“I don’t know nuthin’ ’bout birthin’ no babies!” TV/Film Myth #5 about Women

All women have maternal instincts.

First of all, if you’re one of those people who actually sincerely believe that, I have a public service announcement: for the sake of all that’s holy, people, do not trust your children to just any animal on two legs possessing two X-chromosomes. Humans don’t have genetic memory, folks. Neither women nor men are born with the knowledge that babies can choke and die on peanuts.

Nor do women know squat about childbirth until they’ve done it or seen a video or had it explained. We’re as in the dark as guys on that one. If you’re a guy, imagine someone explaining to you that it’s perfectly natural for you to experience a ten-pound person squeezing up your throat and out of your mouth. Now you know how we girls feel the first time someone tells us that our bodies are designed for one of those to come out of that.

Whatever instincts humans may have had at some point, they’ve been bred out of us by our multiple fork top of the foodchain lifestyle. Sure, some people seem to have a knack for dealing with babies and kids. And some people have a knack for singing, or fixing cars. That’s not instinct, that’s talent. And it’s not gender specific.

In recent years, we have finally seen a few examples of women who haven’t the first clue what to do with a kid. I remember an episode of Roseanne in which someone handed a baby to the teenage daughter, Darlene, in a way that suggested Darlene would know what to do with it. If I remember correctly, Darlene’s boyfriend had to tell her how to hold the kid comfortably, and Darlene just grimaced through the whole scene until she was able to pawn the little bundle of joy off onto somebody else. Another example comes from Stargate SG-1 (from before Sam got turned into a walking stereotype). A traumatized little girl latched onto Sam because she looked like the girl’s mother, and Sam’s lack of familiarity in the Ways of Kids was accutely apparent. (Ironically, probably any of the lead males would have been better suited to the task.)

Examples like these are becoming more common, and so long as the female character in question doesn’t suddenly develop maternal instincts as soon as she gives birth, we may be in business. But what we still only rarely see in TV or film is a male character with an exceptional knack for parenting. In reality, there are a lot of them out there, and it’s a pity they’re underrepresented.

But that’s what happens in an unbalanced society. Eventually everyone loses.


  1. Gategrrl says

    Oh, and don’t forget that episode (again, at the beginning of the series) where there’s a pregnant woman about to give birth in a temple, and Jack looks at HER to help the woman out — but instead, it turns out to be *Daniel* who knows how to midwife. Again, at that point, it was to emphasize that Carter really didn’t know a fig about “being a woman” because that wasn’t her Thing: she loved science, and didn’t care much about anything else, or know much about anything else.

  2. Jennifer Kesler says

    That’s a great example! I forgot all about that one.

    Ah, that show really used to turn stereotypes on their heads from time to time. No wonder people got angry instead of just walking away, when it changed.

  3. scarlett says

    Ugh, reminds me of the bit at the begining of the third season of BsG where Starbuck goes from having no interest in a little girl’s welfare to deeply attached to her in the space of an episode. Now, I would have gotten a basic human instinct for an adult to keep an eye out for a child, but for a woman to suddenly develop all these mothering feelings is just tripe.

  4. SunlessNick says

    Alongside Gategrrl’s point, Jack tends to be the one to go gooey over kids (though they include a past trauma to explain it). I’m thinking particularly of the one with that society that uses nano implanted in kids to learn with. Jack’s the one who blows up at what he perceives as child abuse, and – against orders – takes a girl out with him so she gets a day of proper childhood.

  5. Jennifer Kesler says

    OMG, Nick, you just made me overcome my bitterness about S9 and love Stargate again for a moment.

    That was a great dynamic between them in that episode. Not only did it invoke Jack’s passion for kids, but also his background in search and rescue. Rather than being a rescuer of people in distress because that’s what action leads do, it really felt like he had chosen that path because he cared about saving people.

    Until he became a clown in S8, but we won’t dwell on that. *sigh*

  6. scarlett says

    Oooh, I LOVED that episode. Beta, you could do like me, and pretend that seasons 6-10 never existed :p Nope, the series ends with that episode after Daniel dies :p

  7. Gategrrl says

    I cut the line with SG1 at the end of season six, although season five might be a good endline, too: I didn’t particularly care for the death of an entire people/Daniel’s family. Season six was the last season there was any cogent, intelligible story-telling in the scripts that stuck to the characters. And even then, the shapes of the characters were more and more tenuous.

  8. scarlett says

    I can’t stand Jonas. I found he just didn’t gel with the rest of the cast. And I loved Daniel so season five works good for me as an endline. And I actualy liked the end of s5 if it’s teh one I’m talking about – with three of them walking through the compound with a breeze which may or may not have been Daniel.

  9. says

    S6 had some damn good scripts. It was like the writers realized they were on shaky ground having lost Shanks, so they decided to cut a few holes off the ol’ golf game and do some actual writing. My usual response to those scripts is “Wow, this would’ve been so cool with Daniel instead of Jonas,” but still.

    I didn’t hate Jonas – I just thought they set him up very poorly and then got bored and stopped writing for him as soon as Abyss went so well and it looked like Shanks might come back.

    I don’t know where I cut the show off. S7 had some good stories, too, but I kinda pick and choose my canon from the beginning of S4 on.

  10. SunlessNick says

    The problem I had with Jonas was that he was very clearly written to fill Daniel’s niche – and Daniel isn’t a niche. Time was that Sam and Jack weren’t either.

  11. scarlett says

    I think that’s why I couldn’t stand Jonas. Right from introducing Jonas in the same episode where Daniel ‘died’ they set him up to be a replacement and he never gelled with me as a ‘real’ character.

    Abyss was the one where Jack was trapped by Baal and Daniel came to him? I really enjoyed that episode (it was actually the first one I saw, years and years ago, long before I became a fan – I just crashed a boy’s SG1 night) and the one where Teal’c was flipping between two realities, I think it was called the Changeling. They happen to the the two Shanks appeared in but I liked them because it have us insights into their phsycies.

    All the seasons 6-10 have episodes I liked but nothing I would bother buying the box set for… or even renting a single disc when I could rent a disc from a season where I liked ALL the episodes.

  12. Salla says

    I’ve been re-reading these myths about women and they really reinforce why the analysis of pop culture is so important. The myths promoted by media remake history and inform the idea of who people are. And this idea of automatic maternal instinct and gotta have weddings and babies always forgets to mention what happens after. I know so many people both men and women who just assume that kids are inevitable and that if you don’t want any you’re just fooling yourself. The thing is though that most of them (including my parents actually so I might be a little extra pissed off about this particular myth) don’t bother to think of what happens besides cute babies. The saying would you rather have a million dollars or a kid isn’t really much of an exaggeration and it is something that you have to be dedicated to and care about for the rest of your and their lives.
    This comment went a little long and ramble-ly sorry.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *