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Salvo 12.05.2022 6 minutes

Thwarted Mommy Brain

Terrified young woman sit on floor with shadow of grabbing hands as a threat

Exploring the Democrats’ chokehold on modern women.

When my eldest daughter was a newborn, an off-duty, wildly intoxicated nurse at a Christmas party put her unwashed fingers into the infant’s mouth to “check for teeth.” Shocked, I pulled the infant away, feeling at once my heart rate quickening, blood rushing to my head, and the tips of my fingers tingling as an animalistic urge to gouge the woman’s eyes out filled my body. 

At any other point in my life, if someone had abruptly touched my face at a party, I would have probably thought it was weird but rationalized the moment as some sort of drunken accident. But having entered into a more maternal kind of thinking that favors real life over abstractions, I intuited that the boundary, despite being left unsaid and absent any flimsy credentialist excuse, was both obvious and non-arbitrary. My baby was extremely delicate and sensitive to potentially lethal foreign viruses. Moreover, we both knew she was too young to be “checked for teeth.” The so-called healthcare hero’s hunger for attention factored into the equation, indicating that some other advantage—social currency or the cheap satisfaction of raw personal domination—was to be gained through the performance.

The woman’s violation required the institution of preventative measures, of new and firmly uncrossable lines for the good of my posterity. That ultimate good was soon made clear when, months later, the woman and her husband found themselves in legal trouble for another failure to respect someone else’s boundaries. 

The Feminine Soul

Mommy Brain: I’ll use this as a shorthand for what philosopher-saint Edith Stein identifies as women’s “natural maternal yearning”; the inborn feminine genius that seeks to protect and cultivate vulnerable things and people, bringing them to the fullness of life. Whether women are biological mothers or not, this inclination can express itself in a million beautiful ways. Beyond physically observable sex characteristics, it is actually what makes women, women. It is the fundamental reality and beauty of the female soul.

Personally and politically, Mommy Brain sees the friend-enemy distinction through an implicit categorization of people in the world: there are those who need protection and support and those who threaten the vulnerable. Mommy Brain causes women to intuitively and vehemently enforce boundaries between these groups as if a baby’s life depends on it, because, fundamentally, it does. To say that Mommy Brain is irrational is a needless denigration, untrue in the implication that it is devoid of reason. But the emotional valence of the feminine protective instinct is indeed pre-rational—primordial—and often overwhelming. In all its instinct and intensity, Mommy Brain is the sort of thing that could be considered a virtue provided a properly ordered worldview.

In my case, Relational Mommy Brain knew immediately what Strictly Individual Rational Brain would have required more data to deduce: people who treat the boundaries of civility like invitations deserve to be ostracized.

Mommy Brain in Clown World

So what happens to Mommy Brain in a world where, for a swelling subset of women, that natural maternal yearning fails to find its proper outlet? Where the very concept of womanhood is flattened to the mere performance of seduction? Where the vocation of motherhood, physical and spiritual, is regarded in the popular narrative as an exorbitant cost of conformity to the spirit of a bygone era of oppression? Where the expectations for women from an early age are to think, talk, behave, and achieve like their male peers? In this world, does the authentically feminine worldview completely disintegrate? 

Perhaps in the same way that the particularly masculine urges to pursue and provide for women are thwarted by the modern ease of access to pornography (among other things), women too find an inappropriate simulacra of a pressure release valve for their frustrated impulses. Like OnlyFans simps seeking “the girlfriend experience,” thwarted Mommy Brain causes women to sublimate their feminine instincts, finding a socially acceptable object to nurture and protect as if it were an infant, even when it isn’t.

No one acts like this is truer than the very people who would outwardly deny it on the grounds of “gender essentialism.” With each news cycle, Democrats anoint a new icon of vulnerability, a new figurative baby for their predominantly female supporters to coddle: a fundamentally disordered application of the logic of maternal care that is, to their advantage, addictively emotionally gratifying.

Examples abound. Abortion campaigns make “babies” of babykillers, relying on the specter of underage victims of rape and incest to distract from the fact that the procedure ends another, even more vulnerable, burgeoning human life. “Criminal justice reform,” as it is euphemistically known, relies on the image of the wrongfully accused black man, complete with all attendant historical baggage, as a spotless victim of the system in order to justify the release of rapists and murderers of all colors onto our increasingly violent streets. CNN runs cover for the fact that most illegal immigrants are fighting-age, disproportionately sexually aggressive males when they cry about kids in cages, insisting on open borders as illegals flood increasingly unrecognizable American cities. Groomer-activists lobbying for the inclusion of pornography in public school libraries rely on an imaginary victim distilled from two narratives: general discrimination against gays and the book-burning of Nazis.

This is the game: step one, craft a victim; step two, imbue his cause with the burden of transhistorical injustice; step three, watch as women who would be disparaged for expressing such passions for their own family flock to defend him. (Step four: profit.)

The intersectional victimhood hierarchy relies heavily on thwarted Mommy Brain to believe and enforce its logic. It makes a social anathema of anyone who challenges the status of whomever the viral Instagram Infographic swarm has defined that day as Prince Baby, Duke of Victimhood. With marriage and fertility rates moving ceaselessly in the wrong direction, what can be done to stem the tide of this pathologically misdirected devotion? 

By rebutting the bad logic of leftism, might women be convinced? Some may. While the status of victimhood has never enjoyed such unearned, unquestionable authority, I’m not sure questioning this metapolitical reality will land for most people, let alone most women. Denial of the political utility of “vulnerability” will most likely be taken as a denial of the baseline reality of vulnerability, a false denial that cuts against our most basic instincts. But Mommy Brain pertains to the real. So instead of abstract deconstructions of the term, what if conservatives instead re-anointed the true victims of culture and policy as such? The question is: how do we make reality real again? That could mean conservatives overcome their self-hatred and give Mollie Tibbett’s story as much coverage as George Floyd’s. Of course, this is nearly impossible with media being what it is.

Ultimately, the cure for this sort of disordered thinking, emanating from the popular perversion of womanhood, is to get away from the popular stuff entirely, namely, the manufactured narratives and worldviews impressed upon all consumers of media. The answer for remediating this sickness of the soul which has hardened women’s hearts to their families while opening their minds to all sorts of unrelated garbage, is to dive into one’s real life. It is to lean out of any and everything that alienates the mind from the body. Opting out of mainstream narratives—on politics, career, sex, you name it—is not just a good option for women from the objective political stance, but it would also liberate us to simply be ourselves.

The American Mind presents a range of perspectives. Views are writers’ own and do not necessarily represent those of The Claremont Institute.

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