so hard for, why would American feminists, or any person for that matter give something so precious up?

Should women become masculine to get success?

Early on in Nancy Chodorow’s essay “The Sexual Sociology of Adult Life” I was bothered by the following passage:

…because children are first around women, women’s family roles and 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 because of the difficult shift of identification which a boy must make to attain his expected gender identification and gender role assumption. (265)

Though I agreed with Chodorow’s logic, I did not like the determination that femininity is “more available” while masculinity is “more complicated”. The presumption that females assumed a role that was simple and accessible bothered me. But what confused me more is that males somehow got to have  a deeper understanding of gender. If males had to make this transition, then they somehow were more mature in their understanding of their gender. This right of passage made being male more mature and more advanced than the female; this process produced an automatically infantilized women.

I do not like to think of being feminine as being immature, especially since though being feminine is not a role I think is perfect, it is role that I think has its benefits. This got me thinking, especially as Chodorow elaborated on the masculine persona being the public and more economically productive persona. Would I have to become “male” to be a true, independent, productive, member of the larger society? And more importantly, if I determined this was necessary, would masculinity be a true possibility for me as a woman?

First, I do think that it is somewhat necessary for women to develop a certain “fluency” in masculinity to participate to the fullest in a public domain. Based on Chodorow’s explanation of masculinity being attained through assertion of otherness, independence, and  superiority, masculinity does seem to be a precedent for success in capitalist society. Since I would like to also be successful in society, it does seem that becoming masculine would be a benefit.

Based on the idea that being masculine would provide a mindset that would breed social success, the question becomes if  a woman can actually adopt the masculine persona for the work world. My previous answer to this question has always been that there is a certain extent to which women can adopt the masculine persona, but there is a limit, because of the conflicts of home obligations and feminine identification. But Chodorow’s descriptions of masculinity as repressive, based on an absentee father’s model, and elusive and stereotypical, it seems that masculinity is even more of a performance than femininity. If masculinity’s power emerges from a feminine gender identity, and masculinity is a largely fabricated concept, it seems that women would have no problem being masculine. Actually, since women have the foundation of having truly integrated their femininity through personal relationships, and have a true model of performing gender, their gender performance is more natural, mastered and second nature. Though women might be more attached to femininity, they would be a better population to identify the opposite of their gender and reject it. They have more comfort and practice acting their gender. Women, it seems, would be better at being masculine than many men might be.

That being said, this lack of a nuanced, real, human models for masculinity for men struck me an very sad. Women have models of oppressed and limited women,  but they have complete models to watch, while men have a fictitious concept to base their gender on. It brings into question how much both genders are problematic and oppressive, but based on the fact that I have come to completely paradoxical conclusions in this post, it seems like an area worth further exploration.