Why the Myth of “Maternal Instinct” is Hurting Gender Equality


“When I change diapers, I almost get sick,” my cousin said. “My wife just doesn’t have that problem. Women are built to be the ones to handle those things.” Fairly sure that I was staring in contempt, he doubled down on his comment, “I mean, it’s maternal instinct. You can’t argue with that!”

Little did he know that I can (and will) argue with that! And so does science. It turns out that “maternal instinct” is really nothing more than a myth. And this myth does more harm than good for gender equality, and how people understand motherhood and fatherhood.

How the Myth of Maternal Instinct is Hurting Gender Equality

Let’s start with the term “instinct.” Psychologists initially laid down the basics of what determines an instinct.

  • Automatic
  • Irresistible
  • Triggered by environment
  • Occurs at a specific time during development
  • Not trained
  • Occurs in all members…

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