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Putin doesn’t have mummy issues A mother's love can't change reality

Mummy bought me a pony (ALEXEY DRUZHININ/AFP via Getty Images)


March 3, 2022   7 mins

Did Russia invade Ukraine because Putin wasn’t loved enough as a child? AnnaLynne McCord, an “actress/human rights activist”, seems to think so.

Last week, she posted a poem online declaring that if only she’d been Vladimir Putin’s mum, he would have been “so loved, held in the arms of joyous light” that instead of “calling Mother Russia” and rolling the tanks toward Kiev, he’d have phoned Mother AnnaLynne. And she would have saved him from this terrible deed, “with the love only a mother can give”.

Something of the same faith in a mother’s power to create the world you want for your child, out of raw love and determination, suffuses Marlo Mack’s How To Be A Girl. A memoir of raising her transgender daughter, referred to in the book as “M”, it captures convincingly the fierce determination mothers have to lay down their lives for their children’s wellbeing.

But is love really enough to protect a child from pain? This is a complicated question. It’s not so long ago that Western mothers were encouraged to leave babies to cry, to “exercise their lungs”; in other cultures mothers willingly subject their daughters to painful FGM. Mothers in every age have faced death or worse to protect their children to their utmost power; but what we seek to protect our children from varies enormously.

Mack describes how, age four, ‘M’ said to her: “Something went wrong in your tummy” that “made me come out as a boy”. She describes M sobbing: “Put me back, so I can come out again as a girl.” How to respond? We allow or fend off suffering for our children according to a wider moral framework. And reading How To Be A Girl, it’s clear that Mack and I both love our children, but differ significantly in that framework.

In contrast to my British pessimism, she inhabits a Democrat-voting Seattle milieu, whose culture draws on a West Coast American tradition that prioritises individualism and empathy. In the influential words of 20th-century Californian psychotherapist Carl Rogers, this view argues that within each of us exists an “actualising tendency” that draws us organically toward becoming our true selves. For Rogers, all we need to “actualise” is “unconditional positive regard”.

Within the Hollywood-individualist worldview, adult violence, cruelty and aggression are caused by a lack of love and acceptance: the deficit McCord believes now drives Russian aggression in Ukraine. “If I was your mother,” says McCord in her address to Vladimir Putin, “I’d have died to make you warm.”

If I believed, like Rogers or McCord, that adult wrongdoing is driven by lack of love and acceptance, I expect I, too, would go to great lengths to provide my child with an adequate supply of “positive regard”. I expect, in other words, that I’d do much as she does: accept her child’s right to self-define. This leap of faith and validation made, she describes the relief she and her ex-husband both experience: “Before, everything was tense and contested, everything was a fight. Afterward, we were at peace.”

I expect I’d move mountains, as she does, to see that this extends beyond just the family and all the way out into the world. She even starts a playgroup for trans children, calling it the “Be-Your-True-Self Play Group”. How To Be A Girl shows the degree to which a mother’s love can reshape reality itself. And it also shows the power such commitment has, in an age where many are desperately in search of something to believe in.

For if we’ve always put together competing stories from the same facts, today’s culture is perhaps unique in the tools it offers us to project our worldview digitally into the wider world. But while you might think seeing so many different perspectives would enable greater empathy, in fact the reverse seems to be happening: evermore antagonistic filter bubbles have emerged, tranforming into communities of belief: a process Katherine Dee calls “fandomification”.

How To Be A Girl recounts, in microcosm, the formation of just such a “fandom” or community of belief. Having decided to reorder reality around her child’s own sense of self, Mack is then committed to projecting this sovereign right to self-define out into the wider world. She recounts the emotional rollercoaster of telling family, then the neighbours; finding a school where her child can “be a girl”. And increasingly, these choices — all rooted in a clearly sincere commitment to holding her child “in the arms of joyous light” — come to shape and define Mack’s own life and activities, drawing her deeper into the trans-rights community of belief via the community she builds both in real life and online.

First she joins a support group for parents of “trans kids”. She starts blogging, and receives heartfelt positive feedback (as well as death threats) from strangers. She joins a local Trans Pride march, attends conferences, receives media inquiries. She starts a podcast with her child.

The story opens with her divorce and her child “coming out” as transgender; both lives are rebuilt over the course of the book, around M’s transness. But the only question she receives about the all-encompassing nature of this project is from a man she is dating, who asks her: “You’re so into this transgender thing… It’s your daughter who’s transgender, right?”

Instead of hearing this as a question about her embrace of the trans-rights fandom, though, Mack interprets this as him asking if she is in fact transgender. She dismisses this as absurd and offensive and dumps him. There’s no question of making space within the world she’s constructing for the possibility that it has an outside.

But it does have an outside. I, for example, do not believe all the evil in the world can be cured by maternal love, or indeed that humans can change sex. How To Be A Girl meant, for me, stepping out of the gender-critical filter bubble into the world as it appears to a woman who has staked not just her own identity and social world but literally her child’s body on believing gender identity is real. Doing so was like visiting the Upside Down.

Mack and I share numerous reference points on the topic of transgender rights, but are familiar with radically opposing interpretations of them. She takes at face value the (debunked among gender-critical feminists) statistic about the high risk of suicide among trans children, for example, while treating as debunked the study, widely cited in gender-critical circles, about the high percentage of trans children who desist if left alone.

Elsewhere she curates stories in a way that’s a photographic negative of the one I’m accustomed to. She notes, for example, that the pioneer of “watchful waiting” in gender-identity treatment, Kenneth Zucker, was “fired” from the clinic he ran, and the clinic itself “shut down pending an investigation of its practices”. Move the picture, though, and the optical illusion changes. Zucker was eventually paid $586,000 in damages after it was ruled that he was wrongfully dismissed; the question is whether that gets reported.

Similarly, in her discussion of America’s “bathroom bill” court cases, she states that there “wasn’t any evidence” that “men posing as transgender women were infiltrating changing rooms”. But step into the other fandom, and you’ll soon hear about the evidence.

In the online battles over which facts to curate, it’s easy to forget that what’s at stake is real people, with real lives, and — as is clearly the case with Marlo Mack — real love for a real child. But this doesn’t make the escalating contest between incompatible fandoms less intense. Quite the opposite. For if there’s a common theme to the bitterest online disputes, it’s they’re rooted in questions that, somewhere at least, someone is willing to stake living bodies on.

It’s perhaps telling that Mack’s story ends with M aged 13. Transition has, up to that point, only resisted social norms; the reader is spared the far more gruelling and invasive fight against biological ones. But the blocker is inserted, and the book ends with M “excited to be growing up”. And speaking of M’s participation in a long-term study on trans kids, Mack rejoices that “Our kids would be part of a historic cohort”.

Move the picture, though, and the image changes: another way of saying this might be “conducting medical experiments on children without a control group”. Regardless, Mack is willing to stake her child’s body on her convictions — and in a post-Christian culture desperately searching for meanings, it’s no wonder competing online communities of belief take shape around such certainty. And this in turn forces us to confront the fact that disputes with real stakes in real bodies aren’t like arguments over fictional fandoms. Some battles between filter bubbles really are zero-sum.

You can read books that say reality should be re-ordered to accommodate children like M, and others that say humans can’t change sex. If it doesn’t affect you, you can murmur about the “marketplace of ideas”. But which fandom sets the rules for life in the material world is a political question, and on matters that affect the wider legal or cultural framework, there is nowhere neutral to stand.

Mack is willing to swim against the tide of biology, transform an entire legal system, hammer other people’s use of language into new shapes, for the sake of her child. And as she recounts the role her struggle plays in her own identity, as well as M’s, it’s increasingly clear that succeeding is an existential matter for both of them. This is emotive enough when what’s at stake is children’s wellbeing. But when it’s the life and death of an entire nation, everything intensifies again: the appeal of joining one or another fandom, the impossibility of neutrality, and the incapacity to think long-term about wider material consequences.

As we sidle along the edge of nuclear precipice, in the world’s first very online viral war, it’s increasingly clear how easy it is to slide from mutually antagonistic online bubbles powered by love and good intentions, to a world where people call for actual real-world Armageddon on the basis of internet-powered belief. If I have any hope at all of averting catastrophe, it lies in perhaps the most powerful force there is, a force I still have in common with Marlo Mack, despite our radically competing worldviews: we love our children.

As How To Be A Girl amply illustrates, this can be turned to many uses. Loving parents determined to reorder reality around their adored child may drive radical changes across the social, legal and political fabric while ignoring serious knock-on effects elsewhere. But the love we have for our children is also the beginning of life in common.

Anyone raising children needs a community. Most mothers, when they become mothers, set about building one. We can only hope that this need we still have for one another is enough to keep our fraying public life from total conflagration — or, if the worst comes to the worst, to rebuild it from the ashes.


Mary Harrington is a contributing editor at UnHerd.

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Samir Iker
Samir Iker
2 years ago

That video by that actress was simultaneously one of the most cringe-worthy things seen, as well as a fairly good illustration of why we are in this mess.

It’s the same kind of mindset that tells us: we have this paranoid dictator, let’s poke him while simultaneously putting our energy security in his hands by shutting down perfectly functional nuclear plants to feel good about ourselves.

Feelings and hugs over sensibility, strength and realpolitik, works everytime.

Andrew Dalton
Andrew Dalton
2 years ago
Reply to  Samir Iker

There was I, trying to get a grasp of geopolitics and then I saw that video and realised that we needn’t bother understand international treaties, military strategy, game theory, supply chains or infrastructure.
edit: can’t spell

Last edited 2 years ago by Andrew Dalton
Sharon Overy
Sharon Overy
2 years ago
Reply to  Samir Iker

Wasn’t it just? I’m also baffled as to why that ‘poet’ imagines it would be helpful to insult Putin’s mum!

Lesley van Reenen
Lesley van Reenen
2 years ago
Reply to  Sharon Overy

Especially as Giles Fraser wrote the piece about his parents recently, which included a clear indication of his love for his mother:
”His mother baptised him in secret, and he still wears his baptismal cross.”

Ethniciodo Rodenydo
Ethniciodo Rodenydo
2 years ago
Reply to  Samir Iker

Why are we in this mess?
Because for decades the US has been run by people just like AnnaLynne McCord who think that there moral certainty entitled them to ignore international law, overthrow governments, wage wars that kill hundreds of thousands, kidnap and torture and generally s**t on the rest of the world , but particularly those who challenge their hegemony.
It is difficult to see how the US (and sadly to a lesser extent UK) is any moral position to criticise Russia’s action and if our MSM were not so tame they might now be engaged in a bit of soul searching.
When the dust settles it will be interesting to see if anyone picks up the gauntlet and seriously examines the role that the US, UK and EU played in bring it to this point. They my well find that Putin’s concerns about the threat posed by the US were far from unfounded

Last edited 2 years ago by Ethniciodo Rodenydo
Lesley van Reenen
Lesley van Reenen
2 years ago

We have argued this many times. The US gets away with murder for starters. And definitely the EU, UK and US were poking the Russian bear iro NATO.

Matt Hindman
Matt Hindman
2 years ago

The worst part of it geopolitics wise, is that none of it has had any positive benefits to the United States. In fact, it has been actively detrimental. Sometimes cold blooded geopolitics is a dirty necessity. The Blob (old term for foreign policy establishment) has done terrible things to achieve vague goals, has no success to show for it, and now accuses everyone who points it out of being a traitor to their country. I think I have a pretty good idea who the real “traitors” are.

Last edited 2 years ago by Matt Hindman
Ethniciodo Rodenydo
Ethniciodo Rodenydo
2 years ago
Reply to  Matt Hindman

Too true

Raymond Inauen
Raymond Inauen
2 years ago
Reply to  Samir Iker

When you are infected by an ideology, especially one of your own making, it is hard not to become dogmatic and blind to everything and everyone. Ideologies are never a good recipe for running one’s life, business or even a country. But from what has been said about the people Putin reads and draws on to support his goals, it can only go in this direction and become something that is out of control.

Lesley van Reenen
Lesley van Reenen
2 years ago
Reply to  Samir Iker

I handled less than a minute of that video. You people are made of sterner stuff than me.

Sharon Overy
Sharon Overy
2 years ago

Last year, I think it was, there was a harrowing plea on Reddit from a woman desperately seeking advice as to where to turn for help for her daughter.

The ‘daughter’ was born a boy and insisted that he should be a girl. The poster kept reiterating that they’d followed the experts’ advice and recommendations – basically, like Ms Mack in the article, and the child was put onto puberty blockers to prevent the distress of male development.

The adult result is micro-genitals that are sexually non-functional and provide insufficient material for the usual form of ‘bottom’ surgery. The only possibility is an even dodgier, complication-prone procedure using part of the colon – the poster said her daughter’s friend had this and “smells like it”. Understandably, they’re reluctant to follow this route.

Regular visits to a skilled therapist is the only thing keeping self-harm, or worse, at bay.

I wonder if Ms Mack knows that this is the outcome when male puberty is prevented? Or does she think reality will change, because …… reasons?

(Edit – I’ve tried to find the link to the original post, but I hadn’t kept/marked it. Sorry)

Last edited 2 years ago by Sharon Overy
Jeremy Bray
Jeremy Bray
2 years ago
Reply to  Sharon Overy

Interesting comment. In this area the expertise of “experts” is evidently extremely shallow. This comes as no surprise given the extraordinary novelty of the widespread concept that transitioning is the solution to genetic confusion in children.

Lesley van Reenen
Lesley van Reenen
2 years ago
Reply to  Sharon Overy

That is shocking and should be widely publicised on corporate media. People need to be shocked out of their cocoons.

Jennifer Chavez
Jennifer Chavez
2 years ago
Reply to  Sharon Overy

That story has basically been televised in the form of the Jazz Jennings show. Very sad. There was even an episode where they filmed him with a hypnotist who supposedly communicated with Jazz “in her past life,” where Jazz says he’s a boy named “Cal” who is gay and his parents caught him holding another boy’s hand, and they rejected him.

Graham Stull
Graham Stull
2 years ago

As always Mary captures the mood eloquently and with cutting insight. I have also found myself reflecting, these past days, how much overlap there is between Covid zealotry and an emerging willingness to flirt with World War Three.
I’ll forgive myself for not seeing this pivot coming: even Eugyppius seems to have missed the transfer of zealotry from Covid hysterics to a far more dangerous desire to remake a regional confrontation between Russia and Ukraine into the deciding battle of our time.
But it is real. As I have already posted, a number of well-placed people in my association are now forgetting their face masks and arguing, in all seriousness, that thermo-nuclear warfare would in fact be preferable to the West’s sitting out the conflict in Ukraine. In this, no willingness to engage in dialogue. No consideration of the West’s role in the current conflict or whether there might be anything more positive we could offer by way of solutions.
The social media fuelled mind sickness that started with a desire to call a boy a girl led to the desire to lock whole populations in their houses for no good reason, and is now taking down a path of absolute nuclear destruction.

Claire D
Claire D
2 years ago
Reply to  Graham Stull

I agree with you. One day when this war is studied at school and college, they will talk about the anger and frustration displayed generally over many different issues; Brexit, Trump, trans, Covid, BLM etc. All these things have wound us up to what seems to be a general atmosphere of a willingness to go to war. This was expressed all too often in the disappointing speeches in our Parliament this week, worrying. I am grateful that Boris Johnson appears to be cautious, long may it last.

Andrew Dalton
Andrew Dalton
2 years ago
Reply to  Graham Stull

Couldn’t agree more.
I now believe the NPC meme may be an accurate description of a large chunk of our society and not just a joke.

Graham Stull
Graham Stull
2 years ago
Reply to  Andrew Dalton

I’m curious. What is the NPC meme?

Andrew Dalton
Andrew Dalton
2 years ago
Reply to  Graham Stull

It’s derived from non-player characters in video games. It posits the idea that most people have no agency of their own and simply repeat “received wisdom.” It’s usually portrayed as a stylised featureless grey face.
Typically, it’s used to mock stupid opinions on Twitter.

Graham Stull
Graham Stull
2 years ago
Reply to  Gordon Black

Thank you both

Julian Farrows
Julian Farrows
2 years ago
Reply to  Andrew Dalton

Yes, I’m seeing this in my close ones, more so in the women in my family. My wife was furious with me when I attempted to discuss the risks of transgender surgery with her younger brother who is flirting with the idea. She told me I was a hateful bigot. I’m at a loss as to the exact moment that it became socially unacceptable to try to talk someone out of unnecessary life-changing surgery.
It’s making me want to get up and leave civilization and never come back.

Sean Meister
Sean Meister
2 years ago
Reply to  Andrew Dalton

I can only encourage you to research IQ, General Intelligence and Bell Curve Distribution. By its very nature most of society are mid-wits. Not a terrible thing to have, however they are easily led and manipulated by smarter but not genius-level people. That is why we live in a world of NPCs

Andrew Dalton
Andrew Dalton
2 years ago
Reply to  Sean Meister

It reminds me of George Carlin’s joke, paraphrased, “Think about stupid the average American is, then realise half of them are dumber than that.”

Sean Meister
Sean Meister
2 years ago
Reply to  Graham Stull

On the contrary: Eugyppius’ point is that the West’s incompetent Elite who are in dire need for social conformity amongst their Elite peers has resulted in the war just as much as it did with the Covid hysterics.

The same mid-wit idiots who thought Covid was the defining disease of our time also thought elevating Ukraine to an anti-Russian de facto US puppet state was also the defining cause of our time.

There are smart people on all sides. They are just not welcome within the incompetent Elite’s little club which prioritises ideological conformity and external shows of said conformity.
The US’ surprise at the fall of Kabul was genuine, as was the US’ surprise that (shock/horror!) Russia isn’t going to sit back and take their meddling in Ukraine anymore.

As for everyone else, they are by definition midwits. They follow the same social conformity the elites pass down. If you have the intelligence to actually call bullshit on this you keep quiet lest the mid-wit mass come down and take your money/job/children.
And so we come to the mid-wits all feeling good about themselves and parroting the elite’s line about Putin being Hitler or something just as asinine.

Last edited 2 years ago by Sean Meister
Claire D
Claire D
2 years ago

Humans have been blessed with the ability to reason as well as feel emotion. To function effectively in life you need to use your capacity for both feeling and thinking otherwise you’re in trouble.
By emphasising identity and individualism the West has prioritised feelings over cool-headed objective thinking, with deadly consequences.
Teaching children that they cannot always have what they want, that they are not the be all and end all is as important as doing it with loving kindness.
The notion that Putin was’nt loved enough as a child is . . . what can I say ? . . a combination of ignorance and naivety, to put it kindly.

Last edited 2 years ago by Claire D
Lindsay S
Lindsay S
2 years ago
Reply to  Claire D

There are some women though who see themselves as so amazing that they can change people. Like the women who trawl prisons looking for partners. I’ll never forget reading about the woman who fell in love with a r@pist that was in prison, married him while he was still in prison and then was really surprised when he got out of prison and r@ped her! I’m no psychologist but I would presume some kind of saviour complex. Being more of a layman I would call them batsh!t.

Tony Buck
Tony Buck
2 years ago
Reply to  Lindsay S

The Christian virtue of Hope, needs to be balanced by the Christian virtue of Prudence.

Julian Farrows
Julian Farrows
2 years ago
Reply to  Claire D

The paradox at the heart of your comment on identity and individualism is that this emphasis is being pushed forward with collective zeal. It makes me wonder if we are allowed to be individuals, but only if we conform to a certain double-think.

Claire D
Claire D
2 years ago
Reply to  Julian Farrows

Good point.

R Wright
R Wright
2 years ago

Kali Yuga-esque articles like this make me think i should have become a personal injury lawyer. The next big market similar to the PPI bubble will be the hundreds of thousands of children in the west who will grow up and litigate for billions to seek redress for their parents’ and doctors’ decisions. I’m sure many are licking their lips in anticipation at the possibility of hundreds of juicy malpractice cases.

Julian Farrows
Julian Farrows
2 years ago
Reply to  R Wright

Yes, this is foreseeable to anyone with a brain.

Ethniciodo Rodenydo
Ethniciodo Rodenydo
2 years ago
Reply to  R Wright

It has already started

Sean Meister
Sean Meister
2 years ago
Reply to  R Wright

If you know the statistics half of them don’t even make it to adulthood.

Lesley van Reenen
Lesley van Reenen
2 years ago
Reply to  R Wright

I used to say that I would make money from removing tattoos from people who regretted their inkings. Of course there is no real money in it and you have to constantly touch people which is not always to one’s liking,

Terence Fitch
Terence Fitch
2 years ago

The ex British ambassador does think his personality has changed. The real issue is that no system of government should be based only on the quirks of a despot. Spare me whataboutery comparisons with the imperfect ‘West’. Russia is categorically different lurching towards Ivan the Terrible and his vicious thugs along the lines of North Korea. Xi is hardly a democrat and would suppress Taiwan no doubt but he suffered under the pathological despot Mao. I think China is self evidently interested in power but more obsessed with becoming richer through ‘harmony’. Hardly benign altruism but by contrast Putin really doesn’t care if Russians stay poor. Live in a crumbling block in Perm? Putin really doesn’t give a damn. At least this has jolted the West into dropping the hope we could all get along via global capitalism. Now we have the West; Middle East medieval theocracies; Russia; China; the ‘Far East’ mixed but striving for wealth. Which model will make people relatively happier? Not Russia that’s for sure.

Samir Iker
Samir Iker
2 years ago
Reply to  Terence Fitch

“whataboutery” is a fancy term meant to deflect criticism of hypocrisy.

For instance, when you have just finished destroying Iraq through an illegal war started through brazen lies, have waged war on or overthrown governments in dozens of countries ranging from Chile to Iran to Vietnam in the past decades….
but you still want to pretend to be holier than thou when your attempts to push NATO all the way to Russia’s borders triggers off the war they openly warned about, very clearly, for years.

Still, good point about democracies. Contrast Russian paranoia to the tolerance and respect shown by democratic western countries towards Cuba over the last six decades when the reverse happened.

Terence Fitch
Terence Fitch
2 years ago
Reply to  Samir Iker

I visited Cuba a couple of times. A despotic wreck of a place with police on most street corners in Havana. Another anecdote, but when you see a harmless street trader kicked and dragged into a police van and his stall knocked over you do have to gulp.

Ethniciodo Rodenydo
Ethniciodo Rodenydo
2 years ago
Reply to  Terence Fitch

Swap street trader for trucker
Cuba was not a nice place but it does give the US the right to overthrow the government. Anyway the US motives had very little to do with how the regime treated its people. Look at some of the despots they have put into and sustained in power

Last edited 2 years ago by Ethniciodo Rodenydo
Lesley van Reenen
Lesley van Reenen
2 years ago
Reply to  Terence Fitch

Happened to me in China. Man with no legs begging on a bridge and when I reached into my purse some police came and beat him senseless and dragged him off.
This is the sort of thing the ‘progressives’ will end up delivering to the west.

Graham Stull
Graham Stull
2 years ago
Reply to  Samir Iker

Or the tolerance and respect shown to thousands of peaceful protestors in Canada who objected to being forced to take a ‘vaccine’ that does not actually stop you from getting and transmitting the virus it supposedly targets.

Peter B
Peter B
2 years ago
Reply to  Samir Iker

There’s “whataboutery” and there’s “whataboutery” … NATO is in Eastern Europe by popular demand. Precisely because Russia is historically a “bad neighbour” – as the current invasion of Ukraine demonstrates. Are we supposed to sit back and watch Russia invade the Baltic States all over again ? Or Poland ?
You may not have noticed, but “you” does not include millions of people in the UK who demonstrated against the Iraq invasion. Without being beaten up by thugs and arrested.
I seem to recall we didn’t sign up for Vietnam. Quite correctly.
If you are still unable to tell the difference between the freedom loving countries of the West and Russia, I suspect you are beyond help.
For all its many faults the US does sometimes do good in the world and does sometimes tell the truth. And comes down on the right side in the last resort.
As someone put it the other day “Russia only exports oil, gas and violence”. They forgot the fake news.

Samir Iker
Samir Iker
2 years ago
Reply to  Peter B

What exactly were you “defending” against when you massively expanded NATO in 1999 and 2004? Putin’s grandma?

You didn’t cut off ties or impose sanctions on the US when they were burning Vietnam did you?
How many Brits have been convicted of war crimes for Iraq?

“difference between the freedom loving countries of the West and Russia”
When Bangladesh wanted to be free in 71 and Pakistan unleashed a vicious genocide, murdering or mass raping millions, which side were the freedom loving West?
Palestine?
Yemen?
Iran?
Congo?
Cuba?
Chile?
Tibet?
Vietnam?
The Kurds?

Ethniciodo Rodenydo
Ethniciodo Rodenydo
2 years ago
Reply to  Samir Iker

Well said

Jennifer Chavez
Jennifer Chavez
2 years ago

The author is kinder than I would be in an analysis of Mack’s behavior. I’ve read story after story about “trans kids” and I see every reason to be critical of how parents are handling it, especially where the parents become activists and center their lives around it, often dragging the kid to events and speeches and protests like their lives depend on it.
I wouldn’t be inclined to assume that it’s “all rooted in a clearly sincere commitment to holding her child ‘in the arms of joyous light.'” It looks more to me like there’s a fair amount of ego and self-interest involved. Given the chance to be the most *stunning and brave* parents on the block with the power to make special demands of schools etc., not many parents would choose the more difficult path of telling their child they’re not going to redefine reality to fit whatever ideas the child seems to have picked up from TV or Youtube.

Jeff Butcher
Jeff Butcher
2 years ago

I wouldn’t say it was click bait although the Putin connection is at best tenuous.
As for the West coast milieu it refers to, do you not find it nauseatingly sentimental?
‘I would die to keep you warm’ etc etc. Pass me the sick bucket!
Give me a thick, dark slice of British pessimism any day of the week


Dominic A
Dominic A
2 years ago

If I had children, I hope my love and parenting would be defined more by, ‘be yourself’ (everyone else is taken), rather than, ‘to become yourself you must be chopped up by a surgeon and take powerful mind and body altering drugs for the rest of your life’.

Last edited 2 years ago by Dominic A
Allison Barrows
Allison Barrows
2 years ago

I simply can’t be made to care about this weird “trans” fad and wonder why excellent writers like Mary Harrington are wasting their time on it. Indulging this pay-attention-to-me behavior only validates it. Ignore it, and it goes away.

Last edited 2 years ago by Allison Barrows
Julian Farrows
Julian Farrows
2 years ago

I see your point. Give something less attention and it goes away over time. Unfortunately, I don’t think this is the case here. Transgenderism is being pushed forward on to children in schools and other institutions to radically re-engineer society. People are actually getting fired for refusing to play along with this ideology.

Last edited 2 years ago by Julian Farrows
Allison Barrows
Allison Barrows
2 years ago
Reply to  Julian Farrows

Yes, of course this aberration is being pushed in our institutions. It’s the long march we’ve been too tolerant of for decades. I’ll clarify my earlier assertion with one word: No. No to denying biology. No to changing definitions. No to declaring pronouns. No to allowing children to cow adults. No to the freaks who are using children to lead prosperous societies to destruction. Stop giving oxygen to dangerous absurdity and it dies.

Kat L
Kat L
2 years ago

It most definitely isn’t going away and ignoring it all this time is the reason it’s gotten so out of hand.

Bernard Hill
Bernard Hill
2 years ago
Reply to  Kat L

Absolutely! Actually Mary is treading a fine line here, showing what excess mothering has led too, but not wanting to invite a return of old Patriarchy in its place. Unfortunately Mr Putin is taking matters in hand in the most awful way.

Last edited 2 years ago by Bernard Hill
Jennifer Chavez
Jennifer Chavez
2 years ago

I would tend to agree if this were just about children’s private feelings. It’s exploded well beyond that, to where children are being given hormones and puberty blockers that sterilize them before their frontal cortex has fully formed, and women in prisons are being put into cells with male rapists and murderers who claim to “identify as women.”

Bernard Hill
Bernard Hill
2 years ago

…good on Mary for exploring mothering excess. The archetype of the ‘devouring mother’ is a feature of fairytales and myths across many cultures. And it is now the dominant feature of liberal ideology and politics in the West. “Shut the gate , stay inside, do what mummy tells you”. It is all going to end in tears of course, as usual. Putin, the new Lucifer, is the harbinger of that.

Dominic A
Dominic A
2 years ago
Reply to  Bernard Hill

Hush now baby don’t you cry
Mama’s gonna make all of your
Nightmares come true
Mama’s gonna put all of her fears into you
Mama’s gonna keep you right here
Under her wing
She won’t let you fly but she might let you sing
Mama will keep baby cosy and warm
Ooooh Babe Ooooh Babe Ooooh Babe
Of course Mama’s gonna help build the wall

Julian Farrows
Julian Farrows
2 years ago
Reply to  Dominic A

How prophetic that film turned out to be.

Ray Zacek
Ray Zacek
2 years ago

Sorry, Mary Harrington, I couldn’t get past the first few paragraphs and the self absorbed puerility of this idiot poetess.

Bernard Hill
Bernard Hill
2 years ago
Reply to  Ray Zacek

For god’s sake Ray, it’s not about that particular woman, it’s about the cultural archetype she is inhabiting, which is running rampant through the West.

Last edited 2 years ago by Bernard Hill
Andrew D
Andrew D
2 years ago

That Hollywood video was indeed cringeworthy, but the notion that a lack of maternal love can result in psychopathy and narcissism isn’t new, and certainly reflects my own experience (with others, I hasten to add, not talking about my late, sainted mum). There also seems to be some doubt as to who Putin’s mother was – search ‘Vera Putina’ online. I think the actress might have been onto something, however nauseatingly expressed.

Jeremy Bray
Jeremy Bray
2 years ago
Reply to  Andrew D

I have just removed the down vote you received for a perfectly valid comment. That said as Sharon Overy above comments great maternal love does not necessarily lead to a good outcome and as you say the narcissistic song by the actress is indeed cringeworthy.

Andrew D
Andrew D
2 years ago
Reply to  Jeremy Bray

Thank you!

Nicholas Rynn
Nicholas Rynn
2 years ago

“Actress” ho hum “Look at me look at me I know what’s wrong with Vlad, and oh if only his mother had been just like me all this awfulness wouldn’t have happened”.

Dominic A
Dominic A
2 years ago
Reply to  Nicholas Rynn

As if the cure for an overt narcissist is a covert narcissist!

Richard Pearse
Richard Pearse
2 years ago

Dude, I think the article was about fantasies of the perfecting power of motherly love, not the causes of WWIII

Neven Curlin
Neven Curlin
2 years ago

Sting once sang about Russians loving their children too. Has he been made to profusely apologize yet?

Sean Meister
Sean Meister
2 years ago
Reply to  Neven Curlin

He should be made to apologise. Not for that song but for his atrocious music in general.

Neven Curlin
Neven Curlin
2 years ago
Reply to  Neven Curlin

As for Mother AnnaLynne: If there was a threat of missile systems with nuclear warheads pointing at M, her daughter, she wouldn’t hesitate for a second to press a button and erase Ukraine off the map. Which is hopefully not what dearest little Volodya will do.

A mother’s love is the greatest thing in the world, but its strength lies largely in its irrationality.

Martin Logan
Martin Logan
2 years ago

Putin is the way he is because he was raised in a tough St P slum–and the KGB recruited people like that.
The KGB/FSB just substituted Russian nationalism for Communism, and made it their new “cause.” Otherwise, they would have ceased to exist.
End of story.
Thank God I left the West Coast many decades ago. I knew I’d never see the Real World if I stayed. Never been back–and don’t intend to in future.

David Morley
David Morley
2 years ago

Loving parents determined to reorder reality around their adored child may drive radical changes across the social, legal and political fabric while ignoring serious knock-on effects elsewhere.

This is understandable, if concerning enough.
But it isn’t just love that is driving such radical change. Everywhere you look, neuroses, personal antipathies, and psychological issues are masquerading as political positions.

Julian Farrows
Julian Farrows
2 years ago
Reply to  David Morley

Great insight.

Margaret Tudeau-Clayton
Margaret Tudeau-Clayton
2 years ago

This would have been more pertinent to the case of Putin if Mary had applied the well made argument about communities of belief to the different versions of the current crisis in circulation. Putin and many Russians believe their version of events as fervently as their opponents believe theirs. (Or maybe neither entirely believes their own stories…) There’s a big difference, however, with trans Mums v. gender critical Mums — namely the future of a few thousand teenagers with their own ‘say’ from mostly middle class rich world families will be compromised by the trans movement, whereas it is the future of hundreds of thousands of people with no ‘say’ whatsoever that is being compromised, if not destroyed by Putin’s belief community.

Al M
Al M
2 years ago

I can’t help thinking that the two protagonists detailed here are simply making themselves the focus of the situation.

Michael O'Donnell
Michael O'Donnell
2 years ago

This article is at least as weird as the statement it purports to analyse. I didn’t have the patience to read it to the end. Just accept that some people don’t think the way you do and move on!

Bernard Hill
Bernard Hill
2 years ago

…like too many men, you apparently don’t seem to think you need to pay attention Michael. This is why the Yin is out of balance with the Yang in Western culture.

Michael O'Donnell
Michael O'Donnell
2 years ago
Reply to  Bernard Hill

And your point is? Does your statement mean anything?

William Braden
William Braden
2 years ago

After 9/11, a local psychologist suggested that the bombers might have been redirected by good mothering. My thought: if they had his mother, maybe, but how about a Palestinian mother who says, “Darling son, I’m proud of how many Jews and infidels you’ve killed?”

Peter Lee
Peter Lee
2 years ago

Iwonder whether this growing desire for boys to be girls (now that it is acceptable) has more to do with the earlier maturation of girls, their better developed inter-personal skills and their better developed learning skills at an earlier age than boys. I can understand that now it seems socially acceptable for some boys wanting to be girls. At the age that this occurs, it has nothing to do with sex or puberty. No wonder many of them regret it as they grow older.