Plan of the Book
This book is conceived in three parts. Chapters 1 to 3 introduce my general theoretical perspective, show how it fits into feminist concerns, and introduce some key distinctions and concepts. Specifically in Chapter 2, I describe an ongoing tension within the feminist movement between a focus on gender similarity and role assimilation and a focus on gender difference. In connection with the difference focus, I attempt to clarify thinking concerning women and the family by introducing the distinction between women as mothers and women as wives. I argue that women's secondary status ultimately lies more in the structure of marriage than in mothering itself. I introduce the idea that women's mothering provides a basis for women's solidarity and power, but women's being "wives" in the "modern family" separates women from one another in the pursuit of husbands and isolates women from one another in nuclear families.
In Chapter 3, I make a parallel distinction between women's orientation toward interdependence and the dependence that women are often accused of and accuse themselves of. In a rough way I connect the former tendency with women as mothers and the latter with women as wives. In preparation for a developmental account of these orientational differences, I argue that women's tendency to see themselves in relationship to others should not be viewed as a complement to some more desirable tendency males might be thought to have, but is rather the more basic and distinctively human orientation that both genders share but that men later tend to reject.
In Chapters 4 to 7 I give an account of gender development and differentiation as it takes place within a cultural framework that assumes male-headed nuclear families as the norm. These chapters analyze how male dominance is reproduced within this particular system. In contrast to the earlier feminist focus on the consequences of women's mothering for male dominance, I argue that
the male peer group and some aspects of men's fathering are more directly responsible for reproducing male dominance and the kind of gender differentiation that tends to keep women subordinate.
Chapter 4 gives my own version of the most important feminist work on the developmental consequences for males and females of women's hegemony over early child care. Chapter 5 describes the positive aspects of women's mothering and also how male peer groups affect male development and male self-images and stances toward females. In Chapters 6 and 7 I argue that the developmental consequences of men's fathering are quite different from those of women's mothering and tend to reproduce male dominance. There is another sense, however, in which individual fathers can temper this dominance. To show how fathers affect gender development, in Chapter 6 I use data from experimental and survey research and in Chapter 7 I use Freud's own account. I argue that it is the heterosexual aspects of gender development that fathers affect. In both these chapters on fathers I also discuss how homosexuality might logically be seen as a protest against the male-dominant aspects of the nuclear family system.
Whereas in Chapter 7 I point out those aspects of Freud's account of early gender development that are more or less accurate, in Chapter 8 I question the aspect of his work that conflates gender with male-dominated sexuality. I also begin the task of reconstructing from a perspective that does not assume male dominance our understanding of the bases for gender identity and how conceptions of gender develop. Chapter 9 provides a cross-cultural and historical analysis of women in the "modern family." I discuss matricentered "solutions" to male dominance in simple societies and in class societies and the effect of maternal orientations on modern Western individualistic societies. I then trace briefly the vicissitudes of middle-class women's efforts to gain a foothold in the public sphere in the United States in the nineteenth and twentieth centuries. In Chapter 10, I examine women's present situation in an individualistic society and suggest that gender-blind assumptions are not always in women's best interest. Finally, I suggest that marriage is losing its former centrality in middle-class women's lives as they increasingly partake of the individualism that men in this society take for granted. The decreasing importance of mar-
riage is associated with much dislocation in the present but holds the possibility for constructive changes in the future. These changes must keep the differences that remain between women and men (women are mothers in a way that men are not) from hindering gender equality.