Image Map

No Kidding: Jennifer Aniston, We Hardly Know You

[Full disclosure: I am unabashedly Team Aniston. I came close to buying a t-shirt.]

bradjenbabyquestioncovers.jpg

Is there any famous childless woman whose fertility is as scrutinized as Jennifer Aniston's? In the past five years, since she and Brad Pitt split up so he could go build a global village with Angelina Jolie (a topic worth an entire blog series of its own if you ask me!), how many times do you think Jen has had to defend her womb, her supposed selfishness, what is perhaps simply her prerogative to opt out of biological motherhood? At what point do you think she will quit demurely smiling and insisting that she wants to have children?

Because, scandalous as it may be, there's a chance Jennifer Aniston is not, in fact, interested in having children. If she wanted to have children, as she has insisted in countless interviews, she arguably could. As recently as last week though, she was shooting down adoption rumors, and she'll be denying them again tomorrow on The Ellen DeGeneres Show. It's certainly not a question of money or status. She even has role models; there are plenty of successful, non-partnered celeb women who have biological children or adopt. Meg Ryan, Sheryl Crow, and Sandra Bullock come to mind.

jenbabycovers.jpg

Looking back on the tabloid magazine covers of the last few years, it's clear the story of Aniston's supposed refusal to have Pitt-licious offspring won't die on its own. (Also, isn't more than a little insulting to speculate about a potential "bump" all the time? Can a woman not have a belly without pregnancy rumors swirling around her otherwise svelte figure?)

Even post-Brad—the chapter in her life arguably still dominating her personal narrative—pregnancy rumors fill the headlines in cycles. While dating John Mayer, Life and Style, Star, and OK! all speculated that she was pregnant. Moreover, several story taglines explained that with [insert new man], Jen will finally get to "make her dream come true." As if it's not a bit presumptuous to expect a woman's entire dream for her adult life to revolve around having a biological child, the tabloid-constructed Aniston narrative is that she must find a man with whom to have said dream baby. Jen has long been treated as doomed since not having kiddos with Brad; can you imagine if she had a child while she was... alone?!

bradangbabycovers.jpg

As these covers show, the narrative is simple. Jen wasn't serious about Brad because she wouldn't have his babies. Now, her "selfish" behavior is her ultimate downfall, dominating her tragic existence. It also publicly absolves Brad of any wrongdoing, putting the blame for their failed marriage squarely on Jen. If there are any lingering suspicions about Brad's marital fidelity, it can be shrugged off if you buy into this story line. Jen drove him to it; she wasn't doing everything possible to get knocked up. On the other hand, Angie was more than ready to settle down and have kids (though we should of course overlook her past, wild child accessories like her pilot's license, her inability to stay in one location for any length of time, and her desire to have her biological children in locations as far-flung as her adoptive children's countries of origin); thus, the Brangelina relationship is serious and legitimate. So what if Brad dumped Jen? So what if he very publicly left her? She wouldn't just have babies already.

What if someone like Jen did actually actively and publicly say, "I will not have children; no way, no how"? Of course, she can't, even if it's true. Do women like Aniston really need natalist Christian groups boycotting Friends syndication and her films that already fare rather poorly at the box office? (That's a no.) Sometime soon, we'll talk about why families with six, eight, twelve, and nineteen children have their own reality television shows, while childless, childfree, and even single-child homes are not given the same celebratory media attention.

Do you think the Aniston baby frenzy will wane as she gets older? When you think of her, do you immediately think about her poor dumped, childless self, or do you consider the nuances of her personality, her hobbies or passions? Why do you think this particular non-aspect of her life is subject to such intense scrutiny? What do you think about the fact that it seems to overshadow almost everything else she does? And what if she does adopt someday? Will she just once again be compared to Angelina for doing that too?

*These are only some of the "Jen should get pregs!" mag covers of the past few years.

Guess what? Subscriptions to Bitch—our award-winning, 80+ page print quarterly—are 20% off to help us reach our $25,000 funding goal by September 30. Pitch in to support feminist media: Subscribe today

Subscribe to Bitch


Comments

17 comments have been made. Post a comment.

No, when I think of her I

No, when I think of her I think of a nice looking woman with a banging bod, tons of money, who can go anywhere, buy anything, see anything, and have pretty much any man she wants. 99% of the idiotic women who say the most terribly mean things about her online (the comment sections under any Aniston article are just horrofic) would trade places with her in about 2 seconds given the chance, and the men who insult her online couldn't get a date with her housekeeper, no less with her or anyone who looks like her.

couldn't get a date with anyone who looks like her

I find this statement really inappropriate for a Bitch blog...While I agree public commenting gets really ugly (esp. on People.com), I take offense to the consideration that any number of people should be jealous of the privileges that come with being a white actress, or that once again she should be reduced to her appearance, because the men who comment on her couldn't get a date with "anyone who looks like her". I feel like we need to stop judging people by how they look, and for me, this comment represents the system that Bitch is trying to fight against.

Personally, I'd love to see her state in public that she has no intentions of procreating, but again, how sad for her, or for any person identifying as woman that they should be judged in their capacity to carry a child. In my family of origin all three of my sisters have kids, and they are given higher status than myself, and I hate it.

I find myself fumbling a lot in my women's studies classes when the topic of childcare and social benefits come up. I know as a feminist I should support the rights of women to both work and raise kids, or a movement away from a system whereby women must fit a more masculine mode in order to have careers. I feel confused because personally, I think the world's population is too high, and responsibilities for creating the next generation should not be so large in our cultural imperative. I am really enjoying this blog because it helps with my perspective as I am working through my issues as someone who chooses to be childfree and cares about social justice for women and children.

Thanks

Thanks Sarah! You're absolutely right that judging women (or men) based solely on their looks is discouraged in these threads. There's much to say about Jennifer Aniston without bringing physical appearance into it.

Glad to see that you're enjoying the blog! Me too!

____________
Kelsey Wallace, contributor

Ask me about our Comments Policy!

Thank you for saying this...

I find it very sad that we may never know much about this woman because every interview or article featuring Ms. Anniston is completely wrapped up in either her beauty, her former marriage to Brad Pitt, and/or her reproductive status. Does she have any interesting hobbies? Accomplishments? Does she support a particular charity? Is she a spiritual person? What does she like to read? Where are her favorite places to visit? What does she think about...anything? Other than divorcing Brad, not having a baby or inspiring women to get a special haircut...

jennifer aniston

Everything I have read and seen regarding Jennifer has been stating the same opinion: ugly or plain girls like her no matter what. Frankly, the majority of people don't like her because she is arrogantand mean. Not to mention a homewrecker. Give up your useless quest to get brad and jen back-he was sooooo out of her league to begin with.

I think she is really good

I think she is really good looking and it's perfectly understandable that she might not want children. If she likes her life the way it is why would she change it?
I think most women want children because it seems like the logical next step or because they think it will bring them closer to that weird idea of a perfect family.
I just want children because I'm worried I'll die old and alone. That's not enough to make such a commitment, besides, who is gonna guarantee you that they will be there for you later.

When I think of JA, I think

When I think of JA, I think of some of her movies (liked The Break Up, disliked He Just Not That Into You) and Friends. I think about how she seems to have grown more attractive with age, and I barely remember she was married to Brad Pitt. I don't read gossip mags (except in the grocery store line), so I have never thought about her fertility choices.

The media scrutinizes this "non-aspect" of her life because they want to sell media, and they like to create narratives that people will literally buy into and follow the next installation like a real life soap opera. The idea is that these people create stories, so why shouldn't their life be like a story with familiar tropes and characters (i.e. "scorned ex-wife," "frigid childless woman afraid to love," "baby desperate spinster")?

Furthermore, this particular storyline is hung onto by the media with some ferocity because many of her movies reflect these storylines, so it's an easy logic leap for "journalists" under a deadline -- the question is: does she choose her own projects because she too likes these kinds of stories or is she type cast at this point and only given these kinds of projects?

I agree that "will she have a

I agree that "will she have a baby?" is a tabloid story that is self perpetuated. Tabloids continue to write crappy headlines speculating that JA is pregnant because tabloids have written that headline before. As if they are keeping us abreast of a breaking story, though the breaking story is one they created.

I think fascination about pregnant celebrities as a genre of tabloid narrative stems from the uncomfortable realization that they are exactly the type of women who likely aren't interested in having kids. They have very demanding careers in terms of extended time commitments and pressure to look a certain way. They are self centered by vocation since their job is to be themselves. (Only a select few actresses ever seem to get credit for pretending to be other people, though that's technically their real job.) At the same time, there's so much pressure for celebrities to seem normal, even though being on a talk show to demonstrate how normal you are isn't that normal. I'm painfully normal, for example, but have never been invited on to a talk show to talk about it. So we can all breath a sigh of relief when JA gets pregnant because she's normal, and normal women still have babies. Phew!

You know, when I saw this

You know, when I saw this article I was pretty sure that she already HAD kids, because of those magazine covers. I don't follow the gossip, but I do stand in line at the grocery store so it's pretty unavoidable. I wonder if these covers, in addition to haranguing her, also serve to conceal her childless/childfree status**, and have fewer role models like that for the people who see/read the magazines. There is no narrative that "not having kids lets me live my glamorous life".

**I know these aren't the same, but I'm not sure which one she might identify with so I'm including both.

I think Aniston is a good

I think Aniston is a good actress. Not terrible, nor outstanding, but proficient. She's attractive (according to societal standards) and her personality is likable; again, somewhere in the middle. Aniston is such a neutral, balanced character that it drives people insane. They want her as a modern day Virgin Mary with children and an exhausted smile in People magazine, or a freaked out drug addict with emotional problems and smeared makeup in tabloids. It's not enough to be attractive enough and talented enough; actresses need to fit in with the "Virgin/Whore" dichotomy as well. Society will pressure and push her until she caves in to either having children or a nervous breakdown. Or, hopefully, she will continue being balanced and living her own life on her own terms.

A few years ago, Sandra

A few years ago, Sandra Bullock went off on a red carpet reporter on TV who asked her when she was going to have a baby. I guess it was the straw that broke the camel's back, because Bullock told them something along the lines that it was none of their business and that they need to stop asking actresses that question because not everyone wants to have children.

Celebabies

I honestly try not to think about Jennifer Aniston too much simply because I have no reason to. I don't care if she doesn't have kids or what the reason for that might be. I have to say, though, I wish she would be in movies that didn't show her desperately trying to catch or cling to a man. Maybe those movies were a shrewd move on her part, and allowed her to ride the publicity from the Brad Pitt breakup, but I'd kind of like to see her do something besides a romantic comedy. Though I guess it's paid off for her. I don't know. I feel like with their choices of films, both Aniston and Jolie are deliberately keeping with the media's depictions of them, the ones that also appear in tabloids: Aniston is the safe, nice and somewhat receding everywoman who struggles to find and keep a man and wants to have a nice "normal" family, and Jolie is the globe-trekking starlet with the dubious background,the possible heart of gold, and a "rainbow family." It's really tiresome on all angles, and I'm jaded enough to consider the possibility that Aniston doesn't mind the publicity.

Blah. That being said, it is pretty sad that the acting careers of both women are held second to their procreation status. You don't see that happening to Brad.

I really, really, really hate

I really, really, really hate this public speculation about baby-hood. As if a woman's sole adjustment in life is to have children! As a Commenter above said, what are her interests? Her hobbies? Where is the rest of her life?

Full disclosure...

"[Full disclosure: I am unabashedly Team Aniston. I came close to buying a t-shirt.]"

Full disclosure: I DID buy a Team Aniston t-shirt (and wore it ironically for Halloween when I dressed up as Angelina Jolie). I'm am unabashedly Team Aniston, too. But I wouldn't call myself a fan; moreso I just feel for her, because I relate.  Strangers ask me all the time if I have children and when I say no, they respond, "well why not?"  Um...really?  do you really want to get into this?  Because I don't know you, and the answer is not black and white, but it is clear: I prefer a childless life.  One cab driver pushed me so far on this point while taking me on a 15 minute trip.  When I politely tried to steer him away to no avail, I finally shouted: "I'm barren, OK!?!"  That did the trick.  

Specific to JA, I sense that she is fairly comfortable with her public image.  The tabloid media has forced her into this narrative: America's sweetheart who was dumped and is looking for love (Stars! They're Just Like Us!), and JA, I believe, has settled on that.  It stills buys her sympathy without her having to address it in a very personal way.  She can pull out sound bites in interviews that reinforce that and still move on with her life...of denying she is pregnant or adopting...

Great post!

 

An "Inspiration" of Another Kind

I think she's inspirational in this context to people who are battling with the decision of having children themselves, for whom it may not be cut and dry but are keyed in to the cultural influence from all sides. She's taken the (spoken or unspoken) approach that she's putting herself, her career, whatever, before having children - and that it may be okay that those things mean she doesn't have them (ever, or biologically, or whatever). She isn't saying "until I find the right man," she's just making a statement by not. It's nice to see "role models" (celebrities, whatever) that share your complex opinion (real or implied), and it may be encouraging for people who need someone that is willing to do their own thing.

The Sandra Bullock "mind your own business" is the same - a nice reminder that this isn't an easy decision and it's not everyone's dream to get married and make babies. For some people not right now, for some people not ever, and for a lot of people, you just don't know which camp you fall into.

It's in Jennifer's best

It's in Jennifer's best interests to keep everyone guessing as to whether or not she wants a child because that's what keeps her on the cover of magazines, and that's good for her career. Any publicity is good publicity, the more magazine covers she's on, the more movie roles she'll get offered. She's a businesswoman, she knows that. The real question is why do other women buy these magazines and follow this specific narrative, because it's sure not loads of men reading this stuff? We're our own worst enemies.

You originally asked the question as to why Oprah doesn't get this same level of media inspection. Oprah has very adamantly stated that she does not want to have children. And because she's got her own magazine, she doesn't need someone else to put her on the cover. It's not worth it for her to play the game, and certainly not worth it for any of the tabloids to make up stories about her.

The truth about Jen

The reason there are so many covers and questions about Jen and babies is because she has kept up the 'Im going to be a mom!!!' conversation since she split with Pitt. Her quote on the cover of vanity fair magazine, is "I want to be a mother and I WILL be!!!' the whole interview is Jen saying she thought she'd be pregnant (and she cries, a lot) and her dreams of a family had been taken away by the evil Jolie. The reporter makes her feelings very clear, Jen is a victim. It was her first interview since the split and it's worth reading, it's jaw dropping. It set the tone of the sweetheart role so much I think it was rehearsed with her PR people.
Neither Jen or Brad are to blame. Children is a huge life choice, brad spoke about wanting kids a lot and lots of them. But I think Jen could never say she didn't want kids. Because people think there's something wrong with you. She would not have the career she has. Of you even suggest the idea on message boards people will flip out and how dare you say that! I've been called a terrible person and a lot more. But Jen keeps insisting so people believe her. But this year since the engagement her fans think finally she'll be a mom. And Jen is now backpedaling like crazy. To be so rude as to act like she's shocked people care, and why? Went as far as calling people "narrow-minded" to think you need kids to be happy.
As far as interviews go, there's nothing interesting about her. She has her Rachel green persona and she goes to Mexico and sits in the sun. You'll notice the writer will spend most of the time describing her she's down to earth and like one of the guys and how it's so amazing. Privacy isn't the issue (see above) its just she's not interesting. It's funny that people describe Brad's life and family, and how Jen looks good and he must be miserable. The truth is it's what he wanted, he has passions, projects, causes, and a very full life. I think while working and getting to know Angie he realized that he too had similar ideas about what he wanted and could actually achieve. Angie woke him up just by talking about her dreams and passions. She adopted a child, had just split up from her marriage and working with the UN. He just woke up. A year later he split with Jen because they weren't compatible. Months after separating he and Angie reconnected when doing the press tour for the film and the rest is history. All 3 have said there was no affair. And Jen, keeps on talking about it. For years she could have said "it's personal I won't answer those questions" like everyone else. But she keeps on talking and then acts so shocked and confused as to why people care. It's made her stay relevent because she picks the movies by how big the pay is and which ones can she do the least work. It's easy to keep doing the same character. And the movies are bad. I think she's very superficial, but that goes against what people want her to be, and that ideal image people have had in their heads for years. Her body, workout, hair etc is what interests Jen. Jen's in love with Jen, That's all.