Being and Doing - A Cross-Cultural Examination of the Socialization of Males and Females

PART II Woman is made, not born

I am grateful to Susan Contratto Weisskopf for first suggesting to me certain severe problems in male-identity development which led me to the particular comparative approach taken in this essay.

There are two crucial issues that people concerned about the liberation of women and men from rigid and limiting sex roles must consider. One is whether there is any basis to the claim that there are biologically derived (and therefore inescapable) psychological or personality characteristics which universally differentiate men and women. The other is to understand why it is that in almost every society women are physically, politically, and/or economically dominated by men and are thought to be (and think themselves to be) inferior to men. This essay refutes the claim for universal and necessary differentiation, and provides an explanation based on a comparison of cultures and socialization practices to account for such differences where and when they occur. It then examines the development of identity in males and females and shows how this development, and in particular the socialization and development of males, leads to and perpetuates the devaluation and oppression of women.

Cross-Cultural Research

Cultural  Personality

Cross-cultural research [1] suggests that there are no absolute personality differences between men and women, that many of the characteristics we normally classify as masculine or feminine tend to differentiate both the males and females in one culture from those in another, and in still other cultures to be the reverse of our expectations.
Margaret Mead's studies describe societies in which both men and women are gentle and unaggressive (the Arapesh); in which women dislike childbearing and children and both sexes are angry and aggressive (the Mundugumor); in which women are unadorned, brisk and efficient, whether in childbearing, fishing, or marketing, while men are decorated and vain, interested in art, theater, and petty gossip (the Tchambuli); in which adult sex roles follow conventional expectations, but both boys and girls are initially raised alike—to be alternately gentle and nurturant or assertive—following which boys undergo severe initiation ceremonies and »and claim to forget« any feminine-type experiences or reactions (the Iatmul).[2] Mead's suggestion, typifying the approach of culture and personality theorists, is that cultures emphasize and reinforce behavior according to many sorts of criteria. Although one culture may have different expectations for male and female behavior, the criteria of differentiation may bear no relation to the criteria of differentiation in other cultures. Male and female personality in one culture may be poles along one continuum of behavior, which is itself differentiated from the continua of behavior of other cultures.
Herbert Barry, Irvin Child, and Margaret Bacon [3] and Beatrice and John Whiting [4] have also compiled data indicating that children's behavior and socialization tend to differ between cultures along dimensions normally thought to differentiate male from female behavior and socialization.[5] According to Barry, Child, and Bacon, societies with economies relying on »high« or »intermediate high« accumulation of resources (»high« being societies in which the subsistence economy is either pastoral or agricultural  with  animal  husbandry  also important; »intermediate high« being agricultural societies without animal husbandry) train all children to be more »compliant,« that is, to be responsible and obedient (typically feminine). In contrast, societies with economies relying on »low« or »intermediate low« accumulation (»low« being societies with hunting and fishing; »intermediate low« being agricultural societies without animal husbandry but with hunting and fishing) train their children to be more »assertive,« that is, to be independent, self-reliant, and oriented toward achievement (typically masculine).
The Whitings (whose data are probably more reliable than those of Barry, Child, and Bacon, since they were gathered according to uniform and fairly extensive criteria) have compared »egoistic« (»seeks attention,« »seeks dominance,« »seeks help«, — typically masculine) and »altruistic« (»offers support,« »offers help,« »suggests responsibly« — typically feminine) behavior among children of six cultures. Although the amount of »egoistic« and »altruistic« behavior observed was about equal (20.4 percent and 20.5 percent of the total behavior observed, respectively), a comparison of the two kinds of behavior within each society reveals that in three societies, children's behavior is much more »altruistic« (93 percent, 82 percent and 79 percent, respectively, of all egoistic and altruistic behavior in each society is »altruistic«) and that in the other three children are clearly »egoistic« (96 percent, 79 percent and 67 percent, respectively, of all egoistic and altruistic behavior in each society is »egotistic«).[6] Thus, »masculine« behavior seems to characterize certain societies, and »feminine« behavior others.

Sex Differences within Cultures

This is not to claim that within most cultures, male and female differences do not generally conform to our traditional expectations. George Murdock's [7] and Roy D'Andrade's [8] data on the division of labor by sex indicate that most work is divided regularly between men and women, along conventional lines. Men's work, for instance, is »strenuous, cooperative, and... may require long periods of travel«;[9] women's work is mainly associated with food gathering and preparation, crafts, clothing manufacture, child care, and so forth.
The extent of these differences between the sexes may be large or small. Although in American society we can recognize clear differences between boys' and girls' socialization and between adult sex roles, these differences are relatively small in comparison to many other societies. The Whitings found that the boys and girls in their New England community showed no statistically significant differences in any of the twelve types of behavior that they were measuring, whereas boys and girls in each of the other cultures differed significantly on at least three of the twelve types.[10]
Barry, Bacon, and Child show that within cultures where sex differences in pressure toward certain kinds of behavior occur, the socialization of boys tends to be overwhelmingly more achievement-oriented and self-reliance oriented, while the socialization of girls tends to be overwhelmingly more nurturance-oriented.[11] Although girls are also socialized to be more responsible and more obedient than boys, there is more variation between boys and girls in the socialization of responsibility, and a majority of societies were rated as without sex differences in the socialization of obedience (see Table 11-1). This seems consistent with their findings on societies differentiated according to type of subsistence economy, in which, for instance, boys in societies emphasizing assertive behavior are »more« assertive than girls in this same type of society and girls are »more« compliant than boys. The same is true in societies emphasizing »compliant« behavior.[12]

The Whitings compare girls and boys within each culture and find that in five of the six cultures, boys are more »egoistic« than girls, and girls more »altruistic« than boys. (In the sixth, Okinawa, girls are listed as both more »egoistic« and more »altruistic« than boys. This may be an error in the manuscript, or an indication that in this culture boys were more often observed to exhibit behavior that was classified as neither »egoistic« nor »altruistic.« What seems most likely from the data presented, however, is that one component of »egoism« —»seeks help« —was high enough in girls to outweigh male predominance in the other two components.)
Specifically, tendencies towards »egoism« and »altruism« change with age. Young girls, three to six, »seek help« and »suggest responsibly« more than young boys, while young boys »seek dominance« more than young girls. All these differences disappear with age. However, while there is no difference in the other three behavior types between young boys and girls, older boys, seven to eleven, »seek attention« more than older girls, while older girls »offer help« and »support« more than older boys. These changes make sense: young girls, used to relying on older siblings and adults (»seeking help«), soon give this help (»offer help and support«) to younger children. Their not necessarily successful attempts to »suggest responsibility« to other children turn into actual instances of aid and direction. On the other hand, boys, who are allowed as very young children to be demanding (»seek dominance«) to adults (especially women) and older children socializers, often lose this privilege as they get older, without receiving instead a well-defined role in the economy or division of labor. The still growing boy is then reduced to more »illegitimate« demands (to »seeking attention«) that are often ignored by the people performing their work around him - people unlikely to be aware of his »role-less« status and therefore unsympathetic to his bothering them.[13] In sum, the Whitings find that while there is no statistically significant difference in »egoism« or »altruism« between boys and girls of three to six years old, boys from seven to eleven years old are significantly more »egoistic« than girls, and girls significantly more »altruistic« than boys.[14]

Explanations of Cultural and Sexual Differences: Nature or Culture?

These behavioral tendencies should not be taken to reflect »biological« (hence, »necessary«) bases of sex roles and the sexual division of labor. The fact that in The Six Cultures Study  (where an equal number of children of each sex were observed for equal amounts of time in each culture, and where the total amount of each type of behavior is almost exactly equivalent), 96 percent of egoistic-altruistic behavior in one society was »egoistic,« while in another 93 percent was »altruistic,« and that similarly extreme tendencies characterize the other four societies, proves that sex differences could not be responsible. An examination of the explanations offered for these cultural differences and for sexual differences of behavior substantiates the claim that personality and behavior are culturally determined and learned and provides insight into the apparent parallels between cultural and sexual differences.
I have already mentioned one indication that sex roles are learned and related to adult values and work: the Whitings find that young boys and girls exhibit less differentiated behavior than older children, that children, as they learn the actual work expected of them (or are unable to learn this work, and thus temporarily not integrated meaningfully in the culture), also learn the more general personality and behavioral characteristics which facilitate this work (or which fill time for those without work).[15]
Barry, Child, and Bacon rely for explanation of cultural differences on differences in subsistence economy.[16] This explanation is similar to the Whitings'. In societies that depend on constant care of animals, or on regular tending of crops, it is necessary to teach children to be obedient and responsible, since disobedience or irresponsibility can endanger or eliminate a food supply for a long period to come. Similarly, experimentation and individual achievement cannot be risked because of the great potential cost. On the other hand, in societies that rely totally or partially on hunting and fishing, disobedience or lack of responsibility is not so crucial; it means missing one day's catch, perhaps, but not a food supply for months to come. In this kind of economy it is worthwhile to be daring, to try new ways of doing things, since success may bring great reward and failure only temporary loss, and perhaps no greater loss than otherwise.
It is clear, however, that those qualities required by the economy in a »high accumulation« society are similar, and for the same reasons, to those normally required by woman's work, especially the requirements of child care, but also those of feeding and clothing a family.[17] Because of these more or less constant requirements, girls' socialization in societies of »low accumulation« cannot be too variable. Although girls are pressured to act »assertively« as are boys, it is noticeable that in those societies exhibiting pressures toward »masculine« behavior, ranked differences in the strength of socialization of the different kinds of behavior for girls is quite small, whereas the difference for boys between pressure toward »assertion« and pressure toward »compliance« is relatively large. The reverse is also true: in those societies which require »feminine« (»compliant«) behavior, girls' socialization tends to diverge more widely among different kinds of behavior than boys', although the difference is not so extreme.[18]
These differences are accounted for by the fact that men's and boys' work in the two kinds of society can be more radically different than women's and girls' work. Men may either hunt, or fish, or farm, or herd. For instance, in societies with animal husbandry, it is often boys who tend livestock, and who thus from an early age must learn to be responsible in the same way that potential child rearers must learn responsibility.[19] But in societies with hunting and fishing, although women may fish, they still have to take care of children and cook food. Although reliance on gathering and general uncertainty about food supply, along with irregularity of meals and instability of living place, may contribute to differences in female behavior, these regularities remain.
Unfortunately, it is not clear from Barry, Child, and Bacon's presentation who does what in these societies. I can try to elucidate this from general ethnographic knowledge. As far as I know, men are the only hunters of large animals in any society; they also generally tend large domestic animals and pastoral herds. Both women and men, on the other hand, may fish and participate in various agricultural activities. Barry, Bacon, and Child find that in societies with hunting, herding, and animal husbandry with large animals and without fishing, the largest sex differences in socialization are found.[20] What seems characteristic of this type of society is not so much that there is specific men's work, but that this work tends to take the men away from the women and children. I would hypothesize that not only is sex-role training most different in these societies, but that they are the ones most characterized by boys' lacking continuous and regular development toward a clearly defined role.
This suggests a possible problem in studies of the relation between socialization and adult economy or culture. While girls are probably consistently and regularly trained to perform a woman's role, much of (what is viewed as) the training that boys receive in nurturant behavior particularly, but also in other »feminine« behavior, may not be indicative of or preparatory to an adult role at all, but a reflection of the fact that the normal societal organization groups women, girls, and boys in opposition to adult men; since boys are not taught actual woman's work, a natural lot that falls to them is sibling care. This difference may also be true of the Whitings' findings on »egoism« and »altruism«; while »altruistic« behavior in girls is preparatory to adult role, in boys it may either be this (as, for example, in herding societies) or a time filler where training for an adult male role is unavailable. Egoistic behavior in both sexes may also simply be an indication that these children have little »real« place in the surrounding adult world.
In the preceding consideration of the effect of economy on cultural personality and sex-role distinctions, I was often led to »explanations« of correlations in terms of the »logical« division of labor, or of familial organization and socialization patterns which a particular economy would entail. It is useful to look at these variables by themselves. The Whitings attempt to explain differences between cultures where children behave »egotistically« and those where they behave »altruistically.«[21] They find that with one exception (New England), cultures with »altruistic« children have either nuclear or mother-child households, while cultures with »egoistic« children tend to have households and courtyards inhabited by extended families. Barry, Bacon, and Child find that similar societal characteristics relate to sex differences.[22] Large sex differences in socialization are correlated with large family groups with cooperative interaction—either extended families or polygynous families in which co-wives help each other. The Whitings find further that more complex societies (societies with occupational specialization, a centralized political system, class or caste differentiation, and a complex settlement and land-use pattern) tend to produce »egoistic« children.
Both household structure and complexity of society would seem to entail similar tendencies in child training. In households  with few  adults, it is likely that more contributions are required from children, both regularly and as temporary substitutes for the mother, than in extended households in which adult substitutes are much more available. In such households as well, it is likely that a man and a woman must be prepared to take each other's role when the other is sick or away; therefore, there cannot be a very large difference in the socialization of sex roles.
Similarly, in less complex societies, children from a very young age can be and are trained toward their already known adult roles; they are usually functioning members of the economy. Whatever work they do is a necessary and expected contribution. Furthermore, children in this situation can usually understand the reasons for what they are learning and see tangible results of their work—that they took part in producing the meal which they eat. In these societies it is also more likely that women participate in the producing economy, making it necessary for children to take care of younger children and to do things at home while their mother is out working. On the other hand, in more complex societies, children cannot be as certain of their future role in the division of labor, nor can »work« for them seem as immediately contributory to family welfare as in simpler societies. Crucially, however, these characteristics would probably apply even more to boys than to girls, for whom there is always some basic household and child-care work that they can understand and expect to do, and whose relevance is immediately perceptible.

Differences in the Genesis and Meaning of Masculine and Feminine Behaviors

Similar sex-role socialization and less sex differentiation in adult work are primarily a reflection of the extent to which boys are socialized to perform more (traditionally) feminine behavior and work, although the reverse may sometimes be true (for example, according to Barry, Child, and Bacon, boys in societies stressing »compliance« are much more »compliant« according to their ratings than are girls »assertive« in societies stressing »assertion«). This is partially a result of the fact that variations in »economy« still leave women with one element of their »economic« role certain, thus one aspect of their training assured.
There seem to be differences in how compliant and assertive behavior are learned. All children have the basic experience of being raised primarily by women. In societies that stress masculine behavior, women, however resentful, must perform tasks that require reliability, responsibility, and nurturance. And if both children learn to be more independent, assertive, and achievement-oriented, girls still learn this from women, whereas it is likely that boys learn much of this behavior from men. There is a lack of symmetry in the childbearing situations of the two kinds of society. Both boys and girls learn »compliant«, »altruistic« behavior from women, but while boys may learn »assertive« behavior from men, girls still learn it from women.
There also seem to be different situational and cultural reasons for pressure toward »assertion« and actual »egoistic« behavior than for pressure toward »compliance« and actual »altruistic« behavior. In the latter case, »altruistic« behavior seems to relate to actual learning of role (»offering help,« »offering support,« and so forth) and is thus directly supported by pressure toward »compliant« behavior, toward responsibility and obedience. Boys and girls who exhibit these behavioral characteristics are actually doing things—are taking care of siblings, being responsible for livestock, perhaps helping in agricultural work.
»Egoistic« behavior, as pointed out, is likely to be a time filler for someone who does not have a definite role. There is no necessary relation between »egoistic« behavior and adult role, although »egoism« may be an adult personality characteristic. Similarly, it would seem that in societies with pressure toward »assertive behavior, the usefulness of this behavior is greater in activities which only older people can do well—hunting, warring, successfully competing in business, and the like—and cannot seem immediately relevant to a child, nor so tied to successful fulfillment of work role for children. Pressure toward »assertion« and »egoistic« behavior seems to exist in societies where there is no »obvious« and simple relation between children's role and adult role, societies in which »characters are formed« rather than »roles learned.« This seems to be the major characteristic of what it means to be trained to be »masculine,« to perform a (typically) »male« role.
In most societies, to the extent that an economy or household structure requires that children learn real work as children, they learn what are normally thought of as female patterns of behavior. To the extent that there is no obvious continuity between childhood and adulthood, children learn what are normally male behaviors. Societies in which sex differences in socialization are small might be simple societies in which all children learn early to be responsible, obedient, and nurturant in the performance of real work, or they may be complex societies, such as ours, in which the socialization of both sexes is not perceptibly and immediately contributory to the society's economy and social organization. The extent to which sex-role socialization differs in ways we would expect, whether differentiation is great or small, reflects the difference in the extent to which boys wait, while girls do not, to be integrated into the adult world of work.
What accounts for »feminine nature,« then, is that a certain part of woman's work in all societies requires feminine kinds of behavior, even when the attitude to this behavior is only disdain: women who hate childbearing must bear children and nurse them regularly in non technological societies where there are no contraceptives nor bottles. Men's work, on the other hand, varies across cultures both in actual type and in the kinds of personality characteristics it requires. What is »biological necessity« is biological necessity: women bear and in most societies must nurse children. However, it is clear that all those characteristics that constitute this »feminine« nature may also characterize men where other sorts of work or role expectations require them. Beyond this biological minimum, for which even girls can be socialized more or less »appropriately,« girls' socialization can produce women whose adult personality can range among all those characteristics which we consider »male« and »female.« It is easy to confuse statistical predominance with norm, and to explain norms as being »only natural.« This is inaccurate and unnecessary; a convincing explanation considers specific facts, not normative generalizations or desires. This consideration of specific facts provides a logically consistent and empirically complete accounting for sexual and cultural differences which does not need to rely on a universal and therefore in some sense non-explanatory truth.

Identity and Sex Role

Female and Male Identity: Being and Doing

There are many ways of characterizing the differences in the processes and goals of female and male socialization. Without trying to evaluate the exactness of these sorts of characterizations, I will describe them briefly. Distinctions can be drawn both between the degree of immediacy of (sex) roles for the child in primitive as opposed to Western societies and between boys and girls in each.
Anthropologists contrast the continuity and clarity of socialization in most primitive societies with modern society. In simpler societies the economic system is relatively understandable to a child. Work training constitutes gradual initiation into different kinds of work that will be expected of the child as an adult. Mothers' work is usually performed near children, and fathers' work, even if it is away, is liable to be a concretely describable, if not observable task—hunting game or planting and harvesting corn in the lowlands—rather than abstract thinking or assembly-line work to understand which involves understanding the whole process of production in a factory or bureaucratic paper work. In addition, in societies that are less complex, more parents (especially fathers) do the same kind of work. For an American child, even if his or her father does something concrete and complete, like running a small grocery store or farming, a comparison with other fathers indicates immediately that this particular work cannot be easily equated with the »male« role.
Biological differences too are less apparent. In modern society children's sexuality is played down (»the child must be sexless as far as his family is concerned«),[23] and adult sex and childbearing are hidden. Clothes do their best to hide bodies and bodily differences. Primitive societies often approach bodies and sex differently: children and often adults wear much less clothing; families may all sleep in the same room; and childbirth takes place in the home. Children's sexual behavior may be either ignored or encouraged rather than actively repressed.
While these distinctions mean that the learning of adult sex roles is easier for children in less complex societies, it is also probably true that within each of these types of society, similar distinctions insure that a girl's development into a woman is more continuous and understandable than a boy's development into a man. In some sense »feminine identity« is more easily and surely attainable than »masculine identity.« Margaret Mead claims that from the time of birth, girls can begin to take on feminine identity through identification with their mothers, while for little boys, masculine identification comes through a process of differentiation, because what would be his »natural« identification—identification with the person he is closest to and most dependent upon—is according to cultural values »unnatural,« this works against his attainment of stable masculine identity. The boy's »earliest experience of self is one in which he is forced, in the relationship to his mother, to realize himself as different, as a creature unlike the mother, as a creature unlike the human beings who make babies in a direct, intelligible way by using their own bodies to make them.«[24] This seems to be the paradigmatic situation which describes many of the more general sex-role problems considered below.
I have already described how in many non-Western societies, a girl's development and learning of her adult female role is more regular and continuous than a boy's development. Although the case is not so clear in our society (especially because there are more cross-pressures on the girl), it would seem that here also, pressure on girls, and the development of »feminine« identity, is not as difficult for the girl to understand. Talcott Parsons claims that it is »possible from an early age to initiate girls directly into many important aspects of the adult feminine role.«[25] At least part of their mothers' work is around the home, and the meaning of this activity is tangible and easily understandable to the child. Children can also participate in this work or imitate it. For a girl this is direct training in her adult role; for a boy it is often that part of his socialization which most complicates his development.
In contrast, an urban child's father works away from his home, where his son cannot participate in or observe his work. In addition, masculine functions are »of a relatively abstract and intangible character such that their meaning must remain almost wholly inaccessible to a child.«[26] Thus, boys are deprived of the possibility of modeling themselves meaningfully after tangible adult male roles or of being initiated gradually into adult work.
Parsons wonders about boys in rural areas, whose fathers' work is closer to home and more available to children, and suggests that these boys tend to be »good« in a sense not typical of urban boys (and like boys in societies where children of both sexes can be gradually integrated into the economy).
This suggests that in both primitive and advanced societies, girls seem to have an easier time learning their adult role: their socialization is less conflicted, less irregular, more continuous, than the socialization of boys. However, socialization for both sexes is more continuous, and thus identity more stable, in primitive than in complex societies.
A distinction reiterated in many different sources which both characterizes and explains this difference in the relative difficulty of girls' and boys' attainment of sex-role identity is that girls and women »are,« while boys and men »do": feminine identity is »ascribed,« masculine identity »achieved.« Karen Horney points out that even biological differences reflect this distinction: »the man is actually There is no analogous necessity for her: even if she is obliged to go on proving his manhood to the woman, frigid, she can engage in a sexual intercourse and conceive and bear a child. She performs her part by merely being, without any doing... The man on the other hand has to do something in order to fulfill himself.«[27] Mead claims that the little boy's period of »simple sureness« about his sexuality is short — the period during childhood when he knows he has a penis, the potential to be manly, like other »men,« but before he finds out that he will not be big or strong enough for a number of years to act like a man.[28] This period is the little girl's only period of doubt about her sexuality; on either end is sureness about this identity, first through identification with her mother and then because she herself has borne a child.
Culturally, too, »maleness ... is not absolutely defined, it has to be kept and re-earned every day.«[29] Parsons suggests that women have an attainable goal—to marry and have children — and that how well they do this may bear on how people judge them, but not on their fundamental female status.[30] He contrasts this with male status, which is constantly dependent in a basic way on a man's success at work, at getting promotions, and as a provider.
The need to differentiate himself continues throughout the boy's childhood. Mead points out that the boy »is trained by women to be a male, which involves no identification of the self with the mother-teacher (and when it does, I would add, this identification is harmful to his attainment of identity). He is to be a boy by doing the things Mother says but doing them in a manly way.«[31] His upbringing, and the attainment of any kind of success, is characterized by its conditional nature: success is always temporary—a failure wipes it out—and love and approval are dependent upon success.
Simone de Beauvoir sees positive rather than negative effects on boys (from this differentiation).[32] She describes girls' upbringing and contrasts it with boys', rather than attempting to explain how these contrasts have arisen. For her, boys' »doing« becomes men's transcendence: men are artists, creators, risk their lives, have projects. Women, on the other hand, are carefully trained to »be.« A girl's natural inclination would also be to »do,« but she learns to make herself into an object, to restrict herself to the sphere of immanence. Female destiny is foreordained and repetitive; men can choose their destiny:

The young boy, be he ambitious, thoughtless, or timid, looks toward an open future; he will be a seaman or an engineer, he will stay on the farm or go away to the city, he will see the world, he will get rich; he feels free, confronting a future in which the unexpected awaits him. The young girl will be a wife, grandmother; she will keep house just as her mother did, she will give her children the same care she herself received when young—she is twelve years old and already her story is written in the heavens. She will discover it day after day without ever making it.[33]

The Cultural Universal: Socialization by Females

The common fact in all socialization situations I have mentioned is that women are the primary socializers. Men may also help in child care, but their »work« is elsewhere; for women it is the reverse. I have indicated certain effects that this seems to have on children's development in terms of primary identity, and on the differences between the development of identity in boys and girls. One result for children of both sexes is that, since »it is the mother's and not the father's voice that gives the principal early approval and disapproval, the nagging voice of conscience is feminine in both sexes.«[34] Thus, as children of either sex attempt to gain independence, to make decisions on their own, different from their upbringing, they must do this by consciously or unconsciously rejecting their mother (and people like her) and the things she is associated with. This fact, and the cultural institutions and emphases that it seems to entail, has different consequences for boys and for girls.

Effects on Boys: the Dread of Women

One consequence of the fact that women are primary socializers for boys (who later become men) is what Horney calls the »dread of women.«[35] This has both psychological and cultural aspects. Psychologically, Horney believes that fear of the mother (women) in men is even greater and more repressed than fear of the father (men). The mother initially has complete power over the child's satisfaction of needs and first forbids instinctual activities and therefore encourages the child's first sadistic impulses to be directed against her and her body. This creates enormous anxiety in the child. Fear of the father, on the other hand, is not so threatening. For one thing, it develops later in life, as a result of specific processes which the child is more »aware« that he is experiencing, and not in reaction to the father's total and incomprehensible control over the child's livelihood: »dread of the father is more actual and tangible, less uncanny in quality.«[36] For another, it does not entail a boy's admitting fear of a different sort of being and »masculine self-regard suffers less in this way.«[37] Because all men have mothers, these results are to a greater or lesser degree universal: »the anxiety connected with his self-respect leaves more or less distinct traces in every man and gives to his general attitude to women a particular stamp which either does not exist in women's attitude to men, or, if it does, is acquired secondarily. In other words, it is no integral part of their feminine nature.«[38]
Individual creations, as well as folk legends and beliefs, are often attempts to cope with this dread. For instance, there are poems and ballads that talk about fears of engulfment by whirlpools, allurement by sirens who entice the unwary and kill whom they catch. Women and symbols of women in these creations and fantasies are for grown men what the all-powerful mother is for the child. But if this power can be named and externalized, it can possibly be conquered. Another way of coping with dread is to glorify and adore women—"There is no need for me to dread a being so wonderful, so beautiful, nay, so saintly« — or to debase and disparage them—"It would be too ridiculous to dread a creature who, if you take her all round, is such a poor thing.«[39]
Culturally, this means that in general it is important for men to gain power and to insure that the attributes of power and prestige are masculine, or, more precisely, that whatever cultural role accrues to the male is then accorded power and prestige: »If such activities [like cooking and weaving] are appropriate occupations of men, then the whole society, men and women alike, votes them as important. When the same occupations are performed by women, they are regarded as less important.«[40] It also becomes necessary to reserve many of these activities for men, to believe that women are unable to do many of the »important« things that contribute to society—to exercise political power, to be artistic or creative, to play an equal role in the economy—and at the same time to devalue whatever it is that women do—whether they are housewives, teachers, or social workers. In fact, »cultures frequently phrase achievement as something that women do not or cannot do, rather than directly as something which men do well.«[41]
Melford Spiro's work on the kibbutz indicates that this »causal« argument is valid.[42] He makes it clear that this happens even in a community that is specifically trying to eliminate sexual inequalities, but in which women continue to be the main socializers of children.[43] On the kibbutz where Spiro lived, it seems clear that women's work is not as prestigious as men's work. This is particularly evident in the socialization institutions most affecting children. Until children are twelve or thirteen, all their nurses and teachers are women; when they reach thirteen and begin high school—are more clearly doing »serious work« and not just being brought up — their teachers and supervisors are all men. »Nurses« in the high school perform mainly menial functions—clean buildings and bathrooms, clean and repair clothing — and take care of children only when they are sick. Serving »as an important transitional buffer from an all-female to an all-male [sic! These children are boys and girls, growing into a male and female world] adult environment»,[44] nurses, from being the most important adults in the child's world  (parents are visited several hours a day and are loving and warm, but are not really the child's »socializers«), cede this status to men and become maids, for some reason incapable of continuing to play an important socializing role in the child's life. Around this time, girls (for reasons not apparent to, or at least not mentioned by, Spiro) cease to be moral leaders of the students and become less intellectual and artistic than boys, when before they had been more so. Boys become more interested in their work and more politically interested. Among the adult kibbutz members, women do not serve on important committees, rarely speak up at meetings—and when they do, are not listened to with the same seriousness as men—and do not participate in the economic administration or intellectual life of the kibbutz. Although they work harder and longer than most men in order to »prove« themselves and their worth, the men continue to find it necessary not to recognize the value of this work or to accord women equal status.[45]

Dread and Bisexuality

Thus, institutionally and culturally, men have often managed to overcome this »dread« of women through a devaluation of whatever women do and are. But the dread continues within the men themselves, a perfectly understandable, if errant, product of socialization by women: a retention of feminine qualities, partial identification with women, desire to be a woman like one's mother. Freud calls this bisexuality and considers that all people, both men and women, contain traits of both sexes. Without pursuing what these »traits« as universal »constituents« could mean, we can deal with the same concept by examining the fact that all people within a culture contain within themselves both what are considered (and tend to be) masculine and what are considered feminine characteristics in that culture. I would suggest that in most cultures, the earliest identity for any child is »feminine,« because women are around him and provide (and do not provide) him with the necessities of life. This identification is probably more threatening to the boy, because more basic, than the elements of masculine identification that a little girl acquires. Several kinds of evidence attest to the existence (and repression) of »bisexual« or »feminine« elements in boys and men.
An indication of the continuing threat of »femininity« to males in our culture is the strength of both external and internal pressure on little boys to conform to masculine ideals, to reject identification with or participation in anything that seems »feminine.« Initially, this pressure is generated by socializers of both sexes, but it is soon rigidly internalized by young boys, who hold both themselves and their peers to account over it.
The narrowness and severity of this training is far greater than comparable »training« for femininity in girls. Girls can be tomboys, wear jeans and other men's clothing, fight, climb trees, play sports, ride bikes. Their mothers may become somewhat anxious about them, but this behavior will not be cause for great alarm, nor will it be forbidden or cruelly ridiculed. Similarly, they will be considered »strange« or »unfeminine« if they continue to be active, to succeed academically or professionally; however, many women do so nonetheless, without feeling a fundamental challenge to their identity. The training and subsequent behavior of boys is not so flexible. It would be unheard of for boys to wear dresses; if they want to cook or play with dolls, do not like sports, or are afraid to fight, this is cause for panic by parents, educators, and psychologists. And in fact, boys do conform closely to the male goals and behavior required of them. They learn early not to exhibit feminine personality traits—to hide emotions and pretend even to themselves that they do not have them, to be independent participants in activities rather than personally involved with friends. Later, as men, they are careful never to choose women's careers unless they are prepared to bear enormous stigma.
The extent and strength of boys' training not to have or admit »feminine« traits is indicated by Daniel Brown's studies on sex-role preference in children.[46] From kindergarten age, boys are much less likely to claim a preference for anything feminine than girls to prefer masculine roles or objects. The extent of this difference is demonstrated by some of Brown's data: of girls 3 1/2 to 5 1/2, about half tend to prefer »feminine« and half to prefer »masculine« toys, roles, and activities; at this age, 70 percent to 80 percent of boys express »masculine« preferences. The differences increase as children get older. From six to nine years old, boys become even more strongly masculine in their preferences, and girls' preferences become less feminine, that is, more girls from six to nine make »masculine« choices than »feminine« choices.
The extent of boys' masculine »preferences,« particularly in contrast to the willingness of girls to claim cross-sexual preferences, is striking. Clearly, part of the reason may be that it is apparent to both boys and girls, and becomes more apparent as they grow older, that in our society »male« roles and activities are more prestigious and privileged than »female« roles and activities. However, another interpretation is that the extreme unwillingness of boys to make cross-sex choices indicates that they have been taught very early, and have accepted more or less completely, that it is right for them to prefer masculine things; therefore, they are extremely reluctant to make feminine choices. More important, it would seem that these boys, in contrast to the girls, believe that making such choices helps to insure their masculinity, and, alternatively, that different choices would not just be different choices among a number of possible alternatives, but rather threatening in the deepest sense.
This latter explanation, in terms of fear and attempts to insure masculinity, seems to account better for the regularity with which even very young boys—boys who spend most of their time in a world of female privilege with their mother or female teachers, and who play with children of both sexes—refuse to choose those things that are associated with females and that thus might give them some of the feminine attributes of power. Studies of parental orientation in young boys also support such an interpretation. At ages when boys are already making strongly »masculine« choices of objects and playmates, they still do not identify with their fathers or male figures as strongly as girls, who are not making »feminine« choices, identify with their mothers.[47]
Fear of the feminine may not be so well absorbed and repressed: according to some interpreters, certain cultural or subcultural phenomena attest to direct jealousy of women and attempt to appropriate female roles. In Plains Indian cultures, for example, which stressed extreme bravery and daring for men, transvestism was an institutionalized solution for those men who did not feel able to take on the extremely masculine life required of them. A more important example are cultures in which all men perform certain rituals identifying with women. The most obvious of these rituals is the couvade. Roger Burton and John Whiting hypothesize that in cultures with both early mother-child sleeping arrangements and matrilocal residence - that is, a world controlled by the child's mother and other female relatives [48]—a boy child will have both primary and secondary feminine optative identity (»those statuses a person wishes he could occupy but from which he is disbarred«).[49] In this situation, »the society should provide him some means to act out, symbolically at least, the female role.«[50] Their data suggest that an institution that serves this purpose in a large number of societies of this type is the couvade.
Initiation rites have been variously interpreted as attempts to appropriate or incorporate the feminine role, or, on the other hand, to exorcise it. On the basis of both anthropological and psychological evidence, Bettelheim claims that male initiation rites, which often involve sub-incision, and in general include some kind of cutting or wounding of the genitals, are means for symbolically acquiring a vagina, »to assert that men, too, can bear children.«[51] At the same time, circumcision and other tests of endurance, strength, and knowledge are ways of proving masculine sexual maturity, of asserting and defining maleness.[52]
Burton and Whiting's cross-cultural evidence provides the explanation of this jealousy that we are looking for, in terms of the maternal role in socialization.[53] In certain (»father-absent«) societies, children sleep exclusively with their mother during their first two years, and there is a long postpartum sex taboo. All children in such societies develop a »primary feminine optative identity.« These societies contrast with ones in which the father and mother continue to sleep together and in which both parents give and withhold resources to some extent; in such societies children's primary optative identity is »adult.«[54] Further, among »father-absent« societies, there is a contrast between matrilocal and patrilocal societies. In the latter, a boy's secondary identity—which develops when he becomes a »yard child« and observes that in the society at large, it is males who have higher status and power—is masculine; boys thus develop a »cross-sex identity.« Burton and Whiting demonstrate that initiation ceremonies tend to occur in societies whose sleeping arrangements and residence patterns produce cross-sex identity in boys; the function of these ceremonies is »to brainwash the primary feminine identity and to establish firmly the secondary male identity.«[55] In many societies with male initiation rites, sex-identity terms, rather than being the equivalent of »male« and »female« in our society, are instead differentiated so that one term refers to women, girls, and uninitiated boys, while the other refers only to men who have already been initiated.
Evidence from more advanced societies also suggests that »father-absence« or »low father-salience« in childhood may lead to »compulsively masculine« behavior which entails the same rejection, although not in a ritual context, of the female world and feminine behavior. Gang and delinquent behavior among American lower-class men often includes compulsive, and strong denial of anything feminine with corresponding emphasis on masculinity— risk and daring, sexual prowess, rejection of home life, physical violence—as well as severe »tests« (which might be seen as forms of »initiation rites«) as requirements of gang membership. Similar behavior also seems characteristic of Caribbean men raised in »father-absent« households.[56]
Beatrice Whiting shows that criminal and other violent behavior occurs more frequently in those two out of the six cultures in which husband and wife may neither sleep nor eat together and seldom work or play together. Sex-identity conflict seems to develop differently in the two societies, however. One is an Indian Rajput caste community, in which children of both sexes score high in »egoistic« behavior. Boys are around women, perhaps desire their role, and have no role of their own until they grow up. Children in the other community, Nyansongo, Kenya, score highest in »altruistic« behavior. Here, boys from a quite young age are herders. Since they are being taught »feminine« behavior of responsibility and nurturance, and eat and sleep only with women, it is probable that their identity is even more strongly »feminine« than that of the Rajput boys. Like violent behavior, male narcissism, pride, and phobia toward mature women—other indications of compulsive assertion of masculinity—seem to be prevalent in societies in which boys spend their earlier years exclusively or predominantly with women, and in which the »degree of physical or emotional distance between mother and father as compared with that between mother and child« is great.[57]
All this evidence—of cultural institutions that exercise or attempt to gain control of feminine powers for men; of institutions that provide for the assertion of compulsively masculine behavior; of the threats of bisexuality or femininity to boys and men—suggests that it is not sufficient to attribute the devaluation of female work roles and personality to external and conscious »dread of women,« to known fear of woman's power. Rather, it must be attributed to fear of that womanly power which has remained within men—the bisexual components of any man's personality. This is so threatening because in some sense, there is no sure definition of masculinity, no way for the little boy to know if he has really made it, except insofar as he manages to differentiate himself from what he somehow vaguely defines as femininity. »For maleness in America [and, I would suggest, elsewhere] is not absolutely defined, it has to be kept and re-earned every day, and one essential element in the definition is beating women in every game that both sexes play, in every activity in which both sexes engage.«[58]
Although the reasons for the difficulty in defining male identity are very complicated, I have tried to indicate one direction which may provide some answers. This direction is based on an examination of how children attain sureness of themselves, of an »identity« which is theirs, and of what it means for one sex that there are no people »like me« who are there—and as important as people »not like me« - from earliest infancy, as nurturers, as models, as providers and deniers of resources. What it means, according to Mead, is that »the recurrent problem of civilization is to define the male role satisfactorily enough«,[59] both for societies and for individuals who must live up to these undefined roles.

Feminine Development: Identity Versus Preference

In this section I will examine comparatively the development of »feminine identity« in girls, studying especially how the problems of male socialization seem to affect this development and sex-role preference in girls and women.
Most of the evidence presented so far indicates that girls should have an easier time than boys developing a stable sexual identity: they are brought up primarily by women; their socialization is fairly gradual and continuous in most societies; the female role is more accessible and understandable to the child. I will not be able to evaluate or examine cross-cultural evidence about feminine identity and about how women or girls in other (non-Western) cultures view their feminine role. For the purposes of this or any specific investigation about the psychological effects of female socialization, evidence on conflict about the feminine role and its causes, comparable to that on cross-sex identity in males, is so scanty that even hypothesizing about what must »logically« be the case seems unacceptable. I will be primarily concerned with the different forms (and »secondary« psychological importance) which female envy of males seems to take in Western society.
In contrast to non-Western societies, Western female socialization is not so clear or unambiguous, just as the adult feminine role is not so clearly an essential or important part of the society. The universal, and not just sexually defined, »superiority« of men and masculinity in the »important« realms of the culture means that women get trained partially for traditionally feminine roles (child-rearing, housekeeping) and personality (passivity, compliance, »goodness«); at the same time in school they are taught goals of achievement and success, and it is made clear to them that their other (feminine) role and its values are less desirable, less highly valued, in the progress of humanity and the world.
This situation is comparable to the problem of cross-sex identity for boys. Girls are initially brought up in a feminine world, with mothers all-powerful and all-prestigious, where it is desirable to acquire a feminine identity. They later go into a world where male power is clearly important (even if, as in school, its values are transmitted by women), where males dominate society and its important resources. Beauvoir (in a somewhat culturally limited and dated, but still suggestive, way) describes this situation:

If the little girl at first accepts her feminine vocation, it is not because she intends to abdicate; it is, on the contrary, in order to rule; she wants to be a matron because the matrons' group seems privileged; but, when her company, her studies, her games, her reading, take her out of the maternal circle, she sees that it is not the women but the men who control the world. It is this revelation—much more than the discovery of the penis—that irresistibly alters her conception of herself.[60]

However, this does not seem to present the same challenge to fundamental identity as a shift from a female to a male world presents for boys, because in the little girl's case, her primary identity is feminine.
It is apparently the case as well that just that kind of maternal behavior most conducive to greater sex conflict in boys, to less easy attainment of a sense of masculinity— for example, general non permissiveness, pressures toward inhibition and nonaggression, use of physical punishment and ridicule, high sex anxiety, and severity of toilet training—is also (not surprisingly) that behavior which encourages the development of »feminine« qualities and femininity in girls.[61] This maternal behavior, according to Slater, develops especially in those kinds of societies or subcultures where the marriage relationship is »distant« and where family patterns usually entail most extreme masculine insecurity and compulsive masculine behavior.[62] I have suggested, however, that these tendencies are probably present to some extent in all childbearing situations; the mother has major responsibility for children, and this situation, in which a mother's whole life and sense of self depends on rearing »good« or »successful« children, always produces anxiety over performance and over-identification with children.[63]
This perpetuates a childbearing cycle. As long as these »feminine« qualities are produced in a socialization situation in which mothers are anxious and conflicted—as they must be in Western society - they must necessarily involve girls' resentment and conflicts over their acceptance, and thus anxious and resentful behavior toward children in the next generation. It should be emphasized, however, that these »conflicts« do not seem to be a reflection of a girl's uncertainty about whether she has attained a »feminine« identity; childhood environment and pressures on both sexes toward »feminine« compliance probably ensure that she has. Her conflicts, rather, are about whether or not she wants this identity that relies on her own ability to inhibit herself and to respond to the demands of others, eventually leading her to an adult fate where her role and her dependence upon it doom her to bring up sons and daughters resentful of her and the »femininity« she represents.
It seems clear to the whole society, and especially to the little girl, that this identity and its future leave much to be desired. Brown's findings indicate that not only do small girls »prefer« a masculine role with much more frequency than small boys »prefer« a feminine role, but that this preference for a masculine role increases with age from kindergarten to fourth grade: after the age of five, more girls prefer a masculine role than prefer a feminine role. Lawrence Kohlberg claims that one reason for the huge discrepancy in male and female same-sex and opposite-sex choices and the huge increase in female opposite-sex choices is that, in fact, Brown's »it« figure is more masculine than feminine, and that girls become with age less self-projective and increasingly oriented to this reality aspect of the test.[64] A finding of Brown's that would seem to mitigate this criticism is that in his fifth-grade sample, girls show a strong reversal from their previous masculine choices and a strong preference for feminine role choices.
Kohlberg, however, also presents data from several other preference studies of activities, toys, and peer choices which, although they do not show the extreme differences that Brown found between boys and girls, or extreme masculine preferences in girls, do show that for boys, masculine preferences of activities and peers either begin and remain very high, or begin relatively high and increase with age. In contrast, girls' same-sex preferences are never so high as boys and tend to be more erratic - to show no consistent or increasing pattern of preference for feminine activities and peers.[65] He also mentions studies which indicate that not only are girls' sex-typed preferences of activities and playmates lower than boys', but also that »girls make fewer judgments than boys that their own sex is better . . . and girls' preferential evaluations of their own sex decrease with age.«[66] Girls also tend to make more »feminine« judgments, or preferences when they are asked directly »which do you like?« than they do when asked »which do girls like?»[67]My guess is that the former question puts girls more on the line—they are afraid of not being »good"—whereas the latter is a way for them to express their real preferences and judgments of value, without indicating to the interviewer that they do not know or believe in what they really »ought« to like or do.
All of these preferences seem to reflect the clear cultural evaluation of masculine pursuits and characteristics as superior, an evaluation that is probably made more evident to the girl as she grows up and learns more about the world around her. Karen Horney calls this the development of the girl's »flight from womanhood.« »In actual fact a girl is exposed from birth onwards to the suggestion - inevitable, whether conveyed brutally or delicately—of her inferiority, an experience which must constantly stimulate her masculinity complex.«[68] Horney attributes this both to unconscious psychological motives and to cognitive assessment of the world around her. The girl's unconscious motives stem from an attempt to deny an oedipal attachment to her father by recoiling from femininity and therefore these feminine desires. This is in contrast to the boy, whose fear of his attachment to his mother leads to increased compensatory masculinity. Importantly, these unconscious motives »are reinforced and supported by the actual disadvantage under which women labour in social life.«[69] Horney, writing from within the psychoanalytic tradition, seems more defensive about emphasizing the cultural components of the »flight« than we would be today; however, she still describes those components accurately. While these latter reasons may be partially a form of »rationalization« for less acceptable unconscious motives, »we must not forget that this disadvantage is actually a piece of reality,« that there is an »actual social subordination of women.«[70] This »flight« is not from an unsureness of feminine identity, but from a knowledge of it and its implications.
Partially because of this social subordination of women and cultural devaluation of feminine qualities, girls are allowed and feel themselves free to express masculine preferences and to have much greater freedom than boys— to play boys' games, dress like boys and so forth. For this reason, they are encouraged to achieve in school, and it is considered »only natural« that they would want to do so. In neither case does the girl or her socializers doubt that her feminine identity is firm, that she will eventually resign herself to her feminine adult role, and that at this time, this role will come naturally to her.
As she gets older, however, her peers and the adults around her cease such tolerance of this envy of males and of these attempts to engage in male activities or to achieve like men: »any self-assertion will diminish her femininity and her attractiveness.«[71] She is supposed to begin to be passive and docile, to become interested in her appearance, to cultivate her abilities to charm men, to mold herself to their wants. This is not a one-sided requirement, however. At the same time she is supposed to continue to do well in school, but must expect to be stigmatized or reproved if she does. In American society she continues in school to be instilled with »American« (masculine) goals— success, achievement, competition. She fails as a good citizen, as a successful human being, if she  does not succeed, and as a woman if she does. Mead sums up the girl's position:

We end up with the contradictory picture of a society that appears to throw its doors wide open to women, but translates her every step towards success as having been damaging—to her own chances of marriage, and to the men whom she passes on the road [whom she must pass, in a society where success is defined only by beating other people].[72]

And it does seem that the society succeeds in imposing its demands. We can recall Brown's finding that fifth-grade (prepubertal and pubertal) girls make a dramatic switch and all of a sudden develop strong »preferences« for feminine activities and objects; we remember the »unexplainable« fact that girls on the kibbutz, formerly creative and interested in their work, moral and social leaders and organizers in their children's group, suddenly in high school become uninterested in intellectual activities, unconcerned about politics, uncreative and unartistic. We know that in general, as children grow up, girls become less successful in school and drop out of the role of equal participant in activities that they once held.


Sex-role ideology and socialization for these roles seem to ensure that neither boys nor girls can attain both stable identity and meaningful roles. The tragedy of woman's socialization is not that she is left unclear, as is the man, about her basic sexual identity. This identity is ascribed to her, and she does not need to prove to herself or to society that she has earned it or continues to have it. Her problem is that this identity is clearly devalued in the society in which she lives. This does not mean that women too should be required to compete for identity, to be assertive and to need to achieve - to »do« like men. Nor does it suggest that it is not crucial for everyone, men and women alike, to have a stable sexual identity. But until male »identity« does not depend on men's proving themselves, their »doing« will be a reaction to insecurity, not a creative exercise of their humanity, and woman's »being,« far from being an easy and positive acceptance of self, will be a resignation to inferiority. And as long as women must live through their children, and men do not genuinely contribute to socialization and provide easily accessible role models, women will continue to bring up sons whose sexual identity depends on devaluing femininity inside and outside themselves, and daughters who must accept this devalued position and resign themselves to producing more men who will perpetuate the system that devalues them.