In identity formation, which honors two genders (male and female), a happy mother and father will delight in early expressions without being threatened. One morning our grandson wanted to go to school with his sisters, which was a cause for delight. He was ready to leave, and came out all ready for school before his time.
Although God is His own interpreter, this beautiful act prompted in me both a smile and a thought. Boys sense from early on that they must separate and differentiate from mamma bear, especially when they receive well-being from her. Ruth H. Barton has written on gender formation, and found evidence from Carol Gilligan’s studies.
Gilligan observes that mothers are the ones who, for the most part, are the primary caretakers of young children; therefore issues of identity formation are different for boys than they are for girls. Barton writes: “Female identity formation takes place in the context of an ongoing relationship in which a girl can continue to think of herself as like her mother. Boys, on the other hand, recognize from early on that they must separate or differentiate from their primary caretaker if they are to define themselves as masculine. Their father, the person with whom they could identify strongly while continuing to develop their gender identity, is usually not as accessible to them. Thus, separation and individuation are critically tied to gender identity for boys, while for girls and women, issues of feminine identity do not depend on the achievement of separation from the mother or on the process of individuation.” Barton quotes Gilligan: “Since masculinity is defined through separation while femininity is defined through attachment, male gender identity is threatened by intimacy while female gender identity is threatened by separation.”
Carol Gilligan, In a Different Voice (Cambridge, Mass.: Harvard University Press, 1982), p. 17. 5Ibid., pp. 7-8. 6Ibid., p. 173.
Ruth Haley Barton. Equal to the Task: Men and Women in Partnership (Kindle Locations 1236-1242). Kindle Edition.