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The Left has mummy issues Maternal instinct is not a chauvinist myth

Maternal instinct is real. Constance Bannister Corp/Getty Images

Maternal instinct is real. Constance Bannister Corp/Getty Images


September 1, 2022   7 mins

A little friend of my daughter’s has just had one of her parents walk out, to start a new life with a new partner. Given that they were a heterosexual couple, and based on your observations about the world, can you guess which parent stayed behind to feed, care for and try to comfort a shocked and grieving little girl?

Go on. You know the answer. We all know which way round this usually works.

This is a problem for our most assiduous egalitarians. Despite more than 50 years of efforts to abolish “gender stereotypes”, the difference between mothers and fathers is still such that it is almost always — as it was in this case, too — Mum who picks up the pieces when Dad takes off. But you can’t pursue “equality”, “progress” and “freedom” to their logical ends, without making men and women functionally interchangeable. And this means that every such pronounced asymmetry between men and women is not so much a natural feature of human nature, as a problem to be solved.

This is surely the most charitable explanation for an apparent ongoing campaign in the New York Times, to denaturalise motherhood. The most recent salvo was the claim last week, to widespread furore, that “maternal instinct is a myth that men created”.

This isn’t an isolated incident: in the past two years, motherhood has been a horror movie, an environmental catastrophe and a recipe for martyrdom. Women who reject it get admiring profiles. And when — unusually — it is Mum who abandons the kids, this isn’t shocking, it is a stimulating challenge to the ultimate taboo. But dig a little deeper, and this apparent effort to undermine the “naturalness” of motherhood reveals a deep progressive confusion as regards women, bodies, and babies. And this, in turn, raises questions about the unexpected implications of pursuing equality to its logical conclusion — questions that should give many feminists pause.

Despite what the Grey Lady may say about maternity being male-chauvinist propaganda, there’s no shortage of evidence across many species that there actually is something unique about the bond between mothers and their young. There are field birds who will let a tractor roll over them before they will leave their clutch of eggs. Mother bears are proverbially protective of their cubs. Anyone who’s seen footage of a mother elephant mourning a dead baby, or cows bellowing after their calves are taken away, can see that there’s something there.

There is a straightforward evolutionary explanation for the maternal bond: it increases the chance that young animals will survive until they are able to take care of themselves. It would be strange if humans were the only animal species for whom this were not the case. But nor is this bond wholly universal, or wholly automatic. It can be interrupted. There are anomalies, such as mothers across many animal species who sometimes kill their babies. In the human world, some women don’t want babies at all, or feel nothing after they’re born.

This, in turn, points us toward feminism’s favourite hunting-ground: the boundary between nature and nurture. For the truth is that maternal behaviour is both natural and social. In her 2021 book on “the science of moms”, Mom Genes, science writer Abigail Tucker cites studies that show new mothers are more sensitive to babies’ cries. We’re better at distinguishing cries of distress. We think about our babies more. And a great deal of this is primed during pregnancy, as gestation transforms women’s brains in distinctive ways.

Dads, meanwhile, also bond with their offspring. But they do so later, and more slowly: paternal interest ramps up about a year after birth. And developing it is conditional on contact with a baby. Tucker quotes a Michigan State University maternal behaviour researcher who states flatly that while fatherhood also changes men’s brains: “The magnitude [of hormonal change] that you see in a mother is nothing like you see in any person at any other time.” And as Tucker puts it, while new moms are hormonally primed to seek out experience with infants, dads need the experience to get the hormone hit: “To become a father, the first thing a guy has to do is stick around.”

In the NYT article that triggered all this fuss, Conaboy notes this hugely important and permanently transformative biological aspect of motherhood only in passing. While all parents experience brain changes, she says, “the biological mechanisms for change are quite different for gestational and non-gestational parents”. Her focus is on the nurture side: for as Tucker would agree, mothering isn’t purely “natural” or instinctive. It’s also a skill, learned in part from our own mums and from our wider social circle.

She’s not wrong to argue that “maternal instinct” greatly over-simplifies a complex sociobiological process. Nor is she wrong to point out how politicised it has become. For by treating it as wholly “natural”, this complex process can be generalised from a descriptive to a prescriptive norm: not a question of what usually happens, but one of what should happen.

And being told what you should be doing, based on the shape of your body, is anathema to a modern liberal. No wonder: for the story of the modern world is one of political and technological struggle against limits of every kind. And motherhood really does impose particular constraints on women, constraints which have, throughout history, shaped the work we do, the lives we lead and our social and political relation to men.

Unsurprisingly, then, a central facet of the women’s movement, from the 19th century on, has concerned our relation to pregnancy and childrearing, whether individually or at scale: whether we can refuse pregnancy, how we deal with unwanted pregnancies, and which provisions are in place for raising children, to name but a few.

Today, our tech-enhanced pursuit of parity between the sexes is well advanced. Why, then, shouldn’t we pursue absolute equality, in the name of progress? From this perspective, evidence that the maternal bond has a learned component is manna from heaven. Perhaps, it suggests, this means we can stop noticing the far-reaching neurobiological effect gestation has on mothers, and in the process find a way to break free of yet another limit.

For while we still experience any constraints of any kind on doing exactly what we want — even biological constraints — someone is bound to be oppressed. And this includes absolute freedom to configure families any way we like: even the faintest suggestion that there’s something special about mothers oppresses not just those women who don’t want to be mothers, but also, as Conaboy puts it, “the rights and recognitions of same-sex couples and transgender and nonbinary parents”, whose “ability to care for their children is often questioned”.

The solution is to lean hard into the nurture, while downplaying the nature, and imply that with a bit of diligence we can thus make parental bonding egalitarian across gestating and non-gestating “parents” alike. New research on “the parental brain” shows, Conaboy says, that “the idea of maternal instinct as something innate, automatic and distinctly female is a myth”. Instead, if only we Do The Work, “scientists now believe the outcomes may be similar for anyone — including fathers, adoptive parents and nonbinary parents — who truly invests time and attention in caregiving”. If parents other than gestational mothers can only be induced to try hard enough, then, the results “may”, she says, be “similar” to those experienced by gestating mothers.

Perhaps. But “similar” and “identical” are, well, similar rather than identical. “Truly” is also doing some heavy lifting here, as is “may”. Conaboy’s thesis, at least as filtered through the NYT’s relentlessly anti-maternal editorial lens, doesn’t have anything to say about those non-gestating parents who are disinclined to Do The Work. And I would venture to suggest that these are the cases where the enduring sexed asymmetry between mothers and fathers becomes visible — and gets entrenched in popular understanding, albeit in over-simplified form, via the term “maternal instinct”.

On the surface, Conaboy’s almost-blank-slatism is simply an argument for widening the scope of who may be considered important as parents — as though anyone disputes the obvious truth that there exist a great many devoted adoptive parents. But in effect, and seemingly unnoticed by the author, it’s an argument against granting any special meaning to maternity as an embodied experience or particular type of relationship.

For confusingly, even as the thrust of her argument takes aim at the idea that motherhood should merit any particular distinction, Conaboy seems to suggest that this nonetheless adds up to a case for improving maternity provision. Barely two paragraphs after claiming that anyone can synthesise a mother-like bond if they try hard enough, she’s arguing that this means Americans should demand better perinatal services, and address America’s (frankly barbarous) lack of federally mandated maternity leave.

And while this is true, it also reveals the central, irreducible liberal mummy-issue. For, on the one hand, feminists may wish to empower mothers to flourish — which, you might think, would mean thinking about mothers’ specific needs and the policies that might meet them. But if, on the other hand, we want everyone to be equal, that means opening the maternal experience beyond mothers: that is, denaturalising those facets of maternal experience that are arbitrary, evolved, embodied and — yes — at least partly instinctive. And this militates against acknowledging mothers’ specific needs.

The result is a hopelessly muddled argument. It claims, based on historic variations in how men and women rationalise our sexed differences, that nothing underpins those differences except power. Then, almost in the same breath, it acknowledges that these differences exist and have a biological substrate, and that this has real policy implications.

But we can’t simply throw up our hands and say this confusion is yet more evidence of a malign plot by men to psyop women into being docile housewives. We can’t have it all ways: we can’t both demand special provision for pregnancy and childbirth, and suggest that the absence of such provision is evidence of patriarchy. Not if we’re also going to suggest, as Conaboy does, that celebrating mothers’ embodied experience as unique and worthy of special protection is also evidence of women’s oppression, because the aim is to set women apart and constrain our social role.

In the bitter ongoing battle between gender-critical feminism and trans activism, it’s common for the former to accuse the latter of “erasing women” — that is, replacing any mention of women as a sex with the unfalsifiable category of women as inner identity. But it might be more accurate to say equality is erasing women. If you pursue the logic of absolute parity between the sexes all the way down, you hit a brick wall of evolved sociobiological differences, that has emerged over millennia in connection with historically distinct roles in raising kids.

Of course, contra what the cartoon-conservative position might claim, such instincts aren’t deterministic. How they play out varies immensely, depending on culture and material context. There is plenty of feminist scope for adding to that variation by questioning and modifying how we inhabit our embodied sex differences.

But experience should have taught us by now that making something “inclusive”, that was previously ringfenced, is tantamount to abolishing it. And noticing that there’s a lot of wiggle room in our instincts isn’t the same as declaring that the instincts themselves don’t exist, or can be overridden if we only Do The Work. Once we make that claim, in effect we’re saying mothers as such don’t exist.

And this is not an argument for better perinatal provision. It’s an argument for making such provision available to everyone, whether or not you’re a mother — because there’s nothing distinctive or important about being the “gestational parent”. We should ask ourselves how feminist that actually is.


Mary Harrington is a contributing editor at UnHerd.

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Penny Adrian
Penny Adrian
1 year ago

Thank You for this.
There was never anything wrong with the division of labor between the sexes; what was wrong was devaluing the labor of women (mothers).
So called feminists are still devaluing the labor of mothers.
Trying to make the sexes “equal” has turned being male into the Gold Standard for both men and women (the most important women are men, these days).
The male Gold Standard does not work for most women, and it absolutely does not work for children.
If both parents are supposed to behave like traditional fathers, spending most of their time providing rather than nurturing, then who is supposed to do most of the nurturing? An overworked, underpaid daycare worker?
Also, becoming a mother is a profound biological and psychological experience, and to deny this fact is insane.
Yet so called “progressives” do deny it – most cruelly in their support for commercial surrogacy (how any woman can be expected to literally grow a human being inside of her body, carry that human being inside of her for nine months, give birth to that human being, then hand it over as if it were a pie she’d just removed from the oven must be one of the most dehumanizing ideas ever conceived of).
Anyway, thank you again for standing up for women in the genuine sense of the word.

Cho Jinn
Cho Jinn
1 year ago
Reply to  Penny Adrian

A friend’s ex-girlfriend was a surrogate for her sister, for some reason, and did carry the baby and handed it over. While not a commercial endeavor (to my knowledge), the girl remains clearly affected, or perhaps “afflicted”, by the experience several years later.

Last edited 1 year ago by Cho Jinn
Sam Conley
Sam Conley
1 year ago
Reply to  Penny Adrian

I’m a lifelong feminist, and I absolutely agree. Feminism was supposed to be liberation from the male standard as default, not the mindless pursuit of “equality” with men at all costs.
I wholeheartedly agree about surrogacy too. Even kittens are kept with their mothers for 8 weeks, but we will remove an infant from the only human it has ever had a bond with and hand it to a stranger within moments of birth, and we expect this to have no impact on child or mother? There’s growing evidence that attachment starts in utero and removing infants from their mothers is harmful, and in my experience as someone who was not raised by my birth mother, this holds true. Human beings are not blank slates or avatars to be moulded at will. The mother-child bond is fundamental to human development and I’m not sure how we’ve reached the point that this is shocking or controversial.

Caroline Watson
Caroline Watson
1 year ago
Reply to  Sam Conley

Surrogacy is evil and should be made a criminal offence in all circumstances. Children should not be rehomed like kittens.

Paul Nathanson
Paul Nathanson
1 year ago
Reply to  Penny Adrian

“There was never anything wrong with the division of labor between the sexes; what was wrong was devaluing the labor of women (mothers).”
Your point is well taken but incomplete. The background to what follows is complicated, so I’ll have to make do with a few general comments.
For one thing, the labor of women has not been devalued everywhere and everywhen. Considering historical and anthropological evidence, I would say that all human societies have ensured communal survival by, among other things, using culture to promote the health and safety not only of children but also of mothers. Consequently, marriage has been a universal institution (although many of the details vary from one period or culture to another). It’s true that our own society has rejected, in this respect, what other societies have known as common sense: that there is a distinctive and natural link between mothers and their infants. But even this egregious rejection began to prevail only recently–that is, within living memory. And it wasn’t because men “devalued” mothers or encouraged their wives to get jobs. On the contrary, it was because women did so. Feminists had taught them to avoid interdependent relationships with men, defined as inherently “oppressive” for women. This led led women, logically, to envy and emulate the financial independence of men. And when women did get jobs and complained about not being able to “have it all,” their solution was to change the workplace with mothers in mind.
Moreover, the “labor” (function) of fathers is devalued even now. Social scientists have only just begun to take fatherhood seriously as a topic for research. For decades, it has been assumed by both men and women that fathers are assistant mothers at best and walking wallets at worst. Worse, many feminists have assumed that fathers are either luxuries in the home or likely molesters. And, thanks partly to sperm banks and the feminist fixation on women’s autonomy, we now have a movement of single-mothers-by-choice. Advocates of gay marriage argue that two mothers or two fathers are as effective for children as one parent of each sex. And advocates of trans ideology, well, that’s another matter. It’s true that the main function of fathers does not begin when children are infants and is not expressed even with older children in precisely the same emotional ways as mothers do. It’s true also, however, that their function in family life becomes more and more vital as children grow up and enter the larger world beyond home. Men can have many reasons for walking out on their families, but one of them is surely the pervasive idea that their presence in the home, as distinct from the money that they provide, is unnecessary.

Steve Murray
Steve Murray
1 year ago
Reply to  Paul Nathanson

You raise a very interesting point about fathers having a pervasive idea that their presence in the home is unnecessary. Many males marry, or couple up with their female partners whilst consciously or unconsciously looking for a replacement mother. (The same may be true for females, looking for a replacement father). Once children arrive, and the attention of their female partner becomes much more focused on child-rearing, the males ‘lose’ their mother-figure again and so go looking for it elsewhere.
In generations past, the opportunity to do so was much less apparent than it is now, hence perhaps the increasing rise in absent fathers. The psychology of all this must start somewhere, and if the mothers of males bond in such a way that makes their sons a bit more dependent upon them than might be considered healthy to their future independence, the effect has a springboard. It’s not without irony that this is possibly more likely to happen if the father absents himself from a son, so that the sole parent is the mother who will likely be psychologically scarred by the experience – both mother and son will – thus increasing the closeness of their bond as the key stages of seeking adult independence become curtailed. A vicious circle has arisen.
There will almost certainly be a corollary between mothers and daughters. Perhaps those women who argue in favour of lessening the biological importance of motherhood are the products of the recent generational hiatus in the long-term stability of parenting.

Caroline Watson
Caroline Watson
1 year ago
Reply to  Penny Adrian

There is everything wrong with ‘the division of labour (the correct spelling) between the sexes’ for women who don’t want to live with men, engage in the patriarchal, feudal anachronistic concept of marriage or have children. Institutionalising sex difference results in lesbians, and other women who prefer to eschew ‘family life’ and be financially self supporting, being discriminated against in the workplace and paid less. You presumably think that is acceptable.

Garrett R
Garrett R
1 year ago

Are you still sore about 1776?

Brett H
Brett H
1 year ago
Reply to  Garrett R

Oh, I don’t think you have to worry about these women. They go about their business presumably like you do. They chose what they want and live it. But I don’t know what’s unacceptable about it. There are many men who don’t want to live with women (you may be one) engage in marriage, have children, some are homosexual, are self supporting and not paid very much for what they do.

Claire D
Claire D
1 year ago

I think your focus of blame for discrimination is mistaken, it’s as if you got yourself into an ideological groove long ago, it’s become familiar and safe and you’ll be d*mned if you’ll give it up now, even though you don’t really believe it anymore.

I just think you’re too intelligent to believe all that patriarchy malarchy.

Damian Schloming
Damian Schloming
1 year ago

Well, first of all, the New York Times is a wholly owned subsidiary of its corporate advertisers, who represent a special interest group that cares about labor economics in this super crass way, where the manner in which they seek to push mothers with children into the workforce is a scheme to achieve cheaper labor for everyone.
Another thing, few lesbians or women who eschew family life wish to pursue the more blue collar professions men choose like truck driving or carpentry or other stuff involving heavy lifting — though it’s true some lesbians really do that kind of thing. The butch lesbians. I also think they don’t really complain too much about “sexism,” though.
Anyway, what our economy does is, part of the economy involves men tending to our infrastructure and physical needs, that is getting us food clothing and shelter and transportation, and all that is necessary for that, say the electrical grid, paved roads, houses, skyscrapers, etc. Men do most of that.
Their labor is devalued somewhat, or taxed you might say, and then jobs are created for women, some of these jobs busywork jobs but a lot of women are in healthcare which is at least SOMEWHAT necessary or essential, though at the same time, regulatory bloat and tons of paperwork processing in healthcare looks a bit like an attempt to create tons and tons of needless “busywork” jobs solely for the sake of employing women, rather than taking care of people’s needs, and this makes our healthcare system super expensive and not nice.
Don’t you think women’s work is being over valued, when tons and tons of complex regulations are created in the USA, and tons and tons of healthcare bloat is created in the USA, so that we pay exorbitant healthcare costs, and maybe only 30 percent of our health bill goes to actual medical care, another 30 percent goes to employing women to process all the paperwork and bureaucracy, doing mean stuff like denying us benefits or coverage, and the other 30 percent goes to profits? I think, in that case, women’s work is over valued — at least from the perspective of the patient. Perhaps the CEOs at the top of healthcare companies getting paid off the exorbitant profits made from female bureaucrats denying coverage and etc. think such women are “wonderful” and those CEO’s are the ones bankrolling feminism and controlling the New York Times Editorial page propaganda.
I also think women’s work is over valued, when women doctors are prescribing ritalin to young boys, after their female teachers declared them to be “too rowdy,” and this stunts their brains and development for life. But corporate CEO’s profiting off psych drugs and bankrolling the New York Times might disagree.
Feminism did coincide with huge increases in equality, and not just 70’s feminism. First wave feminism in the 20’s also coincided with massive hoarding of wealth by the rich. And it has been said that the rich bankrolled both first wave and second wave feminism. They got their money’s worth and I’m sure they would agree, the work women did was NOT over valued but under valued. Those who hate inequality would argue women’s work was over valued, insomuch as it was crucial to how such extreme inequality was achieved.
See, the value of your work is tied to what goes your work does for society, and not necessarily this whole idea that your work should be valued according to what you should be entitled to get in order to live a proper lifestyle.
The idea that “I deserve to live a nice lifestyle, therefore my work should be valued according to what I need to live a nice lifestyle” goes wrong, especially when you start to say “oh and, by the way, I want to have my cake and eat it too. No heavy lifting for me. I want to be a child psychiatrist.” And then, what’s that mean? We need to inflate psych diagnoses and drug our children needlessly, all in order to gin up the money necessary to pay you a salary guaranteeing you the lifestyle you say you deserve.
See, that shows how the very underlying premise of 70’s feminism was wrong. It’s the idea that the job is an entitlement a worker – who is a woman – is supposed to have. And then society needs to figure out some way to adjust itself, so as to create such jobs, for women who don’t want to do heavy lifting or other jobs that are catering to society’s essential needs.
OK, so in order to employ more women and pay them more, let’s pretend so many more children need ritalin, so we can employ women to dole it out. Let’s pretend our healthcare system needs more and more complex regulations, bureaucracy, and more bloat, so we can pay women to process paperwork.
A job is not an entitlement. A job is pay you get in return for providing a NECESSARY or BENEFICIAL service to society.

Clara B
Clara B
1 year ago
Reply to  Penny Adrian

‘Also, becoming a mother is a profound biological and psychological experience, and to deny this fact is insane’ – this, with bells on. I think before I had babies I might have denied the truth of this, but I know now (with absolute certainty) that motherhood is a (amazing) biological experience. How can it not be? Progesterone levels are 50 times higher than normal hours after birth. Breastfeeding releases all kinds of ‘lovey-dovey’ hormones to ensure bonding with the baby. The breast changes the composition of milk if babies are thirsty or sick (it actually makes immunoglobulins in response to suckling – think about that for a moment: the breast actually makes ‘medicine’ for a sick baby. How amazing is that?) Mothers can pick out their baby’s crying amongst the cries of many other infants. I am 100% pro-choice and recognise that not everyone wants to be a mother, but I still marvel at the biology of motherhood.

Damian Schloming
Damian Schloming
1 year ago
Reply to  Penny Adrian

Let us ask even one more question. See, another consequence of the feminist notion that EVERYTHING is “socially constructed.” that there are no biological differences between the sexes and that women were merely CONDITIONED by society to be different, as women, well I guess we call this the “nature versus nurture” debate. “Nurture” rather than “nature” determines what you become. Shouldn’t that be an argument against having children raised by uncaring baby sitters or child care or daycare workers?
If we are suppose to “Do The Work” to make males and females equal, doesn’t that have to start in childhood? And are daycare workers going to have the interest and the zeal to even bother with shaping the developmental trajectory of the kids under their care, so as to properly stamp out all unfeminist gender differences we say we abhor? I think only the parents are qualified to even care enough to attempt to exert such influence over a child’s development.
And, is it not the case that most stuff like gender mores are learned early? Like when you are still a child?
well, feminism is of academia, of higher education, and wants to pretend that the super expensive education THEY PROVIDE is all that matters. THEY can mould everyone so they are perfect, I would presume.
This is part of an advertisement for expensive higher education, which starts at age 18, I note.
However, otherwise, if feminists TRULY are right and that it is all nurture that matters, then why are feminists demanding 100 percent gender equality at work, full time work for everyone, and then insisting merely on “high quality childcare?”
The assumption behind that is that child development does not matter, everything is not all nurture. How the child turns out is genetic and hard wired into the brain, and the mother can go to work and leave her child in daycare and the child will turn out the same anyway. Because the child is like a plant. Just plant the seed in the right place and the child will know how to grow up.
Indeed, there is a whole debate or recent admission, regarding our mental health system, that doctors started lying in the 80’s — the time when mothers of small children were pulled into the workforce the fastest — when they started saying that “everything was genetic” and that mental illness was “only a chemical imbalance in the brain” to be treated with drugs rather than environmental changes.
The environment makes no difference, if you turn out mentally ill, it wasn’t the environment, it was genetic. That’s what they all started insisting on in the 80’s. Even while feminism has to go, academic feminism has to go, and argue that gender, of all things, was 100 percent entirely socially constructed.
And, actually, there IS evidence that gender differences ARE genetic. And actual evidence debunks the notion that mental illness is mostly genetic or a chemical imbalance in the brain. So you end up with academics fabricating untruths all of which are contrary to the evidence.
However, zeroing in on gender difference, their “prescription” for their wholly invented “theory” that gender is entirely socially constructed doesn’t even make sense, if that was what they truly believed. Namely, put children in daycare so the mother can work full time. Unless they would argue that a mother helps to reinforce a child’s gender, while daycare does the opposite. They haven’t argued that.
Bottom line, though, is if a mother REALLY WANTED a child to “overcome” “outdated gender stereotypes” so as to end up feminist, she would proceed to quit her job so she could raise her child full time to become a perfect feminist. Except, the moment she has quit her job to become a stay at home mother, she has stopped being a feminist herself. She is now a traditional gender role woman.
Or maybe is the solution for men to quit their jobs, so they can nurture their children into becoming feminist role models? Except feminists always say men are untrustworthy. Men are not to be trusted. The patriarchy was designed by men to reflect mens wants and men’s needs, at the expense of women. So, leave child rearing to the men, and won’t they just raise their kids in a manner so as to reinforce patriarchy? OK, that means only the mother can be trusted to institute a feminist upbringing.
Paradoxical. What do they teach in these schools? See how poorly thought out all of this feminist thinking is? It’s obvious these articles are written by women used to engaging in rote memorization of disconnected facts in order to get high test scores, all the while their analytical skills are abysmal and they don’t even believe what they say because they aren’t even articulating a coherent thought.

Last edited 1 year ago by Damian Schloming
Anne Humphreys
Anne Humphreys
1 year ago

I work with antenatal and postnatal mothers. This elite feminist narrative of equality has a huge influence on young liberal women. They frequently naively imagine that they will swiftly “get back to normal” after the birth. They often  have no “pattern” for motherhood now and so are profoundly shocked by the changes in themselves postpartum. 
Two women stand out for me. One said she had to have a nanny because “there won’t be time to do my make up and feed the horse and the baby before work”. To my astonishment she gave up work and breastfed her baby for over 6 months. The second, an older mother was utterly shaken by how she felt immediately after birth, so different that she was completely unable to function. But she had good family support and adapted to and thrived as a mother.
It’s sad that now so many women spend their maternity looking for nurseries and expect to be separated from their babies in the first year. And no one speaks about the consequences for the children, despite excellent research evidence that mother care is best.

John 0
John 0
1 year ago
Reply to  Anne Humphreys

I would dearly love to be able to read that research – any chance you could link to it for me?
Many thanks.

Rob Nock
Rob Nock
1 year ago
Reply to  John 0

I don’t have a link to research but do remember reading some/lots which confirmed this but said best was actual almost full time with Mom with 1 day per week in nursery or with grandparents. Probably mainly because it gave Mom a break which makes sense, to me at least.

Melissa Martin
Melissa Martin
1 year ago
Reply to  Rob Nock

Little girls are often ready for nursery before little boys. They are better at reading emotions and less dependent on their mother interpreting the world for them. I learnt this working in a nursery where occasionally you have to pretend to be cross when things got chaotic. The little girls understood it wasn’t real but the little boys often didn’t.

Marcella Bixler
Marcella Bixler
1 year ago

I’m concerned that modern life and ideology are increasingly divorced from the physical world. The idea that our biology doesn’t matter is part of that, that we are just beings independent of bodies. This seems like an unstable scaffolding. For millennia, we have needed to grow and gather food, to cooperate, to have children and survive. These basics are forgotten in an overly sophisticated environment in which the basics are treated as dispensable.

As for motherhood, when my baby was born, I felt a profound shift the moment I saw her face. It was as if a puzzle piece I never knew was missing had been fit into place. The first night I brought her home, she cried in her crib and my breasts poured forth milk before I was even conscious. That is nature. Of course any parent can learn to love. But I was made to love my baby instinctively. That is the bond that nature has made since the beginning of mammals.

Clara B
Clara B
1 year ago

Very beautiful words about your daughter. I felt the same with mine. I loved breastfeeding – I felt like Mother Earth. Pregnancy, birth and lactation are the most profound biological experiences I’ve ever had.

Andrew D
Andrew D
1 year ago
Reply to  Clara B

As a man, I think this is something to be envied, not disparaged or downgraded as ‘equality’ seems to demand.

Clara B
Clara B
1 year ago
Reply to  Andrew D

Agree, Andrew. In my experience, most men are in awe of it.

Eliza Mann
Eliza Mann
1 year ago
Reply to  Clara B

Agreed. Those experiences, especially giving birth, were primal. Through them I felt both the power of womanhood and a connection to mothers everywhere and throughout time. It was life-changing in every way, including in how I saw my place in the world– not that I was now limited to motherhood, but that now I would one day be an ancestor for others, part of the future chain of human life.

Pat Q
Pat Q
1 year ago
Reply to  Eliza Mann

“not that I was now limited to motherhood, but that now I would one day be an ancestor for others, part of the future chain of human life.”. What a wonderful, selfless sentiment. Bless you for thinking it, bless you for saying it!

AC Harper
AC Harper
1 year ago

The Left often believe that people are born as blank slates, may be ‘perfected’ by social action, and deliver Utopia. Oh, and they control the chalk that writes on the blank slates.
Each of these ideas, alone or lumped together, is incoherent and ignores ‘nature’. No wonder the Left is riven by disagreement; they are starting from false positions.

Julian Farrows
Julian Farrows
1 year ago
Reply to  AC Harper

Yes. Ultimately, they are a death cult.

Martin Butler
Martin Butler
1 year ago
Reply to  AC Harper

Think we need to drop references to ‘the left’ as if they are a homogeneous block. I regard my self as left wing and very much believe that employers don’t give enough time and leeway for women to be with their infants. The market driven society we live in means employers treat women having babies as an inconvenience that should not affect them. It seems to me it is ‘the right’ who are anti baby. There is no prospect of households running on one income any time soon, so the the best way to allow women to bond properly with their infants is to give them decent maternity rights

George Zed
George Zed
1 year ago
Reply to  Martin Butler

The problem isn’t necessarily ‘the left’ or ‘the right’ rather that they are both broadly part of the great liberal war against limits that Mary alludes to. It is true that for a family of two parents to be able to have only one breadwinner is increasingly difficult in our declining consumerist society. The modern ‘right’ who are basically classical liberals, find it as hard to imagine a world beyond perpetual consumption as the liberal left do in accepting any limits to individual autonomy.

Martin Butler
Martin Butler
1 year ago
Reply to  George Zed

Yes agree with this. But surely it’s the classical liberals who have trouble accepting any limitations on personal autonomy. We are ‘individuals’ first and any social obligations we might have come very far down the perking order.

M. Jamieson
M. Jamieson
1 year ago
Reply to  Martin Butler

I very much agree with this. The people pushing these ideas are often not particularly leftist, they are progressives and libertarians.
But on the economic front it’s been the libertarian right that has tried to push the no limits consumption model, as if economic growth is everything, and recognizing it must be limited is “arbitrary”.
That’s just another form of utopianism and disaffection from the physical world.

Pat Q
Pat Q
1 year ago
Reply to  Martin Butler

Think we need to drop references to ‘the right’ as if they are a homogeneous block

Richard Abbot
Richard Abbot
1 year ago

It’s taken me a lifetime to understand it, but I am now quite convinced that Leftism is the biggest danger to life on this planet.

Paige M
Paige M
1 year ago
Reply to  Richard Abbot

So painful to come to that realization. It’s the most red-pilling experience in modern times.

Ali W
Ali W
1 year ago

Another great article by Mary Harrington. She does a great job of breaking down, very eloquently, the issues with modern progressives and critical theory. Progressives want to paint all of society with a broad-brush to ensure “equity”, denying human individualism the same way their conservative counterparts have in the past.

Brett H
Brett H
1 year ago
Reply to  Ali W

It does seem to me that the left, consciously or unconsciously, (I give them the benefit of the doubt because it’s hard to believe it’s intentional), are striking at the very core of our society.
If this was a military exercise then the woman/mother, as a prime target, would be the first missile strike. Like the bombardment of infrastructure in an invasion. After that everything turns to chaos, then defeat.
But by placing so much energy in trying to destroy the idea of mothers and women they reveal the absolute importance of both. Otherwise why attack it with the idea of annihilating it.

Max Price
Max Price
1 year ago
Reply to  Brett H

It is intentional but only the avant-garde is truely aware of it. They are destroyers, nothing more.

Martin Butler
Martin Butler
1 year ago
Reply to  Brett H

Let’s look at the practicalities rather than vague ideology. The practicalities are that most families cannot survive with a male breadwinner and the women at home as full time mum. It’s not some ideology that stops this, it the hard economics of modern wage labour. How do you solve it? Not by endlessly bleating about how ‘the left’ are destroying modern civilization as we know it, but by giving working women decent maternity rights and giving families on modest incomes the possibility of getting a decent family home at a reasonable rent

Brett H
Brett H
1 year ago
Reply to  Martin Butler

“and giving families on modest incomes the possibility of getting a decent family home at a reasonable rent”
How would you propose this be done?

Martin Butler
Martin Butler
1 year ago
Reply to  Brett H

Selling off council houses without replacing them was the biggest cause for the present housing nightmare. We could build more council houses for a start. All my friends growing up in the 60s lived in council houses. They were great.

Brett H
Brett H
1 year ago
Reply to  Martin Butler

Yes, I remember that myself. But isn’t that what housing estates have become with all their problems?

Last edited 1 year ago by Brett H
Martin Butler
Martin Butler
1 year ago
Reply to  Brett H

The very fact that you seem to think that giving those on modest incomes somewhere affordable to live is a weird pie in the sky fantasy says it all.

Brett H
Brett H
1 year ago
Reply to  Martin Butler

I don’t think I said that at all. I asked how it could be done?

Last edited 1 year ago by Brett H
M. Jamieson
M. Jamieson
1 year ago
Reply to  Martin Butler

This is where I feel many of the people opposing some of this progressive stuff have gone wrong. They don’t seem to think any further back than the 20th century and even look at that with rose tinted glasses.
Historically housing just wasn’t a commodity in the way it is now, and that doesn’t seem to have turned out to be a sustainable approach to housing. Even if we acknowledge that the intent was to give families control over their assets, that isn’t how it’s worked out overall.

Michael McElwee
Michael McElwee
1 year ago
Reply to  Martin Butler

The more fundamental distinction may be between “liberalism” and “illiberalism.” The former, in its pure form, is nihilism. That is, a living hell. All liberals are therefore forced into hypocrisy. They are forced to advance standards of one kind or another, while in their hearts they would repudiate all standards, all norms. It is quite simply a tortured life. They can’t let go, even while they know that letting go is the only answer that will save them from the bigotry they despise. The illiberals, by contrast, are in search of the best or right standard, illusive though it may endlessly prove to be. In truth, we are all more or less illiberal. It is quite impossible not to be so. Humans are the in between beings, neither beasts nor gods. We long by turns to be one or the other, and, in my view at any rate, it is precisely these longings that lead to otherwise needless human suffering.

Oliver Henderson
Oliver Henderson
1 year ago

Women are the same as men and should therefore get the same outcomes, but still need protection from difficult things such as pointy words, but not from actual physical threats such as men who declare themselves women, because that self-declaration is the most important thing, despite the fact women are the same as men and there is no difference.

Whats difficult to understand about that?!

F K
F K
1 year ago

If you want a fair and safe society then surely we need to value children and their ‘journey’ to adulthood so that, when they take over the reins, they know what to do? To do this we need to also value the people looking after those children. Usually women. Usually mothers taking the strain. But there’s a lot of down time in raising children and a lot of more trivial routine, etc. But that’s life isn’t it, things do have to get done – the necessities of life of life must be done by someone i.e. caring, cooking, cleaning, buying food, sorting things out, even just ‘being there’. The domestic things. And that puts whoever does that in a vulnerable position. So here’s a thought. Value these things too. Old girl networks are just as bad as old boy networks – exclusive, maybe sometimes even bullying to some degree, often looking down on others whether deliberate or not. So. Don’t look down on carers, cleaners, mothers, etc. And do, all you kick-ass women and decent chaps out there, use your prodigious skills to enable education and skills training at any stage of life, so that no matter what ‘break’ taken from the world of education and work, and for whatever reason, anyone, especially those who take time out to care, can get back in the saddle, retrain (or refresh) and do something different (other than be vulnerable) when the time is right again. And then, hopefully, we can bring up kind, trustworthy, moral and compassionate future members of society.

Paige M
Paige M
1 year ago
Reply to  F K

Brilliantly stated. Thank you

Rob Nock
Rob Nock
1 year ago
Reply to  F K

You are quite right about the lack of value given by most to the fundamental jobs/chores of life. But it is not just limited to ‘woman’s’ work.

It is ridiculous to me that people complain about the cost of food but go out to a restaurant. Or think ÂŁ150 is too much to pay a dentist for sorting out the pain in our teeth we have damaged with sweets etc yet don’t hesitate to pay the same for a ‘good night out’.

As a society we have got completely messed up, and Govt taking over the most important issues such as health, education etc and providing them for ‘free’ has hugely contributed.

Saul D
Saul D
1 year ago

The current en vogue is, of course, for women not to have children, creating a Darwinian curse that many of the smartest females are opting out of passing on their genes for future generations.

Brett H
Brett H
1 year ago
Reply to  Saul D

That doesn’t make sense. The ones that opt out of having children are smarter than the ones who do?

Julian Farrows
Julian Farrows
1 year ago
Reply to  Brett H

Rather, the more educated. The two don’t always correlate.

Martin Johnson
Martin Johnson
1 year ago
Reply to  Julian Farrows

Not “more educated,” rather “more credentialed.” Those two don’t correlate, either.

Will Rolf
Will Rolf
1 year ago
Reply to  Brett H

It is the higher IQ individuals who tend to opt out of parenthood or limit themselves to one child while those with lower IQ tend to have many children.

Brett H
Brett H
1 year ago
Reply to  Will Rolf

A high IQ doesn’t mean smart. Opting out of passing on their genes? If it’s high IQs opting out of having children then those genes are, in a Darwinian sense, useless, because they create a dead end. So much for high IQs.
Something else that occurs to me. The women with high IQs would be the women in professional occupations and most likely a degree behind them. These are people who are more likely to take an IQ test than the young women who become mothers. There would need to be some real solid research to prove that women with low IQs are more likely to have children. How would they know what their IQs are if they rarely take IQ tests?

Last edited 1 year ago by Brett H
Michael McElwee
Michael McElwee
1 year ago
Reply to  Brett H

I wonder if it isn’t rather this: That those with a high IQ are also those who see too much. Like, for example, the dead end the modern world has become. It becomes increasingly apparent that suicide is the only answer. This is hardly an inspiration to bring more children into the world. It is enough to make a person long for a thick scull.

Douglas McNeish
Douglas McNeish
1 year ago

The logical conclusion of the feminist assertion that power determines gender relations, is that pregnancy must have been an invention of the patriarchy to oppress women, by saddling them with gestation and child rearing in order to preserve the best positions in society for men.

Brett H
Brett H
1 year ago

Someone said you were one of the better writers here, Mary Harrington. Keep it up.

Ian Stewart
Ian Stewart
1 year ago
Reply to  Brett H

Though she thinks it’s insanity to support Ukraine. Her human rights beliefs have rather self serving boundaries.

Bernard Hill
Bernard Hill
1 year ago
Reply to  Ian Stewart

Mary strikes me as someone who has values rather than beliefs as such Ian. Which is what makes her so engaging, at least for me.
As for human rights ideology, and the corrupt industry built around it, its death throes are under way already thankfully.

John 0
John 0
1 year ago

For those who want to delve further, there was also an article in quillette which links to research:
https://quillette.com/2022/09/01/the-ideological-refusal-to-acknowledge-evolved-sex-differences/

Bernard Hill
Bernard Hill
1 year ago

Truss me, I say Mary rather than Liz any day.

Last edited 1 year ago by Bernard Hill
John Riordan
John Riordan
1 year ago

 But you can’t pursue “equality”, “progress” and “freedom” to their logical ends, without making men and women functionally interchangeable.”

While I agree with the generality of the article, this part is not correct. There is a logical end to the pursuit of such things that recognises that there are essential immutable differences between the sexes that mean that they cannot in fact ever be functionally interchangeable.

And in fact logic also dictates that while we can pursue freedom at a fundamentalist level, that does not and cannot mean that everyone is free to do anything conceivable: eg you’re not free in any useful sense if you can be killed for possession of something someone else wants, and you aren’t free to own property if others can simply take it from you without consequence.

Similarly, the principle of equality is logically incapable of equalising the unequal distribution of luck and personal resources that the chaos of nature makes inevitable. It can draw boundaries around the extent to which society may tolerate the consequences of this, but it cannot undo the fact of natural inequality.

As for progress, whatever logical limits there may be to it, the fact that the Left has hijacked it to mean anything it wants has destroyed any hope of describing it in a coherent and useful form. Progress takes place in spite of the best efforts of Progressives, not because of them.

Brett H
Brett H
1 year ago
Reply to  John Riordan

“While I agree with the generality of the article, this part is not correct.”
Of course it’s not correct. It was my impression that Harrington was making that point.

Paige M
Paige M
1 year ago
Reply to  Brett H

She was.

Dominic A
Dominic A
1 year ago

So if maternal instincts are a myth constructed by, harumph, men, are paternal instincts to protect and provide a myth invented by, moan, women?

And wtf us happening to Pulitzer – they seem to hand the prizes out to jaw droppingly shoddy work – journalists who can’t be bothered or respectful enough to do the real work (eg 2 Ibrahim Kendy)

Nigel Burrage
Nigel Burrage
1 year ago

Go to a Baby a shower observe most not all but most of the women will express emotions towards the baby that most men would recognise as the feelings that they have towards women to find women cute sm8all noses and big eyes , it’s called neotany the more child like the more attractive .

women instinctively know to emphasise the size of their eyes with eyeliner, shadow etc I know nothing about make up ladies I am just a simple male but from where I am sitting as I type these words I can see in a display cabinet on my wall some of my metal detecting finds amongst which is a bronze age woad grinder the chanel of the bronze age its a
Posh one gilded with gold a high status woman would have carried around with her she may have needed a quick tidy up before an executive meeting,.the woad grinder is dated between 3500years and 4000 years old you Ladies have been doing this make up game for a year or to !!

Mothers are the lifeblood of humanity our ancestors would have known that visibly women would have ten to twelve children each and 5 ochildren’s children would have died before reaching the age of 5years old . The wo,en of the past were far far far stronger than the oxbridge educated empowered women who today take on the high pressure stuff like manspreading !

I predict we are in for a nasty shock. I predict that a rising population can largely be ignored other than providing more provisions. However a falling population requires alot of managing as you enter generations that cease work and don’t have enough workers to support the bigger elderly and infirm . Demography is a bigger issue than most of us think , we are going to be caught with our pants down !!
I came across a medal that I liked I have some of my relatives medals but I have never been into collecting them , but in a shop in Amsterdam I came across this white blue and gold medal with a swastika at the centre, I bought it ! This medal is agold medal , there are silver and bronze to . The medal is a Mother’s medal or more precisely the Mothers Cross this one had been awarded to a German woman who had given birth to 12 children it was presented to the lady by Mein Fuhrer himself in person to show his appreciation for the woman’s efforts which he described as the single most important job in the Fatherland nobody gets everything wrong.

I was told a few years ago that the contraceptive pill affected women’s sense of smell whilst being taken this was significant because subconsciously both sexes check smell of each other to ensure any off spring have compatible immunesystems , unfortunately the pills affect on women’s smell leads to women picking the wrong partner and this is a significant factor in the rise of autoimmune conditions as well as divorce as if the woman stops taking the Pill her smell returns and her partner will not smell good to her and subconsciously her biology will want an immune system compatible partner..

Last edited 1 year ago by Nigel Burrage
Brett H
Brett H
1 year ago
Reply to  Nigel Burrage

“unfortunately the pills affect on women’s smell leads to women picking the wrong partner”
What about the people who chose the right partner? 

Marco Furlano
Marco Furlano
1 year ago

If you keep young girls from playing with dolls, you don’t allow them to learn mothering skills by observation and imitation. It is certainly not necessary to play with dolls in order to become a mother, but it may help increase acceptance of motherhood. So no wonder then that “the New York Times, [wants] to denaturalise motherhood” once those girls become adult.
There are complexities to mothering such as breastfeeding, how to react to baby’s cries, how to clean it, how to reassure it and later how to educate it. These skills have partly to be learned and partly are given by nature. When the baby cries intensely often the milk comes running by itself yet the mother and the baby need to know how to position themselves for breastfeeding. There is a complex interlinking between nature and nurture. There is no way to separate them.

Last edited 1 year ago by Marco Furlano
Adam Bartlett
Adam Bartlett
1 year ago

“But experience should have taught us by now that making something “inclusive”, that was previously ringfenced, is tantamount to abolishing it.” Gem of a sentence, so true and hard hitting,especially to someone with progressive & inclusive leanings. Rest of the article excellent too.

Paige M
Paige M
1 year ago

I’m trying to pinpoint the era, maybe not the exact year, but the timeframe where feminism ceased to be relevant anymore? Where did it all go awry and how to save it from itself. What is worth saving at this point?

Last edited 1 year ago by Paige M
Peter B
Peter B
1 year ago

The Left has far more than “Mummy issues”. Principal among these is the puerile desire to stick labels on everything and try to put people into groups which can then be manipulated against each other.
I seriously wonder why anyone bothers with these labels any more. All they do is create division and infighting. Which I suspect is the main intent. Why don’t we just bin the term “feminism” now ? And indeed any term for which there is no agreed definition (“fascist” being the most notorious one – there’s almost a rule that anyone who uses this doesn’t actually know what it means). I’d bin “equalities” too.
Mary will doubtless be able to give me a clear definition of feminism. But I sense that even she is a little confused – is it supposed to be about equality ? Or something else ? Or equality only in certain situations ?
Bin the labels. Go back to first principles of what people realistically need. And then consider wants if time and resources permit. The West is wasting a massive amount of time and money on secondary (at best) issues, while real problems continue to be ignored.

Ludwig van Earwig
Ludwig van Earwig
1 year ago

More fearless clear thinking from Mary H. I’d feel like I was taking my life in my hands if I tried saying the same to my ever-so-progressive workmates.

Alex Tickell
Alex Tickell
1 year ago

Couldn’t agree more….You’re some woman Mary!!

Christopher Barclay
Christopher Barclay
1 year ago

Anyone would think that mothers carry their babies in their own bodies.

Alex Tickell
Alex Tickell
1 year ago

The problem is encapsulated in the second paragraph. We should not be pursuing “Equality, progress and freedom” to their logical ends, therein lies madness and chaos.
Women today are desperately seeking a purpose after the childbearing years and that search has been bolstered by media, now becoming something destructive of humanity.
Men are now the villains, at fault for all the ills which afflict middle aged women, who feel quite rightly that they have had the heaviest burden in life, through menstruation, child bearing and limited chances of having a successful career. Of course all the positive aspects of femininity and motherhood have been over the last few decades been beaten out of them by their so called friends on the left.
The search for Equality and Freedom has reached a dead end and has become a tool to dismantle any remaining traditional family values.

M. Jamieson
M. Jamieson
1 year ago

Harrington rightly highlights how the tendency to reduce motherhood and biologically based sex differences down to the bare minimum has contributed to a cultural landscape where “being a woman” is down to what you wear and your pronouns. While it’s a terribly destructive ideology it’s enlivened the debate within feminism which is a good thing.

One thing that strikes me is how often what is best for infants is left out of the discussion entirely. “Doing the work” to make any family arrangement equivalent may produce a “similar” experience for the new parents, but it is certainly not the same for the baby that has lost his or her mother.

R Wright
R Wright
1 year ago

“You know the answer. We all know which way round this usually works.”
Sorry Ms Harrington. I had to stop reading in the second paragraph. Over 70% of divorces are begun by women. Women are far more responsible for relationship breakdowns than men ever were.

Last edited 1 year ago by robertdkwright
Linda Hutchinson
Linda Hutchinson
1 year ago
Reply to  R Wright

As always, one needs to look into statistics. I don’t know much about this particular figure, but I would start by asking the question – is she intiating a devorce from a man who has walked out on her? As I say, I don’t know, but no statistic stands alone and uncontextalised.

Brett H
Brett H
1 year ago
Reply to  R Wright

I don’t know if that figure is correct, you don’t cite any evidence. But if a man walks out on a woman then it’s quite likely she will begin the process of divorce, don’t you think?
And I can’t see what your comment has to do with the article.

Last edited 1 year ago by Brett H
Rob Nock
Rob Nock
1 year ago
Reply to  R Wright

Your statistics may be right but even if women do initiate 70% of divorces does not mean that they are responsible for the relationship breakdown. It takes 2.

Cathy Carron
Cathy Carron
1 year ago
Reply to  R Wright

I wouldn’t say that women ‘are far more responsible for relationship breakdowns’ per se but your 70% stat for the final decision, ie separation or divorce is correct. That said, women are also the ones who pick a mate; Men need to wait to be ‘picked’.

Last edited 1 year ago by Cathy Carron
Steve Murray
Steve Murray
1 year ago
Reply to  Cathy Carron

I agree about your basic point, but can’t help referring to the old saying “he chased her till she caught him”.
If males just “waited”, there’d be no chasing!

William Shaw
William Shaw
1 year ago
Reply to  Cathy Carron

Women control access to sex, men control access to committed relationships.

M. Jamieson
M. Jamieson
1 year ago
Reply to  R Wright

She wasn’t talking about who initiates legal divorce, but who is more likely to walk out on the family to be with a new partner.

William Shaw
William Shaw
1 year ago

Equality of the sexes will only be achieved once the artificial womb is perfected. At that point there will no longer be a gestational parent.
The technology is being developed and will make possible huge advances in animal breeding. Extension to humans will inevitably be delayed by ethical concerns but eventually these will be overcome, in part because of rapidly shrinking populations in developed countries.
At some point in the future the average human will be totally repulsed by the idea that babies once developed within human females.

Last edited 1 year ago by William Shaw
Alex Tickell
Alex Tickell
1 year ago
Reply to  William Shaw

As I said “therein lies madness and chaos” I fear your thoughts may one day be reality, but in all honestly I cannot see humanity surviving for many more decades, we have destroyed all that was good and fine, Freedom and Equality are meaningless concepts.

Ian Stewart
Ian Stewart
1 year ago

So Mary Harrington, who argued earlier this week about the insanity of supporting abstract concepts such as Ukrainian self determination, argues now for supporting the abstract concept of feminism.

Mary, why should we worry about feminist rights if you think we shouldn’t worry about people’s rights generally?

This contrast in attitude of the same journalist really confirms the arguments of other commenters on Unherd, that feminists only care about human rights and equality when it affects them.

Rob Nock
Rob Nock
1 year ago

While agreeing with the thrust of this article I still don’t see why anyone should get, by law, special treatment for something they decided to do. Why should other people be forced to pay for me, or a mother, to have time off work to care for her baby. Her choice, her responsibility.

Lindsay S
Lindsay S
1 year ago
Reply to  Rob Nock

Whilst I agree to a degree, there is a huge social benefit for children spending as much time as possible with mother than being placed directly into the care of, mentioned above, day care and nurseries. Personally I would go as far as saying that a stay at home parent for the majority of a child’s formative years is preferable for society but, unfortunately, feminism has made that wholly unlikely.

Rob Nock
Rob Nock
1 year ago
Reply to  Lindsay S

Fully agree.

Richard Slack
Richard Slack
1 year ago
Reply to  Lindsay S

I doubt if feminism, however defined, is the villain you are looking for. It is a simple matter of economics for most families.

Linda Hutchinson
Linda Hutchinson
1 year ago
Reply to  Rob Nock

I have no children myself, but I’m more than happy to finance those who spend their lives raising the next generation; I would even be willing to have an hypothecated tax for this reason. I have always thought, and seen from anecdotal evidenc, that children need their mothers in their first years. There will always be an argument that this encourages dissolute young women to have lots of babies, but I think having lots of babies and having to look after them would be too much for such women. The other, serious, argument is that this would be the government being involved in that most private of activities, bring-up your child; this would have to be carefully watched.

Rob Nock
Rob Nock
1 year ago

That is generous of you, and therefore probably society’s loss that you don’t have children, but that still does not make it right that others are forced to contribute to other people’s child raising.

Lennon Ó Náraigh
Lennon Ó Náraigh
1 year ago
Reply to  Rob Nock

I had this conversation before with a colleague, and I even recalled it here on Unherd. The colleague (no kids) resented having to pay taxes for education, maternal health care etc. Well, I hope he never has kids of his own, that will be embarrassing for him. Still, I asked him, would he like to work in an organization that never replaced retiring staff, leaving more work to do for the employees who remained? He said no, and he agreed that yes, an organization should recruit new staff from time to time. I asked him, should the organization pay for proper training for these new staff, or should they be left clueless on the job, leaving more work for the more experienced employees. He was in favour of proper training. I asked him, should more experienced colleagues mentor new staff, and help them develop in their careers. He said yes, they should, and that he himself had benefited from such informal mentoring. I pointed out that these initiatives cost the organization money, money that could otherwise be spent on higher salaries. He said that he wanted to work long-term in the organization, and that if they weren’t investing in the future, he wouldn’t have a future himself in the job. Then I pointed out the similarities between the organization and a state. He said no more.

Paige M
Paige M
1 year ago
Reply to  Rob Nock

It’s like saying why should I pay property taxes to fund public schools if I don’t have children? Because you live in a society and certain institutions lead to better societies. Our entire economic system of growth is dependent on the next generation coming up and taking the reins, so to speak. The feminist assault on motherhood is bad for everyone. It might work at the individual level but at scale it’s catastrophic. Rapid population decline will be the main demographic force we are all razor focused on at the end of this decade. Killing off the notion of ‘the mother’ was a very bad idea.

Last edited 1 year ago by Paige M
Marcella Bixler
Marcella Bixler
1 year ago
Reply to  Paige M

I agree with your point about the social value of funding schools and care of children because that is part of our duty to each other as a society and community. But it’s not feminisms fault that this anti-mother idea is here. I am a feminist and a mother and I want our society to better support children and families.

Paige M
Paige M
1 year ago

Respectfully, I disagree. I don’t think it was the ultimate intention of early feminism but as the revolution has evolved and morphed over the years the movement is extremely anti-mother now. Their is zero value or status available to a Western women who actively chooses the role of raising her children over a career. Now a lot of this is economically driven, but there is not one female born after 1980 in the West that would have been lauded for being a mother. Case in point, “What do you do for a living?” Oh I’m a mother

see how that lands? It doesn’t. You are a sell out and a non-entity if you haven’t fostered an external paying life outside the home. We have relegated the family to the level of hobby and required women to be all things to all people. Modern feminism is a trap.

M. Jamieson
M. Jamieson
1 year ago
Reply to  Rob Nock

Because you obtains the benefits of society.
Just try going out into the world and surviving without any young people coming up behind you.