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A Critique Of Nancy Chodorow

Paper Type: Free Essay Subject: Sociology
Wordcount: 1720 words Published: 21st Apr 2017

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In Nancy Chodorows Family Structure, and Feminine Personality it is argued that care, development and socialization of children and females is largely rested upon women, and therefore provides the basis on gender personality development within males and females; but from the perspective of Margret Mead and her book “Sex and Temperament” this fails to account for separating the European views of male dominance, and also the role of the male in early development of the children, and the socialization of females. In the conclusion of Mead’s book she entered the idea that children school yard teasing, and their taught early gender roles were partially to blame for boys to perpetuate male dominated roles, and even the young girls themselves were to blame for furthering this ideology. Chodorow continues on mentioning mother/daughter relationships, and of double identification, but fails to account for “malleability” as well. In these mother/daughter relationships Chodorow continues to link this relationship as paramount to the gender socialization of the sexes. It is my belief that Mead would be superior in ultimately and authoritatively speaking on the basics of gender development in the sexes, due to her studies of different cultures. With Chodorow she continually speaks from the perspective of her native western “nuclear” socialite development, and only academically mentions other cultures which so happen to be possibly more developed towards the ways of the western world.

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The ability of being able to draft from a larger pool of culture that Margret Mead did made it possible to draw conclusions, form a basis and gave the ability leave out the Western world perspective allows the reader to conclude to similar opinions as Mead had. When Chodorow speak in large part of the Western, or nuclear families, she was able to draw the reader to make conclusions out of familiarity or even to have close access to ask the opposite sex questions to meet the similar opinions. The problem with Chodorow’s formatting of her short article and conclusions rested far too great of weight on the mother perpetuating of the male dominated society, and that the absent father added to further influence on the development of young boys and girls. Mead was able to present to the reader that in three different and distinct cultures that gender identity was not based on Freudian sexual needs but social conditioning. Chodorow even suggests that the mother/daughter relationship promotes the mother’s own challenges within her own social development was transgressed onto the daughter, forming the daughter’s basis of womanly gendered behaviors known in the western world was feminine behaviors. This was contrasted by Mead when she wrote about the Mundugumor, in which children of either sex were considered a hassle and needed to survive by their own means, therefore both male and female were only differentiated based on physiologic differences, and both sexes displayed “Masculine” and “Feminine” attributes. Mead presented terms such as social conditioning in which the society provided the bonds, or lack of, for gender identity. Chodorow’s accounts were formed of the western perspective, and therefore drew from a shallow pool of cultural intelligence. Chodorow left the reader to believe that male dominance was something inherent and passed from generation to generation, and that naturally passed on due to the dynamics of the heterosexual relationship of men and woman the development of young children. Mead was able to counter this believe in the 1935’s when she talked about the Tchambuli peoples, in where the women were dominant, and the providers of the family; much like the opposite of the western world’s common beliefs.

With Chodorow leaving the inference that gender identity were based on the Freudian model of sexual development, continued because it is also passed generation to generation based on the mother’s upbringing discredits that there is malleability in society. The western perspective on gender identities, and roles had to of evolved from somewhere. With Mead’s views of the different and primitive societies, we the readers are able to draw conclusions that societies are based on their surroundings and passed down. Cultural borders or other borders allow differences to the Western perspective of male dominance. Mead was able to smash the ideals, that women, because of physiological differences with man created masculine/feminine roles. But in fact made the roles subjective in context to what the rest of that society views are masculine/feminine roles. Chodorow alleges that because women have such hard and limited lives of child rearing, lack of career choices, and dominated by men mothers pass this down to their daughters perpetuating the male dominance.

With male dominance Chodorow had to contort her theory of male being dominant and women perpetuating this practice by conveniently including the absent father. The absent father image was what Chodorow presented; child males must transition from the role of son-mother connection and more towards their remote father and take on a positional role. I believe from after reading the context of Mead’s book and how its present’s different cultures proves Chodorow’s claims as false. If the absent father is absent, then how can his role be influenced onto the child whose father is in fact, absent. In this case, this bolster’s Chodorow’s initial claim that mother’s determine the gender roles of both sons and daughters. But according to Mead and the Mundugumor people, children were seen as a liability to the men, and therefore already sent in motion the social conditioning that followed. The Mundugumor men viewed the children as liabilities, could potential beat their wives, and their society in response forced the framing an anti-children society. So in this one culture Chodorow’s claim is disproven because Mead directly illustrated men do have an active role, and even went on further explaining this point with just this one Papua New Guinea tribe.

Mead in her conclusion of “Sex and Temperament” noted that in the western world, child gender development was continued in the school yard. Chodorow’s view was more limited in that she was attempting to bolster her view that women gender identities developed as based on the mother/daughter relationship. Chodorow did acknowledge that some external events could influence gender role/identities development. Mead noted very powerful school yard bullying in two examples of feminine behavior being “taught” or “reinforced” on females in particular. One example was the usages of the word “tomboy”. Mead went on to note that the term formerly encompassed “acting like a boy, dress like a boy and things like that.” “Nowadays all girls have to do is act like boys quite quietly.”

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At the core of Chodorow’s argue of gender development is that the mother/daughter relationship forges the ideals of femininity. This is also entirely of the Western gender perspective. But Chodorow states that the formation of female gender identity is through the socialization of her mother, in which is socialized in groups of women, and therefore has no need to reject this perspective unlike the males. With girls and women there is not fanaticising of roles, but direct identity and therefore easily transitions these “feminine” identities. Chodorow leaves the reader to infer that there could be biological reasons for gender identities, with the theory of the mother/daughter. This maybe the way how gender identity is perpetuating in the western world, but in terms of evolutionary, it isn’t the methods these are roles based. Mead concluded with her studies that the social conditioning defined the roles of male and females, she also further concluded that what is masculine and feminine is relative and not based to sexual identity. Mead with her “cross cultural research” noted three different societies, one where men has the traditional to the western world feminine attributes (Tchambuli), another culture were the women were as aggressive as the western world men (Mundugumor), and a third culture were men and women were exact complete equals (Arapesh). With these findings Mead was able to conclude that the individual society dictated the society structure and the gender roles, and what was masculine or feminine. The reader could also infer that both the genders were responsible for advancing the sociality gender identities onto the youth further progressing their gender models.

Gender identities have been researched by both Margret Mead, and Nancy Chodorow, and both have presented excellent ideas to the sociology of genders. Margret Mead was able to present views from three cultures unlike our own. Chodorow mainly presented on a culture like ours, with references to other modern developed cultures. Chodorow was able to speak extensively for the female perspective of how feminine behaviors are passed from mother to daughter, and gave some examples on the male gender development. Mead was able to present that genders were malleable, and therefore changed based on what that culture demanded the roles of males and females be. Mead illustrated that women were not born feminine, and men not masculine. But that those qualities had to be taught onto the different sexes and outside of physical differences that man and women were essentially the same. Chodorow illustrated that gender behaviors were forged based on the relationships of the children to the parents, and if the children could assimilate based of their sexual identity. But Chodorow failed to present how these roles were started and only talked about how that are perpetuated. Chodorow also failed to give some explanation as to how these role behaviors either evolved. This is why I still believe that Mead’s writings are a little more comprehensive on the discussion of the roles of genders, and the relativity of masculine/feminine behaviors.


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