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Nancy Julia Chodorow (born January 20, 1944) is a feminist sociologist and psychoanalyst. She has written a number of influential books, including The Reproduction of Mothering: Psychoanalysis and the Sociology of Gender (1978); Feminism and Psychoanalytic Theory (1989); Femininities, Masculinities, Sexualities: Freud and Beyond (1994); and The Power of Feelings: Personal Meaning in Psychoanalysis, Gender, and Culture (1999).
She is widely regarded as a leading psychoanalytic feminist theorist and is a member of the International Psychoanalytical Association, often speaking at its congresses. She spent many years as a professor in the departments of sociology and clinical psychology at the University of California, Berkeley. She retired from the University of California in 2005. The Reproduction of Mothering was chosen by Contemporary Sociology as one of the ten most influential books of the past twenty-five years.
Chodorow sees gender differences as compromise formations of the Oedipal complex. She begins with Freud’s assertion that the individual is born bisexual and that the child's mother is its first sexual object. Chodorow, drawing on the work of Karen Horney and Melanie Klein, notes that the child forms its ego in reaction to the dominating figure of the mother. The male child forms this sense of independent agency easily, identifying with the agency and freedom of the father and emulating his possessive interest in the mother/wife. This task is not as simple for the female child. The mother identifies with her more strongly, and the daughter attempts to make the father her new love object, but is stymied in her ego formation by the intense bond with the mother. Where male children typically experience love as a dyadic relationship, daughters are caught in a libidinal triangle where the ego is pulled between love for the father, the love of the mother, and concern and worry over the relationship of the father to the mother. For Chodorow, the contrast between the dyadic and triadic first love experiences explains the social construction of gender roles, the universal degradation of women in culture, cross-cultural patterns in male behavior, and marital strain in the West after Second Wave feminism. In marriage, the woman takes less of an interest in sex and more in the children. Her ambivalence towards sex eventually drives the male away. She devotes her energies to the children once she does reach sexual maturity.
- Chodorow, Nancy (1995). "Becoming a feminist foremother". In Phyllis Chesler, Esther D. Rothblum, Ellen Cole,. Feminist foremothers in women's studies, psychology, and mental health. New York: Haworth Press. pp. 141–154. ISBN 9781560247678.
- book information at UC Press website
- "The Reproduction of Mothering; Feminism and Psycohoanalytic Theory; Femininities, Masculinities and Sexualities; The Power of Feelings (Book Reviews)", American Psychological Association website
- "2011 Visiting Professor Nancy Chodorow, Ph.D.", Michigan Psychoanalytic Institute and Society website
- Chodorow biography at Radcliffe College Magazine website