I am working through Nancy Chodorow's feminist classic The Reproduction of Mothering for my social theory class. She is trying to come up with an account of how girls learn to be mothers from the way they are mothered. She is trying to discover a psychoanalytic cause for girls wanting to mother.
To get there, she rejects a social-learning account as too simplistic, and a biological account as inconclusive.
Chodorow is trying to establish that women do not have to be mothers, and mothering - the primary nurturing of children - does not have to be done by women. I think she, and the brand of feminism she represents, has won this argument.
However, I was puzzled by the way that she dismissed the biological basis for connecting mothers and mothering. She allowed that there was a strong connection between female hormones and nurturing, and male hormones and aggression. This does not entail that only mothers can mother, but it seems to me to support that argument that women as a group are more prepared by their biology for nurturing, especially nurturing little ones. I believe biological research has moved on quite a bit since this book was published in 1978, supporting the idea that men and women do differ in profound ways that affect how they rear children.
I will read the rest of her argument with an open mind. I think her premise, though, that mothering is not much rooted in biology, is shaky.