Women's Mothering and Male Misogyny
During the 1970s, feminists using psychoanalytic theory considered women's mothering to be highly problematic. In this chapter I trace the vicissitudes of the hypothesis that women's mothering— that is, being the primary caretakers of children—lies behind male misogyny and male dominance itself. The hypothesis derives from psychoanalytic theory and its extensions and has been discovered and rediscovered, worked over and overworked in various ways by feminists, including myself, since the early days of psychoanalysis. But only in the 1970s was it called upon to bear the burden of explaining the entire system of male dominance. This argument that blames male misogyny on women's mothering has an important element of truth in it, but in my view, it does not hold the key to a viable solution to systems of male dominance; moreover, the argument has become an impediment to seeing the positive aspects of women's mothering, or better, of a maternal stance.
Feminists who use psychoanalytic theory in conjunction with an analysis of social structure suggest that male misogyny is far from superficial and cannot be easily eradicated. Psychoanalytic explanations focus on the generation of motivation that is nonrational and operates outside conscious awareness. These motivational explanations offer an alternative to simplistic "role theory" explanations of male dominance that suggest that to do away with male dominance, all we need to do is to redefine roles or eliminate gender-based role differentiation. Similarly, these explanations at
the motivational level seem preferable to those nonpsychoanalytic "psychological" analyses that suggest that male dominance can be eradicated by getting rid of outmoded stereotypes. There is nothing wrong with advocating role and stereotype change, but attempts to effect real change (as opposed to a change in the forms male misogyny takes) may fail unless we recognize unconscious motivational tendencies and their underlying dynamics.
Moreover, psychoanalytic theory offers an alternative to simplistic biological explanations that attempt to account for male dominance by recourse to some presumably immutable genetic or hormonal differences between men and women. Psychoanalytic theory used in conjunction with an analysis of social structure appealed to feminists precisely because it could explain the persistence and seeming intractability of certain attitudes without recourse to biological factors. The structural fact the theorists under consideration use is that women, not men, tend to be responsible for early child care. In later chapters I will be increasingly critical of some important elements in psychoanalytic interpretations of gender, but my concern now is with how psychoanalysis can help explain the generation of sexist motivation in men and women.
Two major themes in psychoanalytic accounts of male personality development relate to the early primacy of women in the lives of male children. One is the idea that infants and children of both genders, but especially males, feel fear and envy toward the mother and develop defenses against these feelings; the other theme is the problems males encounter in establishing a secure sense of masculine gender identity. The first tendency emphasizes infantile dependency needs and the "primary process" thinking in which the mother appears overwhelmingly powerful; the second emphasizes the idea that identity develops from a process of separating the self from the mother, including boys' learning that they are a different gender from mother. Both these strands of gynecentric (i.e., mother-centered) psychoanalytic theory have been used to explain why men are motivated to denigrate and dominate women, whereas women feel few or no comparable motives toward men.
I begin by showing how the earlier themes fit into feminist explanations of male dominance, while also pointing out the limitations of such analyses. I then discuss the work of Evelyn Fox Keller
and Jessica Benjamin, who relate males' special problems with separation from the mother to their greater tendency to emphasize difference, hierarchy, and domination in their thinking. Keller's and Benjamin's analyses, which derive from combining psychoanalytic hypotheses with a "critical theory" perspective, differ from earlier analyses and need to be examined separately. ("Critical theory" is the name adopted in the United States by the Frankfurt School of Marxism, which emphasizes cultural and psychological factors.) I find problems with the specific psychoanalytic account Keller and Benjamin use, but the direction they take in emphasizing women's lesser concern with preserving gender difference and lesser tendency to control through domination is progressive. It also fits in with my interest in how fathers, not mothers, are the main focus of the more narrowly "sexual" aspects of gender differentiation.
The Fear and Envy Hypothesis
The fear and envy hypothesis is almost as old as psychoanalysis itself. The early names most associated with the hypothesis are Ernest Jones, Melanie Klein, and Karen Horney. Although their accounts differ substantially, they all have a common thread of opposition to what Jones labels Freud's "phallocentric" views. Each stresses the significance of the preoedipal period and the mother rather than of the oedipal period and the father; all see the penis envy in girls, which Freud took for granted as being primary, as being in fact a secondary response. Although male dominance itself is not problematic for these theorists, their ideas nevertheless can be used to shed light on the motives behind male dominance.
Jones tried to be an arbiter in what came to be called the Freud-Jones controversy, which represents the conflict between phallocentric and gynecentric approaches. Jones draws heavily on the views of both Klein and Horney, both of whom take as their starting point the helplessness of the infant, that is, the infant's almost total physical and emotional dependence on an adult. Klein emphasizes the infant's sadistic aggressive responses to this dependency coupled with anxiety engendered by a fear of the mother's reprisal for aggression. According to Klein, the boy compensates
for his feelings of "hate, anxiety, envy and inferiority that spring from his feminine phase by reinforcing his pride in the possession of a penis."
Horney, by contrast, links men's general fear of women to the boy's fear of being rebuffed by the all-important mother and the subsequent loss of self-esteem. This fear of deflation by a woman on whom he was dependent then becomes the prime motivating factor in men's compulsion to prove themselves and their manhood and to seek to possess many women or to attempt to "diminish the self-respect of the woman."
Horney suggests that, in addition to fear, there is in men a strong element of envy and even awe of women's capacity for motherhood. Surely, she says, there must have been a time in the psychic development of boys and girls when neither sex was convinced that women were inferior. She backs this up by describing how in analyzing men "one receives a most surprising impression of the intensity of this envy of pregnancy, childbirth, motherhood as well as the breasts and the act of suckling." Boys, she suggests, defend themselves against this envy by asserting the phallocentric idea that motherhood is in reality a burden and that what women basically want is not a child, but a penis. In Horney's view, Freud's phallocentric idea represents a masculine defense against womb envy.
Margaret Mead, who was influenced considerably in the 1940s by psychoanalytic thinking, has also argued that men envy women's procreative powers. Rather than using clinical experience, she uses the myths that abound in various cultures, including our own, to bolster her interpretations. According to Mead, in the areas of New Guinea she studied, "It is men who spend their ceremonial lives pretending that it was they who had borne the children, that they can 'make men.'" Mead also describes how men in New Guinea tell stories about how their mythical man-making powers were invented by a woman and stolen from her by men. Mead attributes men and women's according higher value to what men do than to what women do (that is, what men do is considered an achievement) to a perception of males' psychological need to compensate for their lack of procreative powers.
Dorothy Dinnerstein's The Mermaid and the Minotaur offers the most sustained account to date that attributes male dominance directly to infantile fear and envy of mothers. Dinnerstein states
explicitly that she is concerned not with personal male misogyny but with the entire system of male dominance. This system, she says, is created not by men alone but rather is based on a conspiracy by both men and women. This conspiracy consists of substituting male dominance for the far more threatening dominance that mothers held over us as male and female infants.
Although it is not always clear what Dinnerstein thinks the crucial mechanisms are that intervene between male dominance and early child care by women, her central theme is that the power we as infants ascribe to mothers creates a need in us for a more bounded authority. Formal authority is always vested in males because male authority appears to be a refuge from the primitive and seemingly unlimited despotism of the mother as perceived by the infant. Dinnerstein follows Melanie Klein in explaining men's fear and contempt for women and argues that in the child's mind, since the mother does not always meet the infant's needs, she is perceived as "capricious" and "sometimes actively malevolent." But there is also the child's ambivalence, made up of destructive rage when disappointed as well as abounding gratitude when satiated. This ambivalence is then projected onto women in general. Dinnerstein sees men's sexual possessiveness as an attempt to "own" women's life-giving powers, and sex-segregated institutions as being created by men in order to defend themselves from "the temptation to give way to ferocious voracious dependence" on women (p. 67).
In Dinnerstein's analysis, women take on characteristics as unlovely as those she attributes to men. Whereas men may express their vindictive feelings against the mother directly in "arrogance toward everything female," women express those feelings "directly in distrust and disrespect toward other women, and indirectly by offering ourselves up to male vindictiveness" (p. 174). Women have supported men in their evil deeds against Mother Nature because of their own infantile rage, but women then use their powerlessness to absolve themselves from blame and take some pleasure in blaming men. Now, Dinnerstein says, women have come to hate men as much as men have always hated women.
According to Dinnerstein, male dominance must be ended, not so much because it oppresses women as because masculine "achievements" threaten to destroy the world. Dinnerstein sees us
as having created a "megamachine" (Lewis Mumford's term) bent on destroying the earth and the vitality of human life. Her main interest, in fact, is to criticize the enterprises in which men are engaged and to which women are acquiescing. In so doing, she breaks with Simone de Beauvoir, whom she generally holds in high esteem. Dinnerstein dislikes de Beauvoir's uncritical acceptance of masculine ways of thinking—for taking "the male world-making enterprise at face value" and for believing that freedom for women can be had by "a simple entering into mans realm" (p. 24).
It is true that Dinnerstein blames women's mothering for the ills of the world, but at the same time she defines what those ills are from a maternal, caring, preserving perspective. But in spite of Dinnerstein's own maternal values (one wonders where she got them), the women in the horror show Dinnerstein depicts are not thinking like mothers; they are thinking like dependent wives and girlfriends, supporting men in their madness. Her final message is that women can stop providing support for men's life-threatening enterprises. This is the reading I prefer to give Dinnerstein, but the message that comes across more strongly is that women's mothering, by causing men and women to reject the overwhelmingness of their early experience with female power, is to blame for all this.
Dinnerstein's book is written not from the point of view of an adult mother doing the best she can under the circumstances, but from the perspective of an infant who expects nothing short of perfection. She communicates to the reader through the language of "primary process thinking," that is, thinking in which only infantile needs matter. She does this well, presumably in hopes that we will recognize this thinking in ourselves and also the infant in ourselves. Dinnerstein is saying that infants blame mothers when the world is not right, but she becomes so totally caught up in her own apocalyptic vision that she never stops taking the point of view she attributes to infants.
Dinnerstein does not argue that women do not mother well; rather, she argues that infants are not rational and only gradually learn to take the point of view of the mother instead of looking at the world from the standpoint of their own voracious needs. She sets up the problem as infantile thinking but prescribes that the realistic solution is for fathers to mother. After her description of what men are like (because of their infantile thinking), however,
one is inclined to agree with Pauline Bart, who exclaimed in a review of Dinnerstein's book, "I wouldn't even buy a used car from people like that! What kind of generation would they produce?" Moreover, Dinnerstein does not explain how an infant might be persuaded to disperse its apparently unlimited needs and resentments equally between a male and a female parent and thereby presumably cease to be misogynist.
It seems to me that the basic problem here is not so much women's mothering but the nonrational, "unprocessed," or primary process thinking that continues to influence the adult's responses in certain triggering situations. A more effective solution to this kind of thinking than equal parenting would be for all of us to grow up and for women to take the lead in helping us do so. That is, we all need to recognize the nonrational elements in our thinking, the elements that make us expect perfection from mothers and fear abandonment and humiliation by them. Here, of course, I mean not one's own real mother but rather women perceived as mothers. Growing up would mean learning to take others' needs and perspectives into account besides our own and thus putting one's self into a wider perspective. Most of us do grow up, more or less, and women are in a better position than men to take the lead in insisting that men and women take others into account as mothers do, rather than continuing to take the point of view of the egocentric child. Perhaps this is implied in Dinnerstein's idea of equal parenting, but it does not come through.
The devaluation of women (by both men and women) is not an inevitable reaction formation to women's prominence in early child care. It is a choice, helped along by the male dominance institutionalized in political and economic structures and supported in male peer groups. I am convinced that all of us harbor irrational ideas and expectations focused on women because women are so prominent in our early life and that these ideas feed into male rage and male misogyny. Feminists with an awareness of the psychoanalytic tradition naturally focused on these ideas as an explanation of the roots of male misogyny, and these ideas suggest that the roots run very deep. Male fear and envy of mothers cannot stand alone, however, as the explanation of male dominance even on a psychological level, in part because it ignores the positive consequences that being mothered has for both men and women.
The Tenuous Masculine Identity Hypothesis
Generally, the theorists concerned with the various consequences of a boys making an initial "feminine identification" have been social scientists who have been influenced by psychoanalytic ideas. Social learning theorists have often readily assumed that because mothers are far more available and primary in the lives of young children than fathers, children of both sexes initially make a "feminine identification." From this perspective, growing up for males means shifting from a feminine identification to a masculine one. Psychoanalysts and social learning theorists alike have assumed that it is important for the son to have a "good" relationship with his father in order to be helped "to identify" with him or to learn by observing him and thus to become "masculine" or to learn "masculinity." Few of these accounts specify what is meant by identification and sometimes the term is used simply as a synonym for modeling or copying the parent of the same gender.
In the 1950s, worry about a boy's problematic identification gave rise to the concept of "compulsive masculinity." For example, Walter Miller argued that lower-class boys who grew up in predominantly female homes that lacked "a consistently present male figure with whom to identify" were likely to become compulsively concerned with toughness and masculinity as a reaction formation against the femininity surrounding them. Miller claimed that father-deprived males were likely to commit delinquent acts to prove their masculinity to the gang. In a similar vein, Rohrer and Edmonson studied a group of black males in New Orleans and argued that the black male joined a gang in a "search for masculinity he cannot find at home." These gangs in turn come to see "the common enemy not as a class, nor even as a sex, but as the 'feminine principle' in society."
Whereas most of the studies in this country on compulsive masculinity were on the "lower class" and particularly blacks, Talcott Parsons applied the idea to middle-class children. He pointed out that in highly industrialized societies the place of work is separated from the place of residence and fathers leave home to work. In the middle class this work is time-consuming and often incomprehensible to a child. Thus there is a kind of "father absence" in the
middle class that causes children to interact chiefly with their mothers and other women. Women, not men, become the rule givers and represent the demand to "be good." This situation tends to produce what Parsons called "the bad boy pattern" and the "tenderness taboo," whereby males in attempting to be masculine without a clear masculine model express masculinity in largely negative ways by being "bad" and "tough." In trying not to be feminine, the boy unconsciously identifies "goodness" with femininity, and being a "bad boy" becomes a positive goal. Leslie Fiedler has described this "bad boy pattern" as a pervasive theme in U.S. fiction. From Mark Twain's stories to Ken Kesey's One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest are numerous sagas in which men (or boys) seek to escape a world that they perceive to be dominated by female morality.
The idea of boys making an initial "feminine identification" was also used by anthropologists in the 1950s in interpreting other behavior patterns found in a given society. These anthropologists reported that societies in which fathers were absent or virtually absent during a boy's infancy were more likely than others to have compensating rituals later on that symbolically broke the motherson bond and affirmed the boy's masculinity. In a different but related vein, an analysis of forty-eight societies reported that the frequency of crime in these societies was associated with situations in which the opportunity for the young boy to form an identification with his father was limited. More recently, Beatrice Whiting reported that in her and her associates' study of children from six different cultures there was greater adult violence in the two societies where infants saw their fathers infrequently. She specifically assumed the "status envy" hypothesis that young children would identify with the person who seems most important to them, the person who is seen as controlling the resources that they want. In the earliest years when this person is almost exclusively the mother, boys would be expected to make a feminine identification. Whiting then used the idea of compulsive masculinity to explain the violence that erupted in later years when the boys had to break this feminine identification.
Whiting points out that in the six cultures study described above and in the studies by other anthropologists, the phenomenon of sex-identity conflict occurs only when a great deal of gender segre-
gation and male dominance exists in the adult society. This finding suggests that in more egalitarian societies, where femininity is not so devalued, one of the motives for males' compulsive resistance to femininity (both within and outside themselves) is lost.
At the time it was published, the research I have been describing was used to bolster the argument that fathers were vital to the well-being of children. It played into a persistent worry about father absence and the fear that males would be made "effeminate" by their mothers. Fathers were needed, it was claimed, to show boys what masculinity was and to prevent them from being made into sissies by their mothers or from overdoing masculinity as a defense against feminization.
The idea of "compulsive masculinity," or exaggerated masculinity, became something of a bridge to a feminist use of the idea that maleness was a less secure identity than femaleness and that this insecure identity provided a motive for male misogyny. Ruth Hartley moved in this direction in 1959. Writing at a time when male dominance was seldom subjected to criticism, she noted that males generally learn what they must not be in order to be masculine, before they learn what they can be. Because adult males are rarely closely involved with boys, many boys define masculinity as simply "not being feminine." Hartley argued that males compensate themselves for the pains involved in breaking away from the world of women by viewing females in very negative ways. The eight- to eleven-year-old boys she studied described adult women as weak, afraid, easily tired, in need of help, squeamish, inadequate in emergencies, making an undue fuss over things, not very intelligent, and demanding and jealous of their husbands! (Significantly, this description is clearly more congruous with definitions of women as wives than of women as mothers.) Boys, at least middle-class white boys in the United States, seem to force themselves into masculinity to avoid being such a pitiful specimen as a stereotypical wife. Hartley's article was reprinted in a widely used text on the "male sex role" that popularized the idea that one of the cornerstones of "masculinity" was its "antifeminine" element— whatever else one does, at all costs, do not be like a female.
In 1974, in "Family Structure and Feminine Personality," Chodorow stated the above premise from a more psychoanalytic perspective and took its implications much further, suggesting that the
male tendency to define masculinity as "that which is not feminine or involved with women . . . explains the psychological dynamics of the universal social and cultural devaluation and subordination of women." The boy denies his attachment and deep personal identification with his mother "by repressing whatever he takes to be feminine inside himself, and, importantly, by denigrating and devaluing whatever he considers to be feminine in the outside world." Beyond this, Chodorow suggests that as a member of society, "he also appropriates to himself and defines as superior particular social activities and cultural spheres—possibly, in fact, 'society' . . . and 'culture' . . . themselves" (p. 50). Thus Chodorow uses the search for masculinity as an explanation for the male view that society and culture are male products. In 1979, Jean Stockard and I suggested that the greater rewards and power of masculinity act as an inducement to boys to break with femaleness. Women, in contrast, do not have a psychological need for "greater glory" as an inducement to be mothers.
Nowadays when feminists and, increasingly, modern psychologists speak of masculine gender identity, they usually do not mean the degree of masculinity as measured by ordinary psychological tests or the degree of conformity to a stereotyped "male role." Since the early 1970s, the idea of gender identity has referred not to the extent to which one is masculine, feminine, or even androgynous but rather to the simple emotional, cognitive, and bodily grounded conviction of being male or female and to being able to take this conviction for granted as a comfortable and desirable reality. The tenuous gender identity hypothesis then claims that this secure sense of gender is considerably less problematic for women than it is for men.
Robert Stoller's studies of transsexuals provide empirical support for the tenuous masculine identity hypothesis at this deeper level. On the basis of his research, Stoller concludes that masculinity is not a "core-gender identity" for males in the same way that femininity is for females. Rather, masculinity is achieved by males only after they have separated themselves from the "femininity" of the mother.
Stoller thinks that female transsexualism has quite different origins than transsexualism in males. He considers female transsexuals to be a type of homosexual and male transsexuals to be different from
either homosexuals or transvestites. Their "femininity" goes much deeper; psychically (but not physically) they are women. Stoller sees this phenomenon as the result of a too-close and too-gratifying mother-infant "symbiosis." This symbiosis occurs before the child has enough of an ego structure to actually "identify with" the mother. It is something even more primitive. It is "being the same as mother, which would be the destruction of masculinity" (p. 353).
Stoller's most significant argument is that every male must overcome and resist the excessive merging with the mother that happens with the transsexual. As Stoller sees it, every male infant experiences some degree of oneness with the mother; transsexuals are simply those at the far end of a continuum. Thus Stoller considers males making a feminine identification not a "defense" of one sort or another but rather the primary state. This view takes the idea of the primacy of the feminine in its maternal aspects in the male ego farther than most other psychoanalysts have done. Stoller's emphasis on the fundamentality of the maternal identification and his association of it with femininity implies that masculinity represents a deviation from femininity in its maternal aspects. Stoller does not relate his idea of primitive symbiosis with the mother to male misogyny, much less to male dominance. He also sees a sharp difference between his theory and the fear and envy hypothesis; his emphasis on idyllic symbiosis causes him to deny that there is early ambivalence and conflict in the mother-child relationship. Chodorow uses Stoller's work to bolster the argument that if fathers also mothered, it would not eliminate gender identity altogether but it would help the child feel that he is a male and that males can nurture too, and that it is not necessary to denigrate women to convince oneself that one really is a male.
Linking the Two Hypotheses in Gynecentric Thought
The fear and envy hypothesis and the tenuous masculine identity hypothesis are quite different from a psychoanalytic standpoint and seem to rest on different assumptions about the nature of the earliest infant-mother relationship. They may be viewed as essentially compatible, however, if they are seen as representing differing phases of the mother-infant relationship. Stoller is probably correct
in assuming that the overriding emotion in the earliest mother-child relationship is love. Yet it is also possible to imagine how something akin to both fear and envy might accompany the infant's developing capacities for autonomy. As Melanie Klein suggests, infants fear that this person on whom they are so dependent might turn against them, and, as Horney suggests, they envy her capacities. Those who stress the fear and envy hypothesis, then, seem essentially to be saying that men's motive to segregate and dominate women comes not so much from the necessity to break their identification with the mother but rather from a fear of the consequences of their dependency on a woman whose powers they do not possess.
These same hypotheses can be couched in language more compatible with developmental theory and more relevant to development beyond earliest infancy. The tenuous gender identity hypothesis holds that since male figures tend to be conspicuously absent in early childhood, the boy, in trying to compensate for his lack of clarity about what it means to be masculine, is constrained to devalue and degrade female-typed activities and to stress the superiority of males over females and of male roles over female roles. The fear and envy hypothesis (which is likely to strike cognitively oriented developmentalists and role theorists as embarrassing and exaggerated) can be translated to refer to boys' efforts to cope with their recognition of relative powerlessness and the concomitant recognition that dependency is disparaged in males. Thus, in a sense, males are motivated to dominate females as a means of coping with their dependency needs.
Males, then, face both their dependency and their lack of clear gender identity as they move toward greater autonomy. Girls also experience the dangers of dependency and often struggle with their own mothers to escape it, but girls do not have to form a gender identity different from that of the mother. Males, however, continue throughout their lives to be threatened in different ways and on different levels with an identity problem and with a fear of dependency that is linked to it. The institutional arrangements embodying male dominance and the cultural justification of male dominance serve males well in coping with these threats by assuring them of their gender's superiority. Moreover, institutionalized male dominance gives even greater significance to not being fe-
male and in the end exacerbates rather than quells male identity and dependency problems.
Joseph Pleck, in his book The Myth of Masculinity, extensively criticizes the kinds of hypotheses and research I have been describing relating mainly to the tenuous gender identity hypothesis. Basically, he argues that empirical support for the hypotheses embodied in what he calls the Masculine Sex Role Identity (MSRI) paradigm is lacking and that from a political standpoint the paradigm has been used to discredit mothers and poor or black males (in the absent-father studies) and to justify traditional male role expectations. In a brief statement toward the end of his book, Pleck exempts Dinnerstein's work and at least part of Chodorow's work from his critique (pp. 156–57). He also speaks favorably of Stoller's ideas concerning transsexuals. Pleck says all of the work he has exempted has been misinterpreted by the general public, however, as supporting the importance of clear-cut sex roles; actually, the implication of these works is that a secure sense of self as male or female may make it easier rather than harder to play nontraditional roles. This is quite correct. Pleck has a general bias against psychodynamic hypotheses, and even against developmental hypotheses, however, and this bias limits his later analysis.
In essence Pleck would have us substitute a normative explanation for problems associated with men for a psychodynamic one. As an alternative to the Masculine Sex Role Identity paradigm, Pleck proposes a Sex Role Strain (SRS) paradigm. This paradigm maintains that it is difficult, if not impossible, for anyone to live up to the normative male role and that this places undue strain on men and women. This strain, Pleck believes, can account for male aggressiveness. Although I have no particular quarrel with the rather bland propositions in Pleck's alternative paradigm, I believe it focuses attention away from the gut-level emotional issues involved in gender attitudes and away from male dominance itself. Pleck asks rhetorically, "Are psychodynamic theories to account for men's attitudes toward women necessary?" My answer is yes, because the emotions that males and females have about themselves and each other are deeply felt and cannot be adequately accounted for
by biology or role theory alone. Feminists who use psychoanalytic theory suggest that male dominance is far from superficial, because it gets built into our deepest feelings and understandings about what being masculine or feminine means. Moreover, Pleck's "critique of the male role" approach to gender relations minimizes the pervasiveness of male dominance, male privilege, and male power.
Equal Parenting as Solution?
Nancy Chodorow and Dorothy Dinnerstein argue that the remedy for the male motive to dominate women, which they see as being set in motion by the social assignment of mothering to women, is equal parenting by fathers and mothers. Neither of them suggests that women should not mother but rather that fathers should mother too. One gets the feeling, however, that the solution they propose is a rather distant prospect even in their own minds, and one that they feel cannot bear too-close scrutiny. Chodorow clearly understands that other aspects of social organization will have to change if fathers are to be able to mother, but she does not deal with this in any detail. Then too, these authors completely ignore the many obvious practical problems with precisely what is meant by an "equal division."
Many critics, including Chodorow herself, have pointed out that it is difficult to see why, in terms of her own analysis, men would ever be motivated to mother. According to the analysis, men are presumably made hostile to female activities by virtue of being dominated by a female, so why would they take on this female activity? In addition to the problem of getting men to mother in the first place, there is the danger (suggested by phallocentric versions of psychoanalytic theory that I will discuss later) that men will father in such a way as to reproduce patriarchy instead of gender equality.
The equal parenting "solution" would also strengthen the heterosexual couple relationship by making mothering a joint activity. Certainly lesbian coparents and heterosexual single mothers would hardly be served by this solution, which would work against any kind of female bonding, sexual or otherwise, and further emphasize the male-dominated couple relationship. A more effective way of reducing male resentments of women may be to diffuse mother-
ingin this society not equally between a mother and a father but between mothers and other caretakers, male and female, with mothers retaining primary responsibility. This in fact seems to be the direction in which this society and other industrialized Western societies are moving in their childcare arrangements.
Difference and Dominance
I agree with those who say the most significant psychological difference between the thought tendencies of men and women is that men tend to emphasize and focus on gender difference more than women. That is, men seem to have a greater psychological investment in seeing and emphasizing gender difference than women do. My own work on fathers has long been concerned with this phenomenon. The difference as men see it is likely to be expressed in terms of hierarchy—strong-weak, dominant-submissive, independent-dependent, subject-object, penetrator-penetrated, and so forth. The tendency can easily lead men (and women) to define relational virtues, such as openness to the perspectives and needs of others, as "weakness."
Both Evelyn Fox Keller and Jessica Benjamin relate the male emphasis on preserving a rigid distinction between self and other to a need to objectify and control the other, in short, to dominate the other. Their accounts bear some resemblance to those I reviewed above, especially that of Dinnerstein, that attempt to explain the devaluation of women and male dominance as a system by the fact that women mother. Keller's and Benjamin's focus, however, is less on male attitudes toward women as a group than on general masculine ways of thinking, which have come to characterize Western science and Western eroticism. Keller and Benjamin are both essentially critics of capitalist culture, but in their criticism they link the "critical theory" of the Frankfurt School of Marxism, with its focus on domination, to masculinity by making domination a male propensity. In a sense they turn that school's "critique of domination" into a "critique of masculinity." As Hester Eisenstein points out, the critique of Western culture that connects it with men and their orientations became a basis for woman-centered analysis that sees "maleness and masculinity as a
deformation of the human, and a source of ultimate danger to the continuity of life." Keller's and Benjamin's analyses differ considerably from one another both in terms of the substantive problems they address and in terms of the implications for action that they suggest. Specifically, Keller is concerned with domination in Western science and Benjamin is primarily concerned with "erotic domination."
Both Benjamin and Keller rely on a complex account of the infantile roots of the more typically masculine impulse toward domination. Following the work of the object relations theorist D. W. Winnicott, they propose that in making the transition from "symbiotic union" with the mother to a recognition of the autonomy of self and others, the infant develops unconscious ideation to the effect that the subject (the self) has actually destroyed the object (the other person) in the process of becoming separate. To believe the other has been destroyed is highly anxiety-producing because if the object does not exist, how is the subject to maintain any relatedness? The child is thus not only afraid of having destroyed the other in becoming a self but also afraid of losing its own self if the other survives. The child then seeks to defend against both possibilities by seeking mastery over the other. At a later point, in the oedipal stage, this innocent mastery (in which presumably both genders partake) can become converted into mastery over and against the other. This latter mastery for various reasons (including the assumptions that males must not be females and must "disidentify" from the mother) becomes associated with masculinity at both the individual and the cultural level.
Also, in contrast to Dinnerstein and Chodorow, neither Benjamin nor Keller focuses on equal parenting as a primary solution to male dominance, probably because they see masculine ways of thinking as highly problematic. Benjamin, especially, is concerned about the oedipal, authoritarian father, whom both see as enforcing gender polarity and representing authority.
Science and Domination
Keller suggests that the cultural identification of science and objectivity with masculinity is connected to the developmental process
of separating self from mother. The boy, who must not only become a separate self but also a separate gender from the mother, is likely to defend himself both from "reengulfment" by the mother and from femaleness by assuming a more objective and distanced stance. The culture helps the process by associating both objectivity and masculinity with science, by making scientific thinking a model for all thinking, and by defining as "scientific" only that which is objective and distanced. Thus science itself has become genderized and has lost much in the process.
But Western science is not only objective and distanced; it also places great emphasis on power and control. Keller suggests that the impulse to dominate is a natural concomitant of "defensive separateness" (p. 596). The impulse feeds into and is fed by the cultural construct of masculinity in which, for example, nature is seen as the mother who must be conquered and subdued. Keller is concerned not with reiterating this familiar connection and its variants but with purveying an alternative view of science. According to Keller, science is not intrinsically dominating; but it may also involve "conversing with," rather than controlling, nature and becoming part of the system under consideration rather than viewing the system from above.
Keller illustrates this with Barbara McClintock's work on DNA, which long went unrecognized, in part because her vision was difficult to grasp if one used a control model of science. McClintock challenged the prevailing view that "the DNA encodes and transmits all instructions for the unfolding of a living cell" with "a view of the DNA in delicate interaction with the cellular environment" so that "the program encoded by the DNA is itself subject to change. No longer is a master control to be found in a single component of the cell; rather control resides in the complex interactions of the entire system" (p. 601). Keller does not claim that only women approach science in this manner. Rather, her argument is that this method of approach can and has been chosen and needs more emphasis. The value of consciousness is that we are able to make choices as individuals and as scientists. Both women and men seek competence, mastery, and rational understanding. Science is a human endeavor. The contribution feminism can make is to "refine that effort" and to show that domination and control are not necessarily intrinsic to science.
Love and Domination
Jessica Benjamin uses the sadomasochistic, master-slave relationship described in Pauline Reage's The Story of O as her prototype of erotic domination, or what she calls "rational violence." She contends that the fantasy involved flows underneath "all sexual imagery" and "normal" adult love relationships and sees this fantasy as being ultimately caused by what she calls "false differentiation." In such differentiation, the solution to the fear of aloneness brought about by separation becomes one of preserving the other individual not as a separate being (which would be true differentiation) but by controlling and dominating the other person and denying him or her autonomy. This domination contains the threat of violence against the other and thereby becomes associated with male identity. But the violence must be "rational" for the strategy to succeed. In rational violence the perpetrator controls the victim in such a way as to obtain "recognition" from the victim while at the same time negating the victim's autonomy. In The Story of O, the female, O, is constantly recognizing her torturer-lover by her statements of "consent," and he is constantly negating her and testing her boundaries with more and more humiliating requests to which she must consciously and explicitly acquiesce.
It is less clear from Benjamin's account what the masochistic victim, O, gets out of her humiliation. Presumably, she gets recognition and avoids being alone, because she is needed by her lover in the sense that he needs her submission and her need for him. Benjamin also suggests that O identifies with her lover's rational control and thus protects herself from her own loss of control, which is equated with loss of self. In the last analysis, the explanation for O goes back to the differing positions of males and females in the infantile situation. "The male posture, whether assumed by all men or not, prepares for the role of master. The male is disposed to objectify the other, to instrumentalize and calculate his relation to her in order to deny his dependency. The female posture disposes the woman to accept objectification and control in order to flee separation. He asserts individual selfhood while she relinquishes it."
In rational violence, the victim matters to the violator; in nonrational violence, the victim's responses do not matter to the viola-
tor. In both cases, the violator is very likely to be male. Benjamin's final statement argues against a politics that "tries to sanitize or rationalize the erotic, fantastic components of human life," because "it will not defeat domination but only play into it" (p. 171). Benjamin says that Andrea Dworkin mistakes The Story of O for an affirmation of female degradation (n.4, p. 171). It is hard not to take the novel this way, however. The acquiescence of the woman in the story and her appreciation of the males "rational control" fits nicely into the convenient male belief that women are in reality masochists and want to be dominated. As a book that sells this idea, I believe The Story of O is pornographic and as such should be resisted. This is not to say that domination will end if we ban its description, but certainly it seems useful to point out the sense in which it is degrading to women. I do not say this to counter Benjamin's general argument, but I wish that "cool culturalists" such as Benjamin could find a place in their analyses to condemn the uses to which fantasy may be put.
Benjamin goes on to argue that erotic domination is closely connected to male domination in the culture as a whole. Here she means not direct male dominance over females but rather the cultural hegemony of the male stance; thus our culture is an "instrumental culture" of rational calculation in which nurturance becomes privatized and the maternal world dwindles.
Keller and Benjamin as Culture Critics
Keller's and Benjamin's analyses are valuable in showing how dominant cultural trends are related to masculinity on a variety of levels; however, we must guard against overgeneralizing about the defects of modern culture. In this respect I found Keller's analysis exemplary and Benjamin's analysis problematic. Whereas Keller makes rationality a human propensity par excellence, Benjamin tends to see rationality, instrumentalism, and individualism as "bad." But the orientations she criticizes are the very ones that fueled the women's movement in the 1960s and 1970s. Women who had been restricted to the domains of wife and mother wanted to participate in the rational, instrumental world of work outside the home. In my view the feminist critique of modern culture needs to recognize the positive benefits that have accrued to women from the degree
of integration and assimilation we have achieved in the society that we are now in a position to criticize.
In facing the question of change, Keller drops her analysis of infantile dilemmas and says we can change because consciousness makes choice possible. Benjamin tries to stay within the limits set by the underlying assumptions of her analysis and becomes pessimistic. In terms of the particular psychoanalytic premises she uses, the alternative to the development she describes is remaining "merged" with the mother and therefore being a nonself, or all of the world, that is, undifferentiated. In her terms, rational individualism is "a defense against helplessness and the ambivalence of differentiation." If we give that up, we would have to resort to "more primitive defenses (pathological narcissism) or to considering the possibility of a more terrifying state than we have yet been able to endure." Fortunately, this terrible state of being a nonself may be more a male fantasy and fear in an individualistic world than an infantile state. At times Benjamin seems to understand that this fear of "merging" is more characteristic of males' ideation, but because of her use of a theory that assumes an initial total lack of differentiation, she seems to get caught up in it herself and become stymied by her own theory.
One cannot help suspecting that Keller's and Benjamin's speculations about infantile fantasies are adult projections onto infants of adult preoccupations with the typically Western cultural issues of freedom versus nurturance, autonomy versus belonging and (within the culture of the Frankfurt School) recognition versus negation. In my view Keller's and Benjamin's writings should be taken as insightful cultural analyses, but ones that remain at the cultural level. Even when Benjamin discusses fathers and the Oedipus complex, she is discussing the symbolic interpretation adults give to fathers, not necessarily the meaning that fathers have for children themselves at various stages of their development.
Infantile Ideation and Psychoanalysis
The issues discussed in this chapter, and perhaps especially Keller's and Benjamin's reliance on Winnicott's theories, are all relevant to a long-standing debate concerning the nature of infantile thought processes. Many psychoanalysts have been critical of a tendency
among some of their colleagues to project adult ideation onto children. Emanuel Peterfreund has called this tendency "the adulto-morphization of infancy" and suggests that those who study infants, especially those with a strong biological orientation, find little evidence to corroborate the speculations. To say that psychoanalytic approaches can provide a useful framework for thinking about development is not the same as giving equal weight to every psychoanalytic idea that comes along in this highly speculative field. It is one thing to believe that deeply held emotional reactions are formed early and quite another to buy into an elaborate theory concerning infantile ideation that would be virtually impossible to verify empirically.
While some psychoanalytic theorists, such as Margaret Mahler, posit an initial stage of autism, others, such as Winnicott and Robert Stoller, posit, albeit in different ways, a primary state of symbiosis or nondifferentiation between infant and mother. In this latter state, it is assumed that the infant is merged or fused with the mother and does not differentiate self from mother.
Daniel Stern, who is both a developmental psychologist and a psychoanalyst, contends that there is little reason to believe that a symbiotic state ever exists for the child. On the basis of detailed observations of infant-caretaker interactions as well as his analytic experience with adults, Stern maintains that there never is any confusion between self and other, no merger, no symbiosis in the mind of the infant. Stern suggests that fantasies about "merging" are possible only after the development of a capacity to symbolize. He does not reject psychoanalytic accounts, however, but implies that explanations such as Winnicott's could not apply until a later phase of development beyond infancy has been reached, that is, until after the acquisition of language (p. 11).
Stern also suggests that issues such as autonomy versus dependence (or perhaps interdependence, in my terms) should be thought of as occurring not at one developmental stage or another but rather in different forms at various stages. Freud and Erikson placed the emergence of autonomy at the anal phase and related it to toilet training. Spitz located it at around fifteen months, when children begin to say no. Mahler thought the critical period for autonomy was learning to walk. Stern suggests that the development of autonomy can be seen in very young infants as they learn
to control visual engagements with the caretaker. I believe Stern is correct to say that there is no decisive event; dilemmas related to autonomy occur and reoccur and are transformed at various stages in the development of the sense of self (p. 22).
Stern places the self as structure and process in the center of developmental theory, and thus new senses of the self become the organizing principles of developmental stages. Stern sees this as a four-stage process beginning with an emergent sense of self as a physical entity. The second stage is a sense of a "core" self, which includes a sense of self and other as not only separate physical entities but separate entities of action, affect, and continuity. In the third stage the infant begins to become aware of the intentions and affects that guide behavior. This stage represents a quantum leap from the previous stage because it opens up the possibility of intersubjectivity, that is, communication in which we can understand the subjective states of others and communicate our subjective states to them. In Parsons's terms this would be the stage in which the infant learns that physical acts of care "mean" that the mother "cares about" the infant. During this period there might well be a pervasive sense of well-being, of being-at-one with the other, but Stern would not call this a primary state of symbiosis, because the infant is always an active participant.
Finally there is a sense of verbal self on which the capacity to be self-reflective depends. This sense is what G. H. Mead described as "the reflexive self," the capacity to take oneself as an object, to represent the self and the other to the self. This capacity to symbolize to oneself that which one wants to communicate to the other is the key to the phenomenon of intersubjectivity.
Stern's ideas about developmental stages of the self fit well with other developmental and sociological perspectives that view the self as being formed in and through social interaction. The sense of self develops simultaneously with the sense of other. There is much we do not know about the specifics of the process at different levels of understanding and maturity. The points for now are that gender differentiation is involved with more general processes of self-definition and that parsimony is advisable in describing this process in terms of infant ideation. Both the fear and envy hypotheses and the tenuous masculine identity hypotheses can have validity without "adultomorphizing" infant ideation.
Although Stern does not mention gender differentiation in his description of the stages of self-awareness, one might argue that the sense of self, or conceptions about the self in relation to others, may vary as a consequence of the social definition of self as male or female. Does one see the self as separate from others and defending the boundaries of the self while still preserving contact by controlling others, or does one see the self and others as separate but interdependent and without the necessity for control?
Summary and Discussion
The idea that men are more likely to think in terms of difference than women and to see the nature of gender difference in terms of superiority-inferiority could be the critical insight to bring together feminists who deemphasize gender difference with those who focus on and analyze the nature of the difference from a feminist perspective. Feminists who deemphasize gender difference are actually "woman-centered" in the sense that they see that an important virtue of women is that they are less likely to emphasize difference than men. Feminists who emphasize difference accept this larger truth that gender difference should not be as salient as it now is in male-female interaction but nevertheless want to examine the nature of the difference in order to create a woman-centered definition. In short, the insight that one key difference is that men emphasize difference can help integrate diverse positions with feminism.
In this chapter I give my own interpretation of the work of Dorothy Dinnerstein and some earlier work of Nancy Chodorow in connection with the hypothesis that women's early monopoly on child care accounts for male misogyny and male dominance itself. The arguments concerning the production of misogynist attitudes are as old as psychoanalysis, but generalizing these arguments to systems of male dominance is new. I interpret the fear and envy hypotheses as stressing how infantile dependency needs contribute to the primitive perception that women have great power to produce total bliss or total devastation. The more recent hypotheses concerning tenuous masculine identity stress boys' difficulties in "disidentifying" with the femaleness of mothers in order to identify as a male. Psychoanalytic explanations are useful because they take the
unconscious and nonrational into account and thus can explain the relative intractability of certain attitudes without claiming that these attitudes are biologically rooted and cannot be changed.
Evelyn Fox Keller and Jessica Benjamin are less concerned with using psychoanalytic ideas to explain male dominance as a system than with using them to explain the development of the attitude of domination itself. This fits in with critical theorists' concern with domination and attaches it to masculine propensities. Both Benjamin and Keller soft-pedal equal parenting as a viable cure for the infantile dilemmas they envision. This downplaying probably results from their fear that males would carry their dominating tendencies into mothering and reproduce the very system we seek to destroy. I share this fear and will develop the reasons for it in the chapters to follow.
The implications of all of these analyses at a psychological level is that we all need to become aware of the nonrational and unconscious bases of our behavior in order to "grow up." In one way or another all of the authors discussed imply that instead of sweeping male misogyny and propensities for domination under the table, we need to examine them not only to see that they run deep but also to hold them up to the light of criticism. I agree. Moreover, men and women are capable of taking thought and changing their own consciousness. It can happen, but it is important not just to give up old ways of seeing but to invent new ones, not out of whole cloth, but out of women's own intuitions. The new emphasis on interdependence and self in relationship seems headed in the right direction. This emphasis keeps the issue from being that of autonomy versus dependence, self-assertion versus passivity, domination versus submission, and so forth.
Consciousness also depends on and creates social structural arrangements. At another level all of the analyses I have been discussing are limited to the psychological consequences of women's being responsible for early child care. If analysis goes no further than the mother-child relationship, we are left with the impression that women's mothering is the problem. This is hardly the case.