Mothers versus the Male Peer Group
Chodorow to some extent and Benjamin and Keller to a much greater extent can be viewed as beginning a subtle movement away from blaming mothers for male dominance and toward recognizing the virtues of women's less hierarchical, less dualistic, and less "sex-typed" (in this sense, more androgynous) way of 0thinking. This type of thinking characterizes women as mothers more so than it characterizes women as wives. I will take this direction further and argue that it is mothers who account for our non-gender-differentiated humanness and that male misogyny is fostered in the male peer group, not in the mother-son relationship.
In this chapter I continue to develop a more positive view of women's mothering and women's more relational orientation. I discuss how the two might be developmentally connected. I begin by examining how feminists' various stances on women's mothering are related to their views on why women mother. I will examine the central argument in Chodorow's book, The Reproduction of Mothering. Her argument here focuses not on the reproduction of male dominance but on the reproduction in women of a positive desire to mother. I follow this with a discussion of what women's mothering does for infants of both genders and how that gets undermined in males in the course of interactions with their peers. Men's aggression, their distancing, and their sex objectification of women are later phenomena reinforced by males, not by mothers.
Multiple Pressures on Women to Mother
For most people it seems odd to even ask why women mother, because in all known human societies women, not men, have been the primary caretakers of young children. Many factors coalesce to make women's mothering one of the most overdetermined phenomena in human societies. Simply that only women are biologically capable of bearing and nursing children would surely predispose both women and men to assume that early child care would and should be primarily in the hands of women. Hormonal changes during pregnancy and lactation may also make it easier for women to learn to mother infants. There are also the eliciting qualities of infants, who demand mothering of the person with whom they are in contact, and societies regularly organize production so that women are in contact with children the most. Although production has been organized in a variety of ways in different societies, the assumption has generally been made that women will mother. This is clearly true in our own society now, where men's outside earnings are markedly higher than women's.
Certainly too, women have been "expected" by men to mother; men have never assigned the job to themselves. Even in the early days of the kibbutz movement, which self-consciously sought to bring about gender equality and collectivized child care to this end, men were not assigned to early child care and did not take it on. Moreover, the negative sanctions for women's "failure" to mother have been heavy. Women who do not have children and women who abuse children are considered unnatural or sick. Thus women may nurture because of the negative responses they get for not doing so. Finally, beyond all these social factors creating what Judith Blake has called "coercive pronatalism," Chodorow argues that women are motivated to mother and that they get gratification out of the experience of mothering not just because of the way production is organized or because they are expected to or because they are capable of doing it but because they themselves, within themselves, want to. To list all these factors is not to say that the association of women with mothering cannot be changed, but it would be extraordinarily difficult to do so and in my view would not be necessary for women's emancipation. A more useful alter-
native would be to reassess women's mothering in a more positive light and, at the same time, to emphasize that "mothering" does not mean that all women should bear or care for children or that mothering need be central in the lives of the women who do.
Evaluating Biological Influences
Feminists, such as Alice Rossi, who maintain that women's mothering does not have to be a threat to women's equality, urge other feminists to recognize that there may be biological influences on women's mothering. Rossi argues quite correctly that equality is ultimately a political and moral decision that does not have to be based on some premise of identity between women and men to be realized. In her zeal to convince feminists and social scientists to admit biological factors into their analyses, Rossi at times seems to overstate her case and implies inevitable connections between hormones and behavior where none exist. I believe, however, that it is an error to call her a biological essentialist. Rossi is much too much of a sociologist to claim that biology determines social structure; rather, she claims that biological factors make some learning easier for one gender than the other and that this difference needs to be taken into account in any program of action, such as involving men more in child care.
Generally, feminists who see women's mothering as lying at the root of women's inequality have often been at great pains to deny any biological influences. Especially in the past, much feminist energy has gone into arguing against antifeminists who tried to justify the status quo by using biological arguments. Now feminists who are knowledgeable about biology have made more sophisticated critiques of biological determinism that do not totally deny the influence of biology and that spell out in detail the complex ways in which biological factors interact with individual life history and social structural factors. Overall, the more one knows about biology, the less one is likely to claim (or to fear) that biological factors constitute a categorical threat to change. It seems to me unnecessary for feminists to reject the possibility of biological influences on psychological gender differences. To do so renders biological influences more important and potentially devastating to feminist arguments than they need be. As a sociologist and a feminist, I am not
primarily concerned with understanding how biological influences operate, but I am concerned with the symbolic interpretation of biologically related facts. These are separate but related issues and need to be approached from both sides.
Other feminists who see women's mothering as oppressive have not so much denied biological factors as ignored them, pointing instead to social factors that lead to women's mothering and men's nonmothering. Marxist feminists usually consider these factors to be related to the organization of production. Some radical feminists who see women's mothering as especially oppressive have also ignored biology (except to say that it makes women's childbearing possible) and have argued that women are forced to mother by a variety of causes outside themselves. In this latter scenario, women are conceived of as beings who have been duped and coerced, ultimately by men, into taking on this unrewarding and frustrating role. These feminists argue that taking women's mothering for granted is an error and propose that women should refuse to mother.
Shulamith Firestone gives the biological fact of women's childbearing more than its due and ends up blaming women's physical childbearing directly and indirectly for women's oppression. She assumes that if women physically bear children they are by definition at a disadvantage; therefore, her "solution" is for women to no longer physically bear children. She advocates developing the technology whereby children could be created in test tubes, thereby saving women from an experience that she likens to "shitting a pumpkin" and that she sees as setting up women's oppression. Firestone seems to believe that one can prevent women from being child-rearers only by preventing them from being child-bearers. This connection, of course, is not inevitable. If one could justify a technology for eliminating women's childbearing, surely one could also justify disassociating women from child-rearing without needing to eliminate women's physical childbearing. Firestone ends up being a kind of technological determinist.
Biology influences women's mothering, as does the organization of production, and certainly men have exercised control over women's mothering and have at times foisted mothering onto women. But in my view women's own motivation also lies behind women's mothering. Although this desire is conditioned by other factors, it
is desire nevertheless. In saying this I put myself in danger of adding yet another voice to the pronatalist chorus. This is not my aim. I do not urge women to bear children, nor should women feel guilty about not mothering at all. My point is that many women do seem to want to mother in spite of mothering in this society having become an impediment to sexual love and full participation in the public sphere. Children no longer do work, they no longer bring status, they are economic and social liabilities, and mothers tend to be blamed if their children don't turn out right or don't fit in. Some feminists have made all these points and have concluded women's mothering is clearly a burden and that it should be eliminated.
But in spite of all of the disadvantages attached to mothering, women do want to mother, even in the modern era. That women choose to mother under modern circumstances can be taken as evidence of a desire to mother, ambivalent though it may be. Women who are voluntarily childless are more than made up for by women who were involuntarily childless but who now, because of better health and better medical knowledge, can and do have children. There is no evidence that we are moving toward a small class of child-rearers and a large class of "child-free" women. If feminists were to call for a "birth strike," in my view it should be not in order to end women's mothering but to end the penalties that this society exacts from women for mothering.
Chodorow on the Motive to Mother
The most sophisticated and sustained attempt to grapple seriously with the question of why women would want to mother is Nancy Chodorow's book on the subject, The Reproduction of Mothering. In order to explain the replication in each generation of women's motive to mother and the relative lack of this motive in men, Chodorow uses psychoanalytic theory, especially as interpreted by the object relations school. Chodorow compares her analysis of the reproduction of mothering within the nuclear family to Talcott Parsons's analysis of the relationship between middle-class family structure and children's achievement motivation, and to Max Horkheimer's analysis of the German authoritarian family and compliance motivation. Whereas these theorists were largely concerned with male motivation, Chodorow is concerned primarily
with the internalization of gender differentiation and especially the motivation of women.
Chodorow disagrees with social learning theorists who claim in effect that girls are made into mothers by parents who give them dolls instead of trucks and expect them to help with child care, by texts that depict women mainly as mothers, and by schools that teach girls home economics instead of shop. Although agreeing that reinforcement and modeling do play a part, Chodorow feels that only psychoanalysis that focuses on motivation more than behavior and more on early learning than late can explain so basic and pervasive a phenomenon as women's propensity to mother.
Chodorow's central idea is to link women's mothering to women's more relational personality. She argues that the feminine personality includes a fundamental tendency to define self in terms of relationship and that the masculine personality defines self in terms of denial of relationship. This meshes precisely with the conclusions from our research based on self-report described in Chapter 3. Rather than defining women as those who are lacking (according to Freud, the central fact about women was that they lack a penis and principles), Chodorow implies that it is men who lack. Women mother and are relational; men do not mother and are less relational. Chodorow offers an explanation.
Although some feminists argue that women are not more relational than men, it is much harder to argue that women do not mother more than men. Chodorow's closely connecting the two strengthens the argument for women's greater relational orientation by making it as universal as women's mothering. Clearly, there is some circularity here, because Chodorow proceeds to explain women's mothering by women's greater relational orientation. She seeks to avoid circularity, however, by positing a specific mechanism by which women's more relational personality is produced. According to Chodorow, gender-differentiated personalities are reproduced because mothers themselves experience, and hence, respond to girls differently from boys, even in earliest infancy. Although mothers have a sense of oneness and continuity with both genders, Chodorow contends that this sense of relatedness is stronger and lasts longer with daughters than with sons because of the mother's own female gender identity. The mother projects her own sense of self onto her female infants and tends to experience them as less
separate from herself. Chodorow also brings in a presumption of the mother's heterosexuality into her argument about why mothers bond more closely with their daughters than their sons. She argues that mothers respond to male infants as male "opposites" and begin to sexualize the relationship. These processes then serve to separate the son from her and to bind the daughter to her. Along with other psychoanalytically oriented writers, Chodorow tends to link heterosexuality with gender identity. I question this connection.
To support her argument empirically, Chodorow relies largely on clinical accounts of pathological mothers who presumably manifest normal tendencies in exaggerated form. Because more cases are reported of pathological mothers who deny separateness to their daughters and refuse to allow them to individuate than are reported of mothers who do the same with sons, Chodorow concludes that all mothers tend to deny separateness to their daughters more than to their sons. Furthermore, she finds that, even though clinicians may not point it out, the cases involving sons indicate that the mother reacts to the son as a sexual other rather than as an extension of herself.
Thus, Chodorow feels that it is women's differential feelings for and treatment of infants that cause females to have greater feelings of primary identification and primary love, to maintain less clear boundaries between self and other, to experience themselves in relationship to others, and to be more concerned with relational issues than are men. Although she also argues that it is easier for the boy to differentiate himself from the mother because he sooner or later recognizes his anatomical difference from the mother, Chodorow's emphasis is on the mother's own attitude and her own response to physical difference, not on the child's response. Chodorow does not take a strong version of the merging-with-the-mother position discussed in the last chapter. Her analysis is considerably more parsimonious in this respect than Benjamin's or Keller's.
According to Chodorow, girls' tendencies to be attached to their mother do not basically change in the oedipal period, when sexual preference is thought to be established. Even as girls turn to the father (for aid in the process of differentiating self from mother) and finally become, as Chodorow puts it, "genitally heterosexual," they do not give up their primary attachment to the mother. Chodorow agrees with Freud's contention that girls retain their involvement
with both parents, whereas boys escape more completely from the mother by identifying with the father.
Assessing Chodorow's Analysis
It is not clear why Chodorow feels she has to assume that the mother is heterosexual for her account to make sense. Bringing heterosexuality into a discussion of early gender formation may well be an unexamined legacy from psychoanalytic theory itself. Could one not just as well contend that mothers bond more closely with their daughters because they are also female and will also be capable of bearing children? Simply that the mother knows that the son cannot bear children could be sufficient to make her feel less close to him. By introducing heterosexuality into the argument, does Chodorow imply that lesbians are not gender-identified as females and thus would not feel a oneness with a female child? This certainly does not seem to be the case with lesbian feminists. Or is she saying that lesbians would be sexually attracted to their daughters and hence because of this would not bond closely with them? Chodorow admits to hedging of the issue of the mother's sexual orientation. If she had spelled out the implications of her assumptions about the mother's heterosexuality, she might have seen the degree to which psychoanalysis does confound gender and sexual orientation in ways that may be far more persuasive to males than to females. In my view, females are less likely to relate gender to heterosexuality than males. Certainly more and more theorists, including Chodorow, argue that gender identity and sexual orientations are not one and the same, but Chodorow in her own analysis does not focus directly on how they might and might not be related.
Even in her more recent writings, Chodorow still insists that the mechanism that produces a more relational orientation in females than males is that mothers bind their daughters to them more closely than sons, that mothers perhaps unconsciously identify more with their daughters than their sons. This view sometimes seems to blame individual mothers by implying that mothers somehow do not allow their daughters to individuate or that mothers impede their daughters' individuation. Chodorow's description of women as less individuated than men obscures the distinction I
have tried to maintain between relationality and dependency. Her description implies that mothers' treatment of daughters makes them both more dependent and more relational than males. I believe that both genders seek growth and move away from a relationship of dependency. In this movement toward greater autonomy the girl retains her relational tie to the mother while decreasing her dependency. The relational orientation that the girl gets from her mother should not be confused with the dependency on males that she may adopt first in relation to the father. Fathers may serve as a lever to help boys and girls extricate themselves from infantile dependency, but, as I will argue later, they do so at the price of encouraging dependency on themselves in their daughters.
Is a specific mechanism for explaining women's relational propensities, such as the close-bindingness of the mother, really necessary? In spite of the problem of circularity, it may be better from an empirical and theoretical standpoint to maintain simply that women's more relational orientation is transmitted through women's mothering. The specific mechanism Chodorow posits may be only one of many factors, all of which contribute to this outcome. The other specific factor that she brings in, the mother's heterosexuality, may be important for psychoanalytic theorists, but it seems unnecessary.
In the beginning of her book, Chodorow argues at some length that biological factors, such as differences in hormonal balance between males and females, are neither necessary nor sufficient to explain women's mothering. She argues specifically against Alice Rossi, who points out that women are hormonally predisposed (this is not the same as saying inevitably disposed ) to mother. To deny biological factors affecting gender is out of line with mainstream psychoanalytic thought, and as Janet Sayers points out, psychoanalytically oriented researchers have argued that the biological processes of pregnancy often "serve to revive in women their feelings about their relationships with their own mothers, feelings which subsequently link up with the way they relate to their own children." Chodorow could have used such arguments to back up her case that a mothers relationship with her daughter is the crucial variable in reproducing gender-differentiated personalities, but she did not.
Since the publication of her book, Chodorow has changed her mind a bit regarding biology; she now says that she has been con-
vinced by Rossi that she and other feminists "must be open to the investigation of biological variables and that those who argued or implied that such investigation is illegitimate were wrong." She goes on to say, however, that so far, it has not been shown that biology itself produces a personality type that wants to mother. I agree; biology never acts alone.
I believe that one reason for Chodorows overly energetic rejection of biological factors had to do with her earlier arguments that linked male misogyny to women's mothering. In 1978, she, along with most feminists, especially nonbiologists, tended to equate "biological" with "immutable" and felt that if one were to seek change, one had to deny biology. Her own account suggests, however, that women's mothering may be just as immutable for psychocultural reasons as it might have been thought to be for biological ones. Even if one has eliminated biology, it becomes difficult to argue for change, because of the universality of women's mothering. Chodorow has been accused of not being historically specific, but her answer is that women's mothering is not historically specific. It is universal in the sense that women, not men, have always been primarily responsible for the care of young children in all societies. Although the organization of parenting, and even the concept of parenting, including the role offathers, has undergone innumerable historical changes and has been greatly affected by economic and political arrangements, women's mothering has stayed the same in a fundamental way.
Most of Chodorow's book, The Reproduction of Mothering, is devoted to just this: how women's mothering is reproduced. Toward the end of her book, however, Chodorow shifts her argument from how women's mothering orientations are developed and turns to the question of gender inequality. At this point she returns to her argument in earlier works (discussed in Chapter 4), having to do with men's tendency to free themselves from making a female identification by devaluing women and overvaluing what men do. This then becomes the reason she recommends a change in mothering arrangements. Chodorow also makes the argument that women's mothering is related to male dominance because it tends to perpetuate women's association with the domestic sphere and men's association with the public sphere, which in turn gives males greater authority.
I am not convinced that women's mothering in itself associates
women with the domestic sphere. In hunting and gathering societies, women with children traveled widely and were not dependent on their husbands for food. What association there was between women and domesticity in these societies had more to do with women as wives (keepers of their husband's hearth) than with women as mothers. Chodorow, however, seems to picture the public-domestic distinction as a direct result of women's more relational orientation.
Chodorow depicts the public and domestic spheres as operating hierarchically; therefore, she comes close at times to collapsing the categories of gender differentiation and male domination. She states, however, that "kinship rules organize claims of men on domestic units and men dominate kinship." This formulation leaves room for arguing, as I do, that it is not women's mothering but marriage that places women, sometimes directly, sometimes indirectly, in domestic units. Chodorow does not say this, however, perhaps because she cannot quite bring herself to separate women's mothering from heterosexual marriage. If one does make this separation, it becomes clearer that marriage, not mothering per se, puts women in the domestic sphere—at least in modern Western cultures.
In my view the contribution of Chodorow's book does not lie in her last-minute reliance on male mothering as a "solution" to male dominance, but in her sustained development of an argument about gender differentiation in the preoedipal period. Chodorow's focus on this period coincides with my interest in separating the maternal from the heterosexual aspects of being a woman. Her analysis reinforces an emphasis on the maternal aspects, even though she seems to need to assume the mother s heterosexuality. Although Chodorow at times seems to blame mothers for making daughters dependent on them, her work begins to move toward a more positive view of women's relationality and women's mothering. Chodorow's analysis is, in this sense, woman-centered and contributes to the development of a more positive view of women as mothers, as opposed to an image of women as essentially appendages of men.
Moreover, I do not believe that Chodorow's suggestion that mothers tie girls more closely to them than boys should mean that mothers by their own actions create gender difference. Rather, the greater insight here is that the mother-daughter relationship forms
a basis for positive female bonding. For sons, breaking away from the mother forms the basis for male bonding. In the remainder of this chapter I will take this argument further and broaden it to include more than a narrowly psychoanalytic perspective. I will show also how associations among male peers are the developmental precursors of male dominance and indirectly of males' sex objectification of women.
Mothers and Becoming Human
Talcott Parsons once defined identification as the internalization not of a total personality or of personality traits but of a reciprocal role relationship that is operating at a particular period in the child's development. Thus in Parsons's view, rather than saying an infant "identifies" with its mother, it is more accurate to say that the infant "learns to play a social role in interaction with her; his behavior—hence his motivation—is organized according to a generalized pattern of norms which define shared and internalized meanings of the acts occurring on both sides." By role Parsons refers to the system or set of expectations that come to characterize a particular interaction. Thus the earliest interactions between infants and others quickly become meaningful interactions in which expectations are established on both sides. Early caretakers define the infant to itself and interpret its actions as carrying certain meanings. Just what these meanings are becomes established in and through the interaction itself. The infant leams to become sensitive to the responses of others and to some extent to elicit the responses it wants.
In Meadian terms the infant internalizes both the other's attitude toward herself or himself and (indirectly) others, as well as responding as "self" to that attitude. In this way the infant learns to "love" and be caring as well as to feel cared for and cared about. Thus social learning, modeling, and cognitive development take place through interacting in complementary or reciprocal roles. Through this interaction a system of shared meaning and values is negotiated and sustained. In this first relationship the caretaker has great power because of the infant's physical dependency and the caretaker's far wider experience and resources, including cultural resources.
This early "role" learning takes place in an erotic context and gets power from an erotic base. For Parsons the primary significance of the infantile eroticism that Freud so stressed is that it serves as a bridge between organismic needs and the more generalized social need to be loved. In Parsons's view the mother-infant relationship is indeed an erotic one, and the generalized eroticism that characterizes the relationship serves as the bridge across which the infant travels from being a biological organism to being a genuinely caring and cared about human being. Parsons is less concerned with Freud's theories about stages of oral, anal, and phallic eroticism than he is with the idea that eroticism itself is first experienced as diffuse, or total. It provides a base upon which more differentiated role learning takes place, learning that is not based on eroticism to the same extent.
Infants need to be cared for in the most general sense, and this care involves body contact, and a nurturant as well as a nurtured self is internalized by children of both genders. The essence of this interaction is not sexual or heterosexual or bisexual in the adult understanding of these terms, although it is certainly erotic and sensual from the standpoint of both caretaker and child. In my view the maternal identification (regardless of who this maternal figure actually is) represents the common humanity that both genders share and lays down the capacity for nurturance in both females and males. To the extent that women retain and elaborate this maternal orientation, they retain and elaborate qualities of caring and human connectedness. To the extent that males are constrained to differentiate "self" from "mother," they gain a stake in emphasizing gender difference, and this difference is reinforced by the idea that males are superior to females. But in reality, males are constrained to deny this human connectedness, and later, in a strange metamorphosis, they deny women's humanness by making them into objects.
While there is a sense in which Chodorow is correct to say that mothers differentiate between their male and female children by feeling more like or akin to their female offspring, the larger truth is that mothers compared to fathers do not make much of a differentiation in the erotic pleasure they receive from their children or in the amount of nurturance they provide their children. For example, mothers breast-feed children of both genders, and the sen-
suous pleasures mothers get from this activity does not appear to differ significantly in terms of the biological gender of the child. In interviews conducted in connection with my research on the management of sexuality within the family, many women spoke about the sensuousness of children themselves and of the sensual pleasures children brought. Several women spontaneously mentioned feeling sexually stimulated by nursing, but this was not related to the gender of the child. A mother might comment on the difference between the way a boy nurses and the way a girl nurses, but it was the breast stimulation that was pleasurable. Mothers also talked about the pleasure they got out of cuddling and stroking the smooth bodies of very young children regardless of their gender. Presumably also in cultures that permit mothers to stimulate the genitals of children of both genders, mothers' pleasure in this activity does not depend on whether the child is a male or a female. From the mother's standpoint, eroticism is not necessarily heterosexual eroticism. To a mother, a baby is a baby, a child is a child. The gender of the child is likely to be of greater importance to the father, who is more likely than the mother to think of gender in terms of "sex."
Maccoby and Jacklin report that the degree of early attachment to the mother appears to be remarkably the same for both genders. They report that the bulk of studies show no differences on the part of mothers in the amount of affectionate contact between mother and male and female infants. Their evidence is at least consonant with the idea that males begin like females with expressiveness or feelings of connectedness and that mothers do not differentiate appreciably between males and females in the amount of nurturance they provide.
There is every reason to believe that this process of becoming human is far more clearly linked to women's mothering than to men's fathering. I say this not to argue that women must therefore keep on mothering or that men cannot foster "humanness" but rather to point out that mothering is associated with the establishment of positively valued behaviors and orientations in both females and males. Overall, one of the most consistently replicated findings in child-rearing studies (though these studies have methodological shortcomings) is the positive association between ratings of maternal warmth and ratings of conscience in children of
both genders, and this disposition to cooperate based on maternal warmth does not appear to be differentiated by gender.
Chodorow claims that women's attitudes toward their sons cause sons to be more distanced and to emphasize difference. Dinnerstein claims that infantile attitudes toward mothers' apparent power lead to male dominance. Both analyses blame women's mothering and prescribe that men should also mother. My position is that in order to promote an end to male dominance, we need to look first at male tendencies to differentiate and dominate, not at female tendencies to mother. The tendency to differentiate and dominate is only indirectly related to women's mothering. It is not what mothers teach or convey; it is established in the company of other males and reinforced by other males in interaction within peer groups.
Childhood Gender Segregation
Child care has universally been far more the province of women than of men. In this sense one can say that women's mothering is universal. Girls and boys self-segregate themselves on the basis of gender as children. In this sense male and female peer groups are universal. In a review of research in this area, Eleanor Maccoby and Carol Jacklin report that gender segregation in childhood is a widespread, cross-cultural phenomenon, having been found in every situation where there are enough children of similar age so that children have a choice of playmates. Adults can manipulate this preference and thereby temporarily decrease gender segregation, but when adults do not interfere, children's own preferences are for segregation.
Maccoby and Jacklin emphasize that this tendency to segregate by gender is not a result of central tendencies in individual differences (e.g., it is not true that more aggressive boys are more likely to segregate than less aggressive boys); rather, there is very little variation within each gender group in the tendency to play with one's own gender. Gender segregation is a genuine group phenomenon rather than a reflection of the different dispositions of individual children. It is also more stable than individual toy or play preferences.
The mechanisms that produce gender segregation are by no means clear, but since it is more stable than individual disposi-
tions, Maccoby and Jacklin tend to believe that cognitive awareness of gender is the key; that is, "knowing" one's own gender sets gender segregation in motion. But the cognitive knowledge explanation does not preclude other explanations concerning why children seem to want to play separately once they know who belongs to what gender. There is some evidence that segregation is initiated by girls because they do not like the way boys interact. Maccoby and Jacklin cite a number of studies, even of young infants, that suggest that "avoidance of dominance" motivates girls to withdraw from boys. Girls begin to direct their affiliative behaviors toward other girls by twenty-eight months, while boys begin orienting to boys more exclusively somewhat later. Girls may withdraw from boys because they find them to be unsatisfactory playmates, whereas boys withdraw from girls because of a greater need to consolidate a new gender identity, which in turn is shored up by denigrating girls. This is not an absolute distinction, because young girls tend to disdain boys too, but putting down the other gender operates more strongly with boys.
Recent research on children's cognitive knowledge of gender and its influence on children's behavior lends support to the idea that for boys, at least, an awareness of gender sets in motion the process of distancing from "feminine things." In a study of very young children (twenty to thirty months old) who had differing degrees of understanding of gender labeling, Beverly Fagot found that understanding gender labels did not affect the amount of time girls spent with male-typical and female-typical toys, but such understanding did affect the time boys spent. Boys who understood gender cut down on female-typical activities. Thus, boys without gender labels or gender identity played with dolls as much as girls, but doll play was virtually nonexistent in boys who showed some knowledge of gender labels. This clearly suggests that there is nothing built into males that makes doll play unacceptable to them. Rather, it suggests that they do indeed internalize a nurturing-nurtured self image but that they move away from it when gender becomes relevant to them.
The research findings concerning the composition and functioning of boys' versus girls' groups may be summarized as follows. Boys play in somewhat larger groups than girls. They play in more public places and more away from adults. They play more roughly
with more body contact and more fighting than girls, and interaction is more oriented to issues of dominance and the formation of a hierarchy. Girls, by contrast, are more likely to take turns, with more participation by all in making decisions. Girls' friendships are more intense and diffuse, and male friendships more oriented around specific activities.
Janet Lever, writing in the mid-1970s, described the differences between the organization and orientation of boys' and girls' games and concluded that boys' games and play styles prepare them for the adult world of impersonal competition better than girls' games and play styles. From Lever's standpoint, girls would be better off "training" with the boys and adopting their games. In the 1980s this assumption of the superiority of male games sounds "sexist." As we examine interaction in informal play groups, we are now able to see the greater complexities and subtleties of the female style and to appreciate its egalitarian features, which can well be used in the public sphere.
These differing structures of male and female peer groups seem to perpetuate themselves "in the doing of gender," as ethnomethodologists put it, through speech patterns. Girls' speech seems to be used to create and maintain close and equal relationships, to control without domination, and to interpret the speech of other girls. Boys' speech is used to attract and maintain an audience, to assert dominance, and to assert ones self when others have the floor. This description of boys' speech seems similar to Finigan's operational definition of "unmitigated agency," which he found in his male-predominant adult occupational groups (see Chapter 3).
Marjorie Goodwin, an ethnomethodologist, provides interesting documentation for this contrast in a detailed study of the differing speech patterns of girls at play and boys at play. She found that boys use more directive forms of speech such as "Gimme this" and "Get out of my way," whereas girls are more likely to use forms of speech that include the group as a whole, such as "Let's do this or that." Whereas boys differentiate speaker and hearer, girls include both speaker and hearer in the action under discussion. Goodwin's findings support the argument about the male propensity for difference and dominance and also suggest that this propensity is constructed in and through male interaction with other males. Goodwin makes it clear that girls are quite capable of using direct commands
too when acting in the role of mother or teacher, but they rarely use such commands among female status equals.
Male Peer Group Conformity
Girls have been accused of being conformists because they stay closer to adults, but studies of very young children conducted in naturalistic settings suggest that males may conform fully as much as females—but more often to their own male age mates than to adults. For example, in a study of twenty- to twenty-five-month-old children who entered a play group of similarly aged and somewhat older children, Fagot found that teacher and female peer reactions do not significantly affect boys' continuation of a particular behavior, but that boys definitely respond to reinforcements from other boys. Girls' behavior is affected by both female peers and teachers, but not by male peers. Interestingly enough, girls give other girls positive reinforcements regardless of the type of behavior (male-typical, female-typical, or neutral), whereas the reinforcements teachers give depend on the type of behavior (female-typical or neutral), not the gender of the child. Boys give more positive responses to boys for male-typical behaviors. Fagot does not deny that reinforcements operate but notes that they are most effective where they have been cognitively processed in terms of gender.
Research also indicates that these boys give two kinds of feedback: "stay away from certain behaviors" and "play with others like you." Girls' peer groups also give the message "play with others like you," but girls' groups do not limit play behavior in the same way boys do. Fagot and Leinbach say, "We see that the male peer group starts defining what is not male very early, and that the behaviors that are defined as not male drop out of the boys' repertoire. It is also this not-male category that responds most to negative feedback of a kind that carries a great deal of informational value." The information of what is not male is often based on what is perceived as being distinctively female, such as doll play.
Aggression is also reinforced by boys. In a study of assertive-aggressive acts in toddlers, Fagot and Hagan report that boys responded more to the aggressive acts of other boys than to those of girls, whereas girls were much more egalitarian in their responses
to aggression. Since ignoring aggression turns out to be an effective terminator of such behavior, one can conclude that boys reinforce aggression in one another. Also, boys do not spend as much time near teachers, and aggressive acts are more likely to occur away from teachers' presence.
The content of what being male is varies to some extent with age. At first it is important not to associate with girls and not to act or be like what girls are said to act and be. Already some dichotomies are in place. It is important to be strong; girls are seen as weak. Boys associate doll play with being a baby, not with caring for a baby. For this reason girls are constrained to deny their interest in doll play, too. In the school described by Raphaela Best, playing rough was important for boys, and obtaining scars a mark of distinction. Best describes the negative canons of masculinity under the rubrics of "don't associate with a sissy, don't play with a crybaby, don't do housework or cook, do not show affection."
Girls and Boys at School
Many studies indicate that teachers are concerned with teaching children how to be "good students." This parallels my argument that mothers are concerned with teaching children how to be "good human beings." Peer groups, however, as the authors of a study on peers as socializers put it, "ignored student identities and instead stressed gender and age identities." There is considerable research literature that attests to the enforcement of gender norms by peers in school and the tendency to view infringements by boys more negatively than infringements by girls.
Bruce Carter and Laura McCloskey interviewed children in kindergarten, second, fourth, and sixth grades about their reactions to hypothetical infringements of gender norms and found older children to be more negative to infringements than younger children. Superficially, this would seem to conflict with those cognitive developmental studies that suggest that children become more rather than less flexible about gender "rules" as they become more mature and experienced. But the authors suggest that what is involved here is an increasing personal distaste for "deviance," even though older children understand cognitively that this deviance is neither unthinkable (impossible), immoral, nor illegal. Older chil-
dren view gender deviant behavior as "weird," that is, deeply unconventional, instead and as such it is unacceptable to them personally. Significantly enough, in terms of later arguments, by the sixth grade some children are beginning to use words connected with homosexuality, such as "queer," "fag," and "lezzy," to punish any form of gender deviance. As we shall see, homosexuality comes to be seen as the major metaphor for gender role deviance in adults.
Although both boys and girls partake in the overall school culture, the separate subcultures of boys and girls are clearly asymmetrically arranged. In examining what she calls "borderwork," that is, cross-gender interactions that reaffirm boundaries between boys' and girls' groups, Barrie Thorne notes that boys control more space than girls and invade all-female games and scenes of play more often than girls invade those of boys. Moreover, boys consider being kissed by a girl "polluting," and they refer to those boys whom they have placed at the bottom of the male hierarchy as "girls." At the same time, boys will admit a few girls into the honorary status of "boy." One might speculate that boys' mock fears of "pollution" represent a fear of a loss of dominance or capacity if girls are allowed to get too close. In part, childhood gender segregation may help to minimize gender insecurities for boys and allows girls to grow and develop outside the confines of male dominance. Boys use "borderwork" between the groups, however, to act out and display asymmetry between male groups and female groups.
An important area of study that needs to be explored further is cross-gender interaction outside the context of female and male peer groups—the kinds of interactions that might take place between friends or acquaintances. There is some preliminary evidence that when boys and girls interact together informally outside a ritualized game context, the interactions are remarkably symmetrical.
Ethnomethodologists Jack Whalen and Marilyn Whalen have launched a research program designed to find out whether informal "conversations" between girls and boys display the same patterns of dominance that adult cross-gender conversations have been shown to display. Specifically, they ask, do preadolescent males violate the "rules" of conversational turn-taking and inter-
rupt females at the same rate that adult males do? Or does one see in children the pattern found in adult couples in which females do the "work" of keeping a conversation going by reinforcing the male's talking? And, finally, if these patterns are not found in children, at what age do they begin?
The only previous study relevant to these questions reported that in cross-gender dyadic play between three- and four-year-olds, boys interrupted girls at a rate of two to one. The author interpreted this as indicating that girls are socialized to submission early. Whalen and Whalen, however, fail to find this pattern. Their research indicates that informal interactions among older children are symmetrical. These researchers used a hidden camera to videotape spontaneous conversations between cross-gender pairs of eight- to thirteen-year-olds who found themselves waiting together for an interview. In these interactions, girls interrupted boys fully as much as boys interrupted girls, and there was also no evidence that girls were performing "support work" for boys. Whalen and Whalen also found symmetrical patterns when they analyzed videotapes of children playing house together in a living room. Although the play activities themselves clearly reinforced traditional middle-class role differentiation (e.g., boys were daddies who made the money and girls were mommies who made the lunch), the patterns of interaction were not male-dominant and were equally directed by girls and boys.
Whalen and Whalen note that their findings fit with Marjorie Goodwin's observations that preadolescent girls were quite skilled in verbal aggression in cross-gender arguments. In a more recent report (cited in Chapter 3), Marjorie Goodwin and Charles Goodwin stress that girls are as eager as boys to "display character within oppositional interaction." Goodwin and Goodwin, in other words, do not find female deference in the cross-gender interactions of preadolescents.
As we will see in Chapter 8, preadolescent girls do not accede to the idea of "male dominance" either. Instead, they express resentment at boys' intrusions and self-aggrandizing behaviors and attitudes. It would be highly unlikely then that girls would be motivated to put up with interruptions or to do interaction work for boys on any grand scale. Instead, preadolescent girls avoid boys and assert themselves when the occasion seems to call for it. These
occasions are when they are assuming the role of teacher or mother or when directly confronting boys.
There may be other occasions when girls and boys act out versions of adult male-dominated heterosexual relationships in childhood. After all, they witness such adult interactions, to some extent at least. I suspect, however, that it is only later when girls become oriented to catching a boyfriend, or, in my term, to being wives, that they seem to accede to male dominance in cross-gender relationships.
The Male Peer Group and Heterosexuality
As noted earlier in this chapter, young boys in most societies tend to play in larger groups than girls, and within these groups they compete for position within the hierarchy. Girls, by contrast, tend to play in smaller groups that are more egalitarian. There are then two aspects of the male experience with other males: dominance striving, or competition, and solidarity that seems based on being a male—not a sissy, not a girl. Both of these aspects help explain the male tendency to think of women as sex objects. Sooner or later the male peer group faces female sexuality, and the sexual meaning that boys in groups place on girls tends to confirm male identity as heterosexual and dominant and to disconfirm the humanity of females. Girls become, instead, objects of male sexual pursuit and possession. In the male peer group, after a homoerotic phase, heterosexuality gets intimately tied to male dominance. Girls usually become "interested" in boys before boys become "interested" in girls, but the meaning of the interest is not the same.
Making Women into Sex Objects
In early adolescence, masturbation often becomes an occasion for exhibition and comparison among boys. Sixty percent of the preadolescent boys interviewed in the Kinsey survey had engaged in sexual exhibition with other boys. Kinsey comments that this behavior in the young boy "is fostered by his socially encouraged disdain for girls' ways, by his admiration for masculine prowess, and by his desire to emulate older boys." Kinsey goes on to say that "the anatomy and functional capacities of male genitalia interest
the younger boy to a degree that is not appreciated by older males who have become heterosexually conditioned." This fascination with the penis has little or nothing to do with love or liking for females (or males, for that matter) but symbolizes masculinity and power and, possibly, hostility. David Finkelhor in his study of incest finds that sexual activity between siblings is quite common and that there is almost as much brother-brother sexual involvement as brother-sister. According to Finkelhor, many of these encounters are not "innocent childhood sexual games" but often involve older brothers and younger siblings with some amount of coercion, including whipping and other forms of torture.
Later on, at adolescence or earlier, depending on class and race, male peer groups are likely to purvey the view that having intercourse with a female is a confirmation of masculinity. These first encounters usually do not involve the idea of loving a woman, far from it; the focus instead tends to be on "getting it from" or "doing it to" girls, with the reactions of the latter being of little concern. To have "fucked" a girl becomes a rite of passage into the group who can call themselves "real males."
If males are constrained to differentiate themselves from the mother, what better way to effect that differentiation than to define women (other than one's own mother) as objects of conquest. The ultimate strategy is to define women as objects whose only purpose is to gratify men sexually. If a woman is a "cunt," a "piece," a "skirt," or if one looks at women as assemblages of "asses," "tits," and "beavers," then males need not fear their judgment; they are merely objects that have a specific use. The pursuit of women thus defined becomes a game that knits together rather than divides the males who pursue it. Thus one may hear middle-aged males reminiscing with one another about their college days, when they (to hear them tell it) were chasing skirts and getting it all. Males who refuse to join in with their peers in sex-objectifying women are likely to be severely punished. Consider the man whose human empathy renders him impotent in a gang rape of a woman; he may be punished for his impotence by being raped himself by his peers.
That the peer group's pressure to be heterosexual occurs in a context in which women are sex-objectified may well have the consequence of making it difficult for males to become sexually aroused in a relationship in which they do not feel dominant over the fe-
male. If one first learns about sexuality in the context of being rewarded by other males for "scoring," for "getting pussy" or just "getting it, " then this does not augur well for egalitarian sex. In some groups a boy who gets too serious with a girl, especially an outspoken, "uppity" one, is warned by his fellows that he is in danger of letting her get the upper hand, of being "pussy whipped."
Thus heterosexuality becomes associated in the male peer group with dominating and controlling women, and this makes one into a real man. This sex objectification, which gives men a sense of control over women, is the sexualized version of the male tendency to differentiate and dominate, and it is constructed in interaction in the male peer group. Although this characterization is not typical of all males nor of all of the thinking about women of even some males, this kind of thinking is "understood" at some level by most males. This is not maternal thinking; it is male-peer-group thinking, and it is most evident when women are not around to counteract it, or when women are in a situation of maximum dependency on a male. The ultimate expression of this tendency is rape.
The Dynamics of Rape
The motivational dynamics behind rape can best be understood in relation to the male-peer-group mentality. Susan Brownmiller has argued that the motives of rapists primarily involve male violence and male bonding. I agree with this, but I disagree if she is saying rape is not sexual. It seems more correct to say that sexual excitement in males can be fostered and reinforced by male bonding and dominance motives. The clearest examples of the Brownmiller thesis are rapes that occur during wars. Men show solidarity against enemy males by raping the enemy's women, their sexual property. Even though women are the victims, they represent the enemy males. Rapes in wars are frequently gang rapes, which increases the solidarity of the males involved. In the United States, gang rapes or rapes by pairs of male buddies are usually planned beforehand and have little or nothing to do with being seduced or "led on" by a woman. Here the idea of ownership of women by enemy males is transformed into the idea that all "unprotected" women are fair game.
Not all women experience rape, but almost all women are aware
of the possibility of rape and fear it. One of the few ways that middle-class parents directly control daughters more than sons is by showing a greater concern for girls' whereabouts and insisting on greater chaperonage for girls. Mothers as well as fathers may restrict girls, but it is the male threat to girls that leads to these restrictions.
Rape has largely been defined, even by some feminists, as a problem women must cope with individually by staying at home or learning self-defense tactics or getting male "protection." A fairer solution for the long run would be to restrict men, not women. As Golda Meir suggested for Tel Aviv, "Why not a curfew for the men? They are the ones doing the raping." A sign I saw recently on a van driven by a young woman said, "Sorry male hitchhikers, men rape, get your peers under control." I agree with the message.
Although the male-peer-group mentality supports rape, it is not necessarily rape by a group or rape by a single stranger that a woman need fear but also acquaintance rape in casual dating relationships, and beyond this of course, rape in committed relationships and the rape that occurs in marriage. Several studies have indicated that male peers influence the likelihood of rape in these situations too. Christine Alder, in a study of young adult males who admitted to having engaged in physically forceful attempts at sexual activity, found that the circumstance most conducive to sexual aggression is having male friends who are also sexually aggressive. Alder reports that having friends who support sexual aggression is associated not with any one class level but is found in all classes. Sexual aggressors also were somewhat more likely to have been stationed in Vietnam and to tend to define women as "legitimate victims," that is, they acquiesced to statements such as "any woman who goes to a bar alone at night deserves whatever happens to her" and "most women enjoy being forced to have intercourse." Sexual aggressors' attitudes toward women on a liberal-to-traditional scale, however, were no different from those of men who had not used violence. Alder's findings, then, tend to confirm on a sample of males in the United States the view that rape or rape attempts are related to males being, or wanting to be, "one of the boys."
In a study of "date rape," Eugene Kanin reports considerable evidence for the influence of male peers in explaining who rapes and who does not. Kanin compared seventy-one college under-
graduates who defined themselves as "possible rapists" with two hundred other students of similar age and race (white) and found that a much larger percentage of "the rapists" had experienced pressure from their current friends to engage in sexual activity and had experienced even stronger pressure when they were in high school. In addition "the rapists" were more apt to have had a history of "collaborative sex" in which their sexual activities were directly supported by other males in "gang-bangs," or sequential sexual sharing of a female, or by having had "sexually congenial" women recommended to them by friends and being "fixed up" by a friend with a woman with whom to have first intercourse.
Kanin undertook the study in part to examine the often-heard explanation for rape that men rape when legitimate sexual activity is unavailable to them for some reason. He found that "rapists" were not objectively deprived; in fact, they had had more sexual experience (excluding their rape experiences) and had experienced more orgasms per week than the controls. Thus if sexual deprivation was involved, it was felt deprivation relative to very high expectations for frequent sexual contact. According to Kanin, the "rapists" seemed to be constantly engaged in a more or less exploitative search for new sexual experiences. They were far more willing than the control subjects to use subterfuge to get a woman to acquiesce in intercourse—getting her drunk, falsely professing love, promising commitment, or threatening breakup. When subterfuge failed, or when deemed inappropriate, they used force. Although the cronies of "rapists" would not approve of using violence to get sex in general, they accepted the use of force if the females were in their view legitimate victims—bar pick-ups, known teasers, or economic exploiters. Thus, rape seems to be an extreme form of treating women as sex objects; this attitude was given strong backing by the male friends of Kanin's "rapists," especially in high school. Although all men do not rape, most men are aware of and share to varying degrees what I have been calling the male-peer-group mentality that makes rape at least "understandable."
There are laws against rape, which appear to provide women protection, but Catharine MacKinnon argues persuasively that rape law is not so much designed to prevent rape as to establish the rules by which the practice of rape is organized and legitimated. According to MacKinnon, rape law defines the circumstances under
which forced sexual attacks on women constitute rape. Women who have been raped but who do not conform to the male definition of what they should do and be in order not to be subject to rape are defined as not really having been raped. Thus, until recently, a husband who forced his wife to have intercourse with him could not be accused of raping her, because marriage made her a legitimate sex object. If any woman did not put up a terrific struggle, then a sexual attack on her was not rape, because she must have led him on. If a woman was loose or a prostitute, a sexual attack on her was not rape, because she asked for it. The rules then have to do with the circumstances under which women are legitimate sex objects, but all the rules are based on the idea that women are defined by their sexuality. This definition seems to fit especially well with the conception of women that often prevails when men are among males.
The incidence of rape is quite high in the United States, according to Diana Russell, who reports from a careful survey of 930 women of all ages over eighteen in San Francisco. Russell's women subjects were randomly selected in a probability sample of households and interviewed by trained interviewers for over an hour, using a detailed schedule of questions. The study used the legal definition of rape in California, which is "forced intercourse (i.e., penile-vaginal penetration), or intercourse obtained by threat of force, or intercourse completed when the woman was drugged, unconscious, asleep or otherwise totally helpless and hence unable to consent." Russell found that 19 percent (175) of her sample of women had been raped, and this figure excludes attempted rape and marital rape. If one includes attempted rape, which official statistics do, the rate rises to 41 percent, and if marital rape is included, it rises to 44 percent. Only 8 percent of these rapes and attempted rapes were ever reported to the police. Moreover, when one compares the experience of different age groups—moving from older to younger—it becomes clear that rates of rape and attempted rape have "steadily and substantially increased at each age for the women reporting" (p. 53). There has been a very large increase in rape rates for the younger age groups—but not for child sexual abuse.
The increase of rape may be related to the increased participation of women in the wider society without a concomitant growth
in respect for women as people. The image of a working woman or an emancipated woman as a sex object still prevails. A woman, competent as she may be, is still expected to play up to men and not refuse them. Women are still not seen as mothers, human beings, or people.
Male Bonding, Male Dominance, Heterosexuality, and Marriage
As we saw, there is a sense in which one can say that women's mothering is universal. Child care has universally been the province of women, not men. There is a similar sense in which the male peer group is universal. Although girls and boys self-segregate as children, girls are somewhat more adult-oriented than boys. Boys may elect to be (and adults encourage them to be) "on their own" with each other more than girls do. Marriage and the pursuit of husbands tend to break up female bonding (although the extent varies greatly cross-culturally).
Certainly the nature of male peer groups would be subject to considerable cross-cultural variation, just as the forms women's mothering takes varies greatly cross-culturally. I have speculated that males' bonding is connected to consolidating a gender identity that is other than female. Later on, this male bonding becomes a way of consolidating male privilege. Marriage can break up male bonding, but what can be described only as the male-peer-group mentality is there, in varying forms and degrees, to be activated under certain circumstances. There seem to be two general ways in which men resist women. One is by segregating themselves from women; the other is by establishing domestic authority and sexual dominance over women. In this society the trend is clearly and increasingly away from segregation of roles and tasks. As gender roles become less sharply differentiated and as women and men are in daily contact in the same contexts, the tendency to sexualize and hierarchicalize gender relationships may increase for a time. In this society sexual attraction has come to be seen as the defining characteristic of male-female relationships rather than any specific gender-based division of labor. As the emphasis on heterosexuality becomes stronger, the possibility for sexualizing cross-gender interaction becomes greater, and this in turn is related to both rape
and sexual harassment of women on the job. As women become more assimilated, gender difference increasingly becomes reduced to sexual difference, and as things stand now heterosexual interaction is male-dominated.
In this society male dominance in heterosexual relationships is both expected and assumed; it becomes a metaphor for male dominance in general. The pornographic version of this male dominance in heterosexual relations might be that what ultimately makes a man a man is screwing women, and screwing women means keeping women in their place. The "romantic" version of this male dominance is that taking the sexual initiative in heterosexual encounters is a last bastion of male prerogative and even male duty. Men must make the first move even if women "make them make it." He puts his arm around her first, he leans toward her first, he sweeps her off her feet. Women are more likely to accept the romantic alternative, but both versions indicate, and are predicated on, male dominance.
Although specifically sexual heterosexual (i.e., cross-gender) interaction is a major case in point, virtually all interactions between males and females of the same class or race and generation are male-dominated. Studies indicate that adult males generally listen less and interrupt more than females and generally seem less inclined toward genuinely reciprocal give-and-take. The general emphasis on heterosexual relationships in this society throws men and women together in more situations in which males dominate than might be the case if heterosexuality itself and the great emphasis on heterosexual couples had not become an organizing principle in the private sphere and to some extent in the workplace.
In this society, male peer groups generally offer strong reinforcement for heterosexuality, and heterosexuality for adult men has become a central symbol of masculinity, which in turn is clearly tied in with male dominance. As Joseph Pleck points out, "Our society uses the male heterosexual-homosexual dichotomy as a central symbol for all the rankings of masculinity, for the division on any grounds between males who are 'real men' and have power and males who are not. Any kind of powerlessness or refusal to compete becomes imbued with the imagery of homosexuality." Thus the male homosexual is derided by other males because he is not a real man, and in male logic if one is not a real man, one is a woman.
Because gender has increasingly become defined in terms of sexuality, heterosexuality and male dominance in heterosexual relationships have become central to the definition of what masculinity is .
Women develop the capacity to be intimately involved with another, truly open to and concerned with another, more strongly than men, and this capacity underlies female bonding. But even though women have the capacity to bond with one another to a greater extent than men, marriage and particularly the emphasis on the heterosexual couple as the primary social unit in this society breaks up relationships between women. Whereas men use their interest in women as objects as a basis for bonding together, women are less likely to bond together on the basis of their interest in men. Women may join together on the basis of kinship or friendship, but so much of middle-class women's lives in the twentieth century has rested on their being married and dependent on the fortunes of one particular male that the marriage relationship has taken precedence over bonds with females. Although a certain amount of mutual aid is undoubtedly exchanged between wives and women seeking husbands, until fairly recently the necessity of finding and keeping a husband constituted a very real structural constraint on mutual support between women.
When feminists, and perhaps especially radical feminists, cite the influence of other women in their lives, they are likely to specify an unmarried aunt, a widowed grandmother or a mother who saw herself more as a mother than as a wife. The consciousness-raising groups of the 1960s were deliberately created by middle-class white women to counteract the isolation they felt from other women. Women can and do continue to support one another, but the emphasis on marriage and the couple, and beyond this the tendency to sexualize all cross-gender relationships in this society, makes it structurally very difficult for women to act in unison on their own behalf.
Although male standards tend to prevail throughout society, men are not self-sufficient in their "homosocial" bonding, and their relationships with one another tend to be wary and distanced. The hope lies in males' early interactions with maternal figures counteracting, far more than causing, the male-peer-group's view that "male" is everything. Men know from their mothers, and from their fathers who act in a maternal way, that there are more egali-
tarian and mutual relational possibilities and that women are important as people and as friends. This need for women to be more than sex objects continues for most men throughout their lives. Both men and women tend to choose women for their confidants. This tendency potentially gives women a measure of power if they choose to use it.
In spite of the lure of male camaraderie, men fall in love with women and become emotionally committed to them. After all, men did love their mothers. Such emotional involvement, however, is often viewed with distaste by men's male peers. Traditional Muslim societies go so far as to think of love as downgrading a man and robbing him of his masculinity. This may reflect a recognition of the truth that human commitment to a woman threatens male dominance. In the United States, rituals are still around that reflect the attitude of "the boys," that is, male peers, toward marriage. The stag party for the groom before the wedding is an occasion at which males commiserate with the poor prospective husband for having gotten himself "hooked." A wife was a free man's "ball and chain."
In The Hearts of Men Barbara Ehrenreich describes the most recent manifestations of male resistance to marriage. She implies that the antimarriage stance of feminists has played directly into the hands of "the boys" who still do not want to commit themselves to a woman. Although the resistance that Ehrenreich describes is real enough, it must be seen in the context of marriage's continuing popularity with men; when their marriages break up, they remarry more frequently than women do—and usually marry younger women. The larger truth is that even though marriage may constrain men a bit, it empowers them a lot. Everybody needs a wife, but it is men who get them.
Summary and a Look Ahead
In this chapter I have suggested that analyses that connect women's responsibility for early child care to male dominance obscure the positive benefits for both females and males of women's mothering. In order to counterbalance the overemphasis on women's mothering as the cause of gender inequality, I discussed the debilitating features of marriage for women in Chapter 2 and the misogyny of the male peer group in this chapter. The relationship of the male
peer group and marriage to male dominance presents a paradox. Marriage, by bringing women and men together in a relationship that is expected to be a lasting and serious commitment, can work against the male-peer-group mentality that tends to exclude and sex-objectify women. At the same time, however, marriages are male-dominant. In modern middle-class marriages, certainly, women's interests have been made to coincide with those of their husbands to a far greater extent than vice versa. So modern marriage, while offering women and men the chance for true person-to-person intimacy, still gives men the upper hand. The direction of solution to this paradox, toward which one hopes we may be moving as a society, involves neither an increase in male bonding nor a greater emphasis on marriage. Rather, the solution seems to be women and men coming together not as married couples but as people and friends who increasingly share similar problems and experiences. The latter types of relationships would help decrease misogynist tendencies in male peer groups and make for more egalitarian marriages.
In the next two chapters I will discuss the implications of men's fathering for gender inequality. This is especially important since shared parenting has been proposed as the solution to the male dominance presumed to result from women's mothering. In my view men's fathering in this society lies somewhere between the mothering and human mentality and the male-peer-group mentality; that is, fathering has aspects of a maternal orientation, but it also has aspects of an orientation derived from being a male-peer-group member. Men as fathers then are cross-pressured; moreover, their fathering now takes place in the context of marriage rules that reinforce male superiority.