Analysis and Interpretation of Rich on Lesbianism

I found Rich’s discussion of lesbian relationships as a result of mother-daughter connections interesting though I think there is more to be explored. On page 636, in Rich references Nancy Chodorow’s claim that “women have a richer, ongoing inner world to fall back on…men do not become as emotionally important to women as women do to men,” and relates it to Smith-Rosenberg’s findings on women’s emotional focus on women in eighteenth and nineteenth centuries; Rich introduces the term “double-life of women” to refer to the “intense mixture of anger and love often found in women’s relationships with women”. What causes this mixture of emotions in the first place? Why is it so often found in relationships between women, versus between women and men or men and men?

Rich raises the question of why the desire for love and tenderness in both sexes does not originally lead to women. Considering women are the ones who give birth and are usually the primary care-taker of her children, it is understandable that such intense relationships are formed to women in the first place. But would heterosexuality then develop out of a biological (procreational) desire outweighing an emotional desire (that, it seems, Chodorow is accounting for the reason behind homosexuality)? Also, what about those children who were raised primarily (if not only) by their fathers? How would that affect the ways in which (or from whom) they seek love and tenderness from relationships?

Furthermore, in addressing male power struggles in relation to lesbianism, Rich discusses the assumption that in a world of genuine equality, where men were “nonoppressive and nurturing”, everyone would be bisexual—however, aside from sentimentalizing women’s sexuality, it also assumes that women become lesbian because men are oppressive/emotionally available, as if they are lesbian as a means to “act out.” Heterosexuality is taken to be a norm, and those who are homosexual are deviating from it for a specific purpose.


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