BETWEEN WOMEN: Lowering the Barriers by Paula J. Caplan

BETWEEN WOMEN: Lowering the Barriers

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More--somewhat tardily--in the My Mother/My Self vein: though other female relationships are discussed randomly, two-thirds of the attention here goes to mother-daughter role reversal. It's psychologist Caplan's contention that mothers themselves never receive enough nurturing, particularly in childhood (girls are weaned earlier than boys, expected to be self-reliant earlier, and are not as welcome as boys when they are born, she feels). Therefore mother looks to daughter to fill in that nurturing gap, and rewards daughter for any behavior that is sensitive and caring. Caplan theorizes, furthermore, that mothers distance themselves from daughters physically for fear of encouraging homosexual development, thereby fostering confusion and a sense of rejection that daughters try to allay by being all the more nurturing. When adolescence comes, daughters become frightened, additionally, by the fact that mother may actually be able to read their minds--an invasion of identity that also raises the possibility that their thoughts will be disapproved of. Caplan even trots out the old Oedipal idea of sexual compulsion to explain the growing separation in adolescence. And then when daughter marries and becomes a mother herself, her own mother may fear that the competition will show her up. These patterns--competition, nurturance, rewarding one another for nurturing behavior--carry forward into women's relationships with each other throughout life, Caplan insists. A depressing theme--with only occasional resonances that ring true.

Pub Date: Nov. 20th, 1981
Publisher: Everest