Jennifer Aniston grabbed the spotlight this week in a fiercely worded Huffington Post piece.
In 913 words she accomplished what many women (yours truly among them) have spent years trying to do: bring attention to a pervasive tendency by society to look down on women who are not mothers. She was helped along in her cause by a political misstep across the pond — more on that in a minute.
First, Jennifer Aniston called out everyone who contributes to the devaluing and marginalizing of women who do not fit a one-dimensional “ideal.” Her HuffPo piece led to many ‘attagirls’ for highlighting the unhealthy body shaming of women who are not supermodel perfect.
Like others, I applaud her tough talk on the harms of focusing on physical appearance. But, I also want to amplify the second part of her message — the one about society’s twisted obsession with “baby bumps” and its unhealthy idolatry of “moms.”
Take it away, Jennifer.
“This past month in particular has illuminated for me how much we define a woman’s value based on her marital and maternal status. The sheer amount of resources being spent right now by press trying to simply uncover whether or not I am pregnant (for the bajillionth time… but who’s counting) points to the perpetuation of this notion that women are somehow incomplete, unsuccessful, or unhappy if they’re not married with children.”
Seems Jennifer Aniston wasn’t the only one calling attention to the devaluing of women who are not mothers this past week.
In England, there was this spectacularly stupid, disparaging statement by politician Andrea Leadsom made to The Times:
“… genuinely I feel that being a mum means you have a very real stake in the future of our country, a tangible stake. She [Theresa Law] possibly has nieces, nephews, lots of people, but I have children who are going to have children who will directly be a part of what happens next.”
Yeah. For reals. Did you groan the way I did?
Now, politicians and their spouses have long used parenthood as a superpower cloak to establish superiority — with nary a ‘huh?’
I know. I’ve written about it extensively. (Flashback to when I spoofed politicians by playing the ‘infertile card’ to establish my street cred and how my infertile state made me a better qualified candidate. Earlier still, in 2008, The American Prospect interviewed me about motherhood in politics in a piece called Are Motherhood Politics a Good Idea?)
Maybe times they are a changin’…
Leadsom’s attempt to argue her motherhood status made her a better choice to govern backfired big time. Quartz and many other publications and blogs depicted this high-profile ‘mommy card’ use as small-minded and prejudicial. Jessica Hepburn wrote a post about how Leadsom’s comments were a slur to those who are not parents. Jessica summed it up well with this statement:
“Really Andrea? I’d like to see you say that to Elizabeth 1st!”
Boom! Right there with you, Jessica. In fact, blogger Pamela circa 2009 would be positively doing back flips if she’d had a crystal ball capable of seeing into July 2016.
So, let’s get back to a more central idea: society’s love of assigning rank. We have to recognize that denigrating people based upon marital or maternal status is just plain wrong. As Jennifer Aniston said so beautifully:
“What can change is our awareness and reaction to the toxic messages buried within these seemingly harmless stories served up as truth and shaping our ideas of who we are.”
By the way, Ms. Leadsom, if you’re reading this: those of us who are not mums also care about making the world a better place not just today, but for generations to come.
[bctt tweet=”You don’t have to be a mom to care about making the world better for future generations ” username=”SilentSorority”]
11 thoughts on “Jennifer Aniston: Yes, Motherhood Obsession Needs to Stop”
I loved Jennifer’s article! Though, one sentence from her article has been bothering me all day: “Yes, I may become a mother some day…”
Jennifer is 47! I am few years younger and yet, I would never write this sentence. I truly think that it just isn’t wise to get pregnant after a certain age (and I know I am above that age limit).
(if she is thinking about adoption, then this is another thing).
I will use my dear pen-friend’s words since I could not write it more beautifuly: “I wish she went the extra step to point out that 47 year olds, with or without medical assistance, rarely become pregnant or carry a baby safely to term, no matter how youthful they might look.”
This really is stupid, disparaging statement by politician Andrea Leadsom. Hasn’t she heard yet that overpopulation is one of major issues nowadays? So bringing new children / grandchildren etc to an overpopulated Earth isn’t that huge contribution after all.
Yes I also groaned when I saw that Jennifer Aniston had added “Yes, I may become a mother some day…”. Jen is fab but she kind of let herself down saying that. It sounds fine at 35, but at 47 it just makes me shake my head – it reflects the fact that we don’t know where to stop these days. She might mean adoption, but she’s older than some people I know who’ve been rejected because of their age. Obviously if you’re a super-wealthy superstar there are no restrictions. As for Leadsom, where to start. She might be contrite about it now but it just shows what women like her secretly (or not so secretly) think about non-mothers.
Bravo Ms. Anniston!! And Bravo to you too Pamela. I’m still in disbelief that there is this assumption that motherhood deems someone valuable. Yes we need to support parents, but a life is no less based on one’s ability to procreate, just as its no less based on one’s gender, sexual preference, religion or color of their skin.
Thank you for continuing to push this message
Hear hear – to Jennifer Aniston, to you, and to Jessica! I loved the Huff Post piece, because it touches on the whole anti-feminist, misogynist way of looking at women – that we are only worthy because of our bodies, or what our bodies can do. Forget that we have minds, voices, brains that are filled with creativity and compassion and logic and a righteous anger! No, we’re only as important as our waistline or ur uterine output. Sigh.
I would add to your message to Mrs Leadsom. Childless people often care more about the future, because they’re not selfishly wrapped up in what is important for their children and only their children, but for everyone’s children.
i just love your message to Mrs Leadsom. I couldn’t agree more!
Yes to all! Great response, Pamela. Is the tide turning? I’m hopeful.
The idealized woman portrayed in the media –basically waif thin with baby bump — lacks imagination and is stifling. It is almost as if women are shrinking (figuratively and literally)–with the exception of The Bump. Although I am not a huge fan of Jennifer Aniston as an actress, I felt a small sense of relief reading her Huff Post piece. The message we are fed is insidious and potentially damaging to growing girls. We women without children, I feel, can often have a heightened awareness with big picture view because we don’t have the comfort of fitting the “norm” and can add unique and valuable perspectives to discussions and politics. Thanks for posting this piece!
Brilliant post Pamela. Thank you and glad you liked my Elizabeth 1st quip. I thought a lot about Aniston’s Huff Post piece was great, but I share the same concern as others here when she said ‘I may become a mother some day…’ Of course that’s possible but I think she owes it to her sisters to say HOW!?!?!
Kind of thrilled England’s next Prime Minister might be a child free not by choice survivor of infertility – and an out of the closet one nonetheless!
I think Aniston mostly knocked it out of the park. Like others here, I wasn’t stoked about the “I may become a mother some day” part. Perhaps she feels her door is still open as far as adoption, but I’d love to see a blatant door slam on motherhood from a celebrity who has been stalked regarding it – the societal education is just too needed! People are way too enamored with the “well it might happen” tap dance in this department. But overall a fantastic piece.
So agree with Mali and Ruby as far as our childlessness contributing positively to our perspectives and caring world views, so well said!
Wow! I absolutely love this post. I also love the Huffington Post piece, despite all the points mentioned in the comments above. I love Jennifer Aniston for speaking out not only for herself, but for all women. As a celebrity, she can reach many more readers than I/we ever could. Actually, both events mentioned here made it into an article in our Swiss newspapers, too, which is great. Thank you, Jennifer Aniston! And thank you, Pamela, for all your work through the years!
LOVE this post and all the links you’ve shared here (it’s going to take a bit time for me to read some that I haven’t read before).