WaPo: maternal instinct is a myth

WaPo: maternal instinct is a myth


The war on the family shows no sign of slowing down, despite the growing backlash among normal folks.

During the 19th and early 20th century what has now come to be known as “first wave” feminism made great strides in ensuring that women were guaranteed legal rights that in many cases had been denied them. Then, as now, lots of people feared that ensuring these rights would have the secondary effect of undermining the nuclear family.

This, arguably, turned out not to be the case. Largely because most women had no interest in abandoning the normal contours of their lives, but rather wanted to claim the same political and legal rights guaranteed to everyone by liberal society.  Second wave feminism took a broader view of oppression, extending the movement to focusing on economic and social issues. This was the feminism of the 60’s to the 80’s or so.

We are now in, depending upon with whom you talk, the third or fourth wave of feminism, which is all about redefining what a woman actually is and what their proper societal role is–and in particular the definition of “woman” itself. There is a strong relationship between 3rd/4th wave feminism and the larger discussion about gender and gender roles. What seems to unite the various strands of feminist thought dominant today is a hostility to gender roles and the family in particular.

The Washington Post has yet another entry into this genre, and it’s worth taking a look at the underlying premise of the article: women are not naturally caregivers, and the mere biological fact that people with wombs tells us nothing about the natural inclination of such people to want to love and care for their own children.

In other words, there is no such thing as a maternal instinct.

Now most of us have naturally assumed that one of the moral foundations of humanity is the empathy that springs from this instinct. Scientifically we have been inundated with the notion that a biological root of this instinct is the flooding of a mother’s body with oxytocin, what is commonly called the “love hormone.” In fact, Harvard Health’s description (the very first article found when searching for “oxytocin” on Google) of oxytocin is that it is the “love hormone,” with an accompanying photo of a mother with a newborn.

Yet today we learn in the Washington Post that our experience and our scientific knowledge about the “maternal instinct” is a myth invented by men to oppress women.

Because of course it is.

Like so many women in this country, Chelsea Conaboy went back to work shortly after having her first baby. She sat in a makeshift closet, trying to pump breast milk, and wondered when the magical “maternal instinct” she’d heard so much about would kick in.

“I had this ingrained sense that there would be a biological process that carries me through those early hard days,” she said. “When it didn’t happen as I expected, I thought something was broken in me.”

Conaboy eventually realized she was like countless others who struggle with some part of the transformation to new parenthood. So Conaboy, a health and science journalist, began researching what she calls the myth of the maternal instinct, and how it has been perpetuated.

She talks to us here about her new book, “Mother Brain: How Neuroscience Is Rewriting the Story of Parenthood,” the science behind parenting, gender roles and human attachment, and how we need to reshape the outdated and false narrative that has limited our lives and experiences. (This interview has been condensed and lightly edited for clarity.)

Q: You write that this concept of a maternal instinct was created as a cheap, nonscientific device designed to push women to have a lot of babies. Why has that concept been so widely accepted as truth, and what has begun to change?

A: The thing that I take issue with is that this is an “instinct.” An instinct is a rigid idea, a fixed pattern of behavior. Parenthood is not automatic. It’s a major transition and an upheaval from the brain.

The maternal instinct idea was written into scientific theory in the early part of the 20th century by religious men who had a stated interest in compelling White, well-off women to have more babies.

One of my favorite parts of the book is when Leta Hollingworth calls these myths “cheap devices.” She was this pioneering psychologist who wrote in 1916 how women are being compelled to have babies by the same methods that compel soldiers to go to war. There was this glorification of motherhood and the obfuscation of the hard parts. The rates of maternal mortality were 60 times higher [in 1916] than by the end of the [20th] century.

Modern Leftist movements have been taking aim at the family for over two centuries–since the dawn of modern Leftism itself. This is not accidental in the least. The family is by nature the most conservative institution in the world. It is based upon a fundamental tie to self interest–the impulse for the preservation of oneself and one’s own. As extensions of oneself the family represents the fundamental social unit that overrides, in many circumstances, the connections we have to a larger community.

We each have circles of care. First our family. Then friends. Then our local community, then an extension beyond the local to a diffuse and attenuated connection ultimately to all humanity. First strong connections, then an ever weakening connection moving outward.

This is anathema to Leftism, which elevates the cause over the individual and family. As far back as the French Revolution children were encouraged to turn in their parents for wrong-think, at ever since the Left has inculcated in its adherents a dedication to cause over love of one’s own.

You see the practical effects everywhere. Whether it is Leftist leaders kneeling in support of some cause of even so-called oppressors humiliating themselves before their “oppressed.”

Leftism requires a form of brainwashing of the masses in order to make progress. It requires obeisance to leaders who mouth absolutely obvious absurdities. Men can be women, a baby’s mere location in the womb makes it non-human, a toddler is responsible for slavery, and brain damaged or senile people are appropriate policy makers.

This explains why men are being elevated to “women of the year” in all walks of life now. It is a self-conscious assault on reality, and making you acknowledge falsehoods is the point. It disconnects you from the very foundation of reality.

The fact that Scientific American can declare that the gender binary was invented by oppressors in the 18th and 19th century, or that women don’t have a special affinity to their own children, is proof itself that we live in a world where ideological propaganda has replaced even the mere acknowledgment of basic facts.

And, for the young at least, this appears to be working.

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