Have you heard the rumor about Jennifer Aniston? The one where she's not pregnant, and is fed up with the level of objection and scrutiny the media puts women through. This is the rare gossip that Jennifer Aniston wants to spread, so I am going to help her out. (Even though she's famous and already wrote an article in the Huffington Post so she probably doesn't need my help.)
What catches my eye about Aniston's article (click here to read it for yourself) is that she is not fed up with the media for calling her pregnant because it makes her feel fat; she is fed up with being called pregnant because she feels that it puts pressure on herself and society to become wives and mothers. It takes away the worth of a woman as an individual. Aniston's explains:
"This past month in particular has illuminated for me how much we define a woman’s value based on her marital and maternal status."
She feels that women are pressured by the media to feel incomplete, unsuccessful, or unhappy if they’re not married with children. We hear all of the time that the media is creating an unachievable and unhealthy body image for children and women, which is a whole other story, and there are numerous campaigns working to fight that. There is less attention brought to the stigma of a childless and/or single woman than there is brought to body pressures, and so, there are less campaigns working to fight against it.
I don't read a ton of gossip magazines, but I have never heard someone complain about feeling pressure to get married and become a mother. I always thought this was normal for everyone to want. But that's me being pressured by the media. Jennifer Aniston brings to light a very valid point, and she's speaking up about an insecurity about which many people stay silenced.
Along with my views on marriage and children developing bias due to media exposure, I will admit I think part of the reason I am so naive towards this societal pressure is because of my age. I am relatively young to be thinking about marriage (average age to get married in America is 27, 27.5 in Pennsylvania and I am 20), and I am also relatively young to be having children (average age of a woman during her first pregnancy is 26).
Aniston relates her argument back to body image, saying that we decide for ourselves what is beautiful about our bodies. This made me think. Society shames people for gaining weight, but society will also shame a woman if she never gets bigger, too -- that is, if she never gets pregnant. Society thinks it's incredible when women get back into shape after a pregnancy, but when someone doesn't shed the baby weight we call her real. If someone stays fit throughout her life and never has a child, we shame her for having it easier because she did not have to reel her body back in after warping it through pregnancy. That's messed up. Pregnancy is beautiful, but it's not for everyone. Aniston shares her inhibition:
"But I’m not in pursuit of motherhood because I feel incomplete in some way, as our celebrity news culture would lead us all to believe. I resent being made to feel “less than” because my body is changing and/or I had a burger for lunch and was photographed from a weird angle and therefore deemed one of two things: 'pregnant' or 'fat.'"
She ends her piece with a bit of wisdom. She's learned throughout the years that tabloid practices will not change, but what can change is our awareness and reaction to the pressures and messages brought about by tabloids. This isn't the first time I, or anyone else who has read the occasional gossip magazine, has heard that particular moral-of-the-story. However, it is the first time I've heard this moral applied to motherhood and marriage.
Bravo to Aniston for speaking her mind and bringing to light a societal pressure so ingrained in society I didn't even realize the extent to which it exists.