Best be a boy? (3 Dec. 2008)
In his article/chapter "Why Males are More Violent," Lloyd DeMause argues that the upbringing of boys is worse than that of girls. He writes, for example: "Mothers may dominate their little girls and expect them to share their troubles, but domination has been found to be far less damaging to the child’s psyche than abandonment and routine distancing." I find this possibility really fascinating. I must admit that I always thought the fact that mothers tend to see the son as an Other, as someone who is not herself, while looking at daughters as parts of herself, was a huge boon for boys. I thought, with mothers looking at their sons as entities that were different from themselves, that it kind of meant that boys, regardless of all other shit, had a greater chance of experiencing themselves as individuated persons. I wonder if it is true that what really tends to happen to boys is that the manner in which their mothers tend to interact with them tend to make them not so much feel individuated from their mothers but make them feel possessions of their mothers (as Lloyd argues). Girls are parts of their mothers; boys are their mothers' possessions. Maybe this summarizes the situation for children of unhealthy mothers. In regards to girls, though: It really does seem true that the reason they take their husband's name is so that they can belong to, be part of, that something else -- a sly way of participating in the boys' experience of difference. That would make marriage and taking the husband's last name not so much about losing one's identity, but a ritual that enables girls to become a greater part of that something -- a man -- which knows what it is to feel separate from a mother. Once they divorce the man and take back their own maiden name -- I think they are then experiencing something of the reapproachment Mahler is talking about.
My mom did that. Taking my dad's name was part of her understandable plot to distance herself from her own mother. Later in life when her own mother moved in with her, I think my mom did react to her as if she was different from her. I think she became her own person. Despite what my mom says and needs to believe, my dad got used in the process, though. No villainy -- just somewhat unhealthy people possessing that wonderful drive to move beyond insufficient initial surroundings.
I explore the idea of men as a tool toward individuation in a paper of mine: (http://www.scribd.com/doc/3737684/Useful-Object-A-Man-as-the- Means-Toward-Salvation-in-The-Beauty-Queen-of-Leenane-April-2005- Scanned). About Martin McDonagh's sad but brilliant play, ‘The Beauty Queen of Leenane. ‘