This weekend, I was reading an article on Huffington post that linked to another article and so on and so forth — you know how the Internet can be a time warp — and somehow I saw a link to the headline, “Jennifer Aniston Talks Motherhood And The Unfair Pressure To Have Kids.”
While I don’t closely follow Jennifer Aniston or most celebrity news, the headline intrigued me since I too feel strongly that people shouldn’t be made to feel weird if they haven’t had kids yet, or don’t even want any — yet this does happen way too often, particularly involving women.
So I clicked it. (The Internet wins again.)
The article referred to statements Jennifer Aniston makes in the January 2015 issue of Allure, and although her comments were brief, I was surprised at how candid she was on this topic and how much I found myself agreeing with her.
For instance, I completely understood what she meant when she said, “I don’t like [the pressure] that people put on me, on women — that you’ve failed yourself as a female because you haven’t procreated. I don’t think it’s fair.”
As a woman with no children myself, I was nodding and thinking, Right on, sister!
Until she said that not having children “doesn’t mean you aren’t mothering — dogs, friends, friends’ children.”
This is when she lost me.
Who said women have to mother anyone in the first place?
Would this quote have made any sense if a man was saying it?
Try to picture George Clooney saying him not having kids doesn’t mean he’s not fathering his pets, his friends and their kids.
You can’t? That’s because he would never say that. No guy would.
And no one should about women, either.
Women do not need to mother other beings to be valid as people in our society. That’s the point I thought she was making.
This part of her statement was, if anything, proof that she buys into the expectations on women. Trying to spin them in a new way doesn’t hide that.
Now look, I’m not usually one to split hairs and dissect every nuance of a person’s statement. But in this case, I think she completely ruined the point she was trying to make with the idea that women can still be motherly without having kids. And I was unexpectedly bothered by that, as well as comments people have made saying her statement was “brilliant.”
Brilliant for a Stepford wife wanna-be, maybe.
On a side note, another aspect I disliked about what she said is the concept of friends “mothering” friends. Who wants that?! There’s only one person I enjoy being mothered by, and that’s my mother!
In fact, one of my closest friends once had another friend take on a motherly dynamic with her, and let’s just say it was not a fun experience for her! (Although those stories do make us laugh now.) So Jennifer Aniston saying that women can mother their friends, oh and their children, is just plain weird. I mean, do your friends really want you trying to mother their kids? “Oh, I told Johnny he could have a few more cookies. Look how happy he is!” Yeah, your friend is really going to love your motherly “help” there!
To be fair, I think Jennifer Aniston used the word “mothering” to mean being “loving” or “giving,” to counteract the notion of childless people, especially women, being selfish.
However, there’s a big difference between mothering and being loving and giving; you can by all means be all three — which is a beautiful thing, don’t get me wrong — but you can also be loving and giving without mothering in any form. This is another reason why I found myself strangely disappointed when I read this. Her point had been making so much sense until then. I felt like she took so many steps back with her statement — all while she was trying to be so progressive.
But maybe I should calm down. Some would say that as a female, being easily annoyed like this isn’t the motherly way I should be acting towards others.
I apologize, my sweeties. Now please go have something to eat. You all look so thin…
Note: This post was written as part of LindaGHill’s Stream of Consciousness Saturday, which was skillfully organized this week by author Leigh Michaels while Linda is away. This week’s prompt was “excuse,” which we could use either as a noun or a verb. I wasn’t sure what I was going to write with it until I read this and wanted to comment on it, and the idea of using Leigh’s excellent prompt as a verb in a rhetorical question hit me. :)