Skip to main content


Maternal instinct is no myth

Phoebe in Friends: enjoying that sweet, sweet oxytocin

Assiduous egalitarians at The New York Times have been peddling a new theory, says Mary Harrington in UnHerd: maternal instinct is a “chauvinist myth” designed to oppress women. Motherhood, they write, is akin to psychological torture and betrays the Leftist commitment to “absolute equality”. It’s nonsense. Even the studies they cite as evidence only go as far as saying that fully engaged fathers “may” experience “similar” biological effects as gestational mothers. Besides, just look at other animals: female field birds will let a tractor roll over them before leaving their eggs; cows bellow when calves are taken away. Anyone “can see there’s something there” – something more inbuilt than “male-chauvinist propaganda”.

Pregnancy transforms women’s brains in “distinctive ways”. Mothers are more sensitive to babies’ cries and better at distinguishing their distress. The hormonal changes that new mothers experience, in particular the flood of oxytocin, are unlike anything you see in anyone else at any time. Of course, being dictated to by biology is “anathema to a modern liberal”. So long as we face constraints from doing exactly what we want – even biologically inevitable ones – “someone is bound to be oppressed”. But they can’t have it both ways: demand time off and special provisions for child-bearing women, while claiming at the same time there’s “nothing distinctive” about being the gestational parent. Ultra-liberals should realise they’re attacking the logic underpinning vital services for women, and question “how feminist that actually is”.