Now that feminism, hoist by its own petard of social constructionism, is on the ropes and being pummeled by ruthlessly aggressive men in frocks wearing a simple chain of pearls, it’s easy to feel a little sympathy for feminists. But then you see an example of old school feminism in its purest form, the same argument you’ve heard a million times before … From the New York Times opinion section:
By Chelsea Conaboy
Ms. Conaboy is a journalist specializing in health and the author of the forthcoming book “Mother Brain: How Neuroscience Is Rewriting the Story of Parenthood,” from which this essay has been adapted.
Aug. 26, 2022
Around the time that Mimi Niles became a mother, an upstairs neighbor in her New York City apartment building had twins. When the two women ran into each other in the hallway or on the sidewalk, Ms. Niles would ask the neighbor how she was faring.
“Fabulous,” Ms. Niles remembered her saying. “I’m so happy.”
Ms. Niles was dumbfounded. She was not feeling fabulous in new motherhood. She was exhausted and anxious. She slept little and cried a lot. Even as she worked to bond with her daughter through co-sleeping and baby-wearing, she struggled to understand what the baby needed.
But Ms. Niles soon discovered that there was little room for that struggle within the prevailing narrative of motherhood, or even in her conversations with other parents.
All around her swirled near-rapturous descriptions of the joys of new motherhood. They all celebrated the same thing — the woman who is able to instantly intuit and satisfy her baby’s every need, and to do it all on her own.
Ms. Niles, who is now a midwife and researcher, wondered what was going on. Of course, she was aware of the “baby blues” and knew women who suffered from postpartum depression, but what she took issue with was something more fundamental, about how our culture approaches motherhood. Where did the idea that motherhood is hard-wired for women come from? Is there a man behind the curtain?
In a sense, there is a man behind the curtain. Many of them, actually.
Charles Darwin, etc.
In truth, the basic reality is that women differ across a probability distribution, with most quite maternal, some extremely maternal, and some not terribly maternal.
But, women tend toward conformism — they just want to be like all the other women and all the other women to be like them — so they aren’t comfortable with this diversity among women.
The not very maternal ones who want to be leaders of women have a simple all-purpose explanation for why other women don’t feel like them: they’ve been GASLIGHTED by men. It’s the fault of men that you like babies. Women are UNITED, except when they are brainwashed by the Patriarchy. Instead, you should be like me, your natural leader.
That’s it. That’s feminism in a nutshell.
I can recall driving through Yosemite Valley in the 1960s when I was about seven. We see a huge number of cars pulled over on one side of the road. We follow the motorists into the woods, where about 100 people have encircled a cute baby bear cub all by his lonesome. My dad grabs me by the collar and drags me back to the car and we drive away.
My father didn’t know that mother bears’ maternal instinct was just a male conspiracy.