No Kidding: Jennifer Aniston, We Hardly Know You
[Full disclosure: I am unabashedly Team Aniston. I came close to buying a t-shirt.]
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.
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?!
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.
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