Dr. Tara Palmatier uses the term “Golden Uterus” in describing one kind of High Conflict Personality woman in relationships with the men she counsels, but the term applies to a wide range of behaviors and cultural conventions. That’s why it’s so useful – these behaviors and cultural conventions are so accepted and so fundamental that they didn’t have a name until she or whoever came up with this one. How fundamental? Motherhood is the basis for whole religious systems that have endured for millennia, like this one and this one and this one, not to mention this one. On that last one, look at her antecedent form – another goddess associated with snakes! The “Golden Uterus” is a perversion of all this.
The term “Golden Uterus” does not apply to the majority of mothers, the ones who raise their children with the children’s growth as their guiding principles, the mothers who gauge their success and worth as mothers by how well they wean their children, not by how tightly they cling to them and fuss over them and feed off them – you know, the mothers who want their kids to grow into healthy adults. This post isn’t about them. In fact this article aims to defend them. It points out how the Golden Uterus is a perversion and a distortion of real motherhood.
Dr. Palmatier lists the traits of a Golden Uterus. Basically they cluster under two main principles. The first principle is that the child has no existence separate from the Golden Uterus (Tender Years Doctrine). This means the Golden Uterus is the only valid parent of the child; all others, especially the father, are just adjuncts to be used instrumentally (Mommy-blocking). The child is Her possession. She respects none of the child’s boundaries. The second principle is expressed in a group of traits and behaviors that support and reinforce the first principle. Just as Her child is Her inalienable possession, so is the child’s father. Her parenthood is unique and takes precedence over everyone else’s, especially an ex-husband’s parental responsibility to his other children. She is the ultimate authority on everything to do with Her children and since Her children are unique in the universe, central in fact, She is the ultimate authority on all children and parenthood (Mother of Us All). Her feelings, Her insights, Her pronouncements, Her requirements are sacrosanct and beyond any question or criticism (Expert on Parenting, Paternity Fraud). Any criticism of them cannot be valid, it can only be an attack, a personal attack on Her, and therefore on Her children and by extension all children. To question anything She says means you hate Her children and all others, and wish them harm (Deflecting Criticism).
You think this is a parody? Start reading threads on fathers’ rights, paternity fraud, circumcision, child custody and child support, bias in the family courts, maternal gatekeeping and reflexive suspicion of fathers – anything at all to do with parenting. Those threads are lousy with this kind of thinking.
The Tender Years Doctrine – The Tender Years Doctrine is an old tradtionalist legal doctrine that comes into play during divorce and adjudication of custody of the children. It was one of the first targets of Second Wave feminism because it was a clear justificiation for chaining women to child-rearing and forcing them to stay home. The idea is that for the first years of his life a young child supposedly needs his mother more than his father, supposedly because of nursing. This claims fails to distinguish between piglets and human children, although perhaps for those making the claim there isn’t much distinction to be made. It also fails to distinguish between nurslings and older children, since there is never any provision to go back in and change child custody arrangements after the child is weaned. It’s one thing to apply this old-fahioned doctrine to a six-month-old but quite something else to assert this of a 2-year-old and truly abusive to say this of a 4-year-old. It is only recently being discarded in the family court system and I am sure there are plenty of nearly-Dead White Men on the bench who secretly still hold to this, and plenty of feminist groups that do too – NOW is the most prominent of them. (“Citations please”? If you really are asking for citations, that’s fine, but realize that you have just identified yourself as uninformed on the topic of bias in the family court system by that request and you should make ready to listen humbly.)
Mother of Us All – This meme says that women are the source of all life – you have to have stayed high all through Biology to end up this ignorant – and so She understands us all, the way a mother understands her children totally and profoundly (no real mother will do anything but laugh at this one, by the way) and we are all Her children after all. So of course She understands us better even than we do.
This is where the arrogance comes from in feminist circles; the arrogance to pronounce how men think and feel. Go look at the anti-porn discourse, on the rigidly deterministic effect porn supposedly has on making men rape in those spaces, and oh – of course if you quibble you will be excused of mansplaining – your own mind! Go back and look at articles in these sites for examples of this. Men only want custody so they can avoid child support (though of course women never want custody so they can get child support). Men invented the notion of Parental Alienation Syndrome so we, being the abusers that we all are, can continue to abuse. The list is much longer than these few examples and I am sure you can name many more examples of this kind of thinking.
The Expert on Parenting – For the Golden Uterus Her motherhood is a source of power and that power has to be defended and asserted. One way to do that is to preach to everyone else about motherhood and to browbeat them endlessly on what to and what not to do, and then to keep changing the advice so that no one but the Golden Uterus is ever completely right – compliance is the worst threat of all to her power and perfect compliance the most perfect threat because that de-centers her as the Oracle of Motherhood because it threatens to make her hectoring irrelevant.
Want to see some mud wrestling? Go check out a blog where breast feeding is the topic. The intrusion into other people’s mothering and the way it is tolerated is astounding. Do you know of any man who has ever made any comment at all about breastfeeding, other than maybe “Awwwwww…”? For men there’s no controversy, but then again we seldom set ourselves up as experts on mothering.
You even see this dynamic in discussions on circumcision, that classic women’s issue. (Not a problem in this particular instance. The salient characteristic of a useful idiot is her usefulness.)
Mommy-blocking/Maternal Gatekeeping – Mommy-blocking is when a Golden Uterus tries to block the child’s father from access to the child, most often by criticizing however a father is diapering the baby, playing with the baby, on and on and on. There is a whole literature of posts on blogs written by mothers who have caught themselves doing this after hoping their husbands would be engaged fathers, identified their inconsistency and written how stupid it is. They are not Golden Uteri, they are real mothers who really care about their children. It’s an easy difference to spot.
Paternity Fraud and Indifference to It – One big advantage that accrues to the Golden Uterus is access to resources. Fathers have to be made to support their children! And we all know how men are always trying to weasel out of all their obligations to women, errr, children! So the next step is to rope all men into supporting all children. It doesn’t matter which man gets identified as the legal father (because we are all alike if you put a bag over our faces apparently).
This is where resistance to DNA testing and the tearful imprecations that it implies a distrust of women (and what could be more unchivalrous and brutish than that?) come from. This is where the effort to brush aside all discussion of false paternity, all efforts to mischaracterize it as an abdication of paternal responsibility, and all the shaming language comes from. Recognize that those behaviors are diagnostic of a Golden Uterus and Her male enablers and protectors.
Deflecting Criticism – Naturally a position of power needs to be defended and the first step is denial that the Golden Uterus even has power. This is where all the insistence, impervious to logic or factual counter-argument, that men control everything including the family court system comes in. The next step is to invoke the deificiation of mothers so critical to consolidating the power of the Golden Uterus – the Mom and Apple Pie meme. This really comes from men. Yeah, men control the court system; that’s where the favoritism of mothers comes from. So no, Golden Uterus, you are not the voice of female empowerment.
As I said, this goes a lot deeper than one entitled mother with the entrenched power of the state and the culture behind her, so you can’t hope to win a fight on your own and it will take a lot of change before things get better. But there are some things you can do.
1. Identify and denounce the behaviors – Read Dr. Palmatier’s blog and get familiar with the behaviors, familiar enough to identify them. This isn’t so that you can discuss these behaviors rationally with a Golden Uterus, because for Her these are not subject to discussion, but so that you are clear on the extent of the struggle before you and what kind of tactics you may have to use.
2. Mommy-blocking – assert your own parenthood. “Don’t tell me how to diaper my own child – he IS my own child, right?”
3. Develop your own expertise on parenting. You would be surprised how little you have to learn to know more than most mommy-blockers. You will also be surprised to learn how easy it is to win a mommy-blocker over just by allaying her doubts. The sane ones will be glad to share authority and responsibility, or rather to relinquish your own authority back to you – as opposed to wanting your “help.”
4. Paternity fraud – DNA testing still carries no weight in most jurisdictions, but men are starting to win some of these cases and states are beginning to honor DNA findings. It is only preliminary and there is nothing systemic to this progress yet, but every win makes it that much easier for the next guy.
5. Some feminist talking points are useful. Learn which ones are, use them and use them to defeat the others which aren’t.