Jennifer Aniston has been spotted with the teeniest of tiny tummies this week. This has led to rumours she is pregnant, for the millionth time. Ever since Aniston married Brad Pitt in 2000, there have been pregnancy rumours every other week. If she dares touch her stomach in public, drink something non-alcoholic, wear baggy clothing, even be seen to just look at a child: she’s pregnant. It must be exhausting, and it’s also really boring.
It begs the question why the media is so obsessed with her being pregnant. For me, it boils down to the idea that they think she should be pregnant. She’s a 44-year-old woman, why has she not had babies yet? It’s the same attitude that led to the ‘Get Britain Fertile’ campaign, fronted by Kate Garaway (which, it has to be said, whoever thought that was a good idea needs their head examined). The media and government are shaming older women who have chosen not to have children. They frame it as a crazy, unfathomable idea that someone might want to remain childless. Failing to take into account, apparently, that these women might not even be childless by choice. Medical reasons, or personal circumstances, could be hindering their ability to be mothers. Do they really want to have Kate Garaway looking like a 90-year-old thrust in their faces, telling them to get on with it because their biological clock is ticking?
Aniston has always been framed as someone to be pitied. She’s got an amazing career, lots of friends… but she was single. Following her divorce from Brad Pitt in 2005, and his subsequent partnership with Angelina Jolie (and their six children), the go-to phrase seems to have been “poor Jen…” How sad she must be, sat alone in her house, flicking through issues of US Weekly and sobbing over pictures of her ex-husband and his new family. It didn’t seem to occur to anyone that she might be happy being single. She dated some of Hollywood’s most famous men following her divorce, is it possible she might have been having fun!? Then, as soon as she settled down with Justin Theroux, the pregnancy rumours ramped up again. How she’s desperate to be a mother; how she was begging him to start a family; how she couldn’t wait to get remarried.
The problem is, had she chosen to become a single mother before she met Theroux, the media would have had a problem with that too. There’s so much shaming of single mothers, making them out to be bad parents and bad role models. In Britain, benefits, which are some women’s lifeline, have been taken away, and they have been forced to work all the hours under the sun in order to pay the bills- and in the meantime they’re spending even less time with their children… which is surely exactly what the government is trying to curb. But when did David Cameron ever make sense? So, it’s really a catch 22. If you can’t find a man to have babies with, don’t have them alone because you’ll be vilified. But wait to find The One, meet him in your 40s and then have children? Forget it, you’ll be named and shamed by Garaway before you can say “menopause”.
How about those women who actually don’t want children? For example, The Daily Mail’s worst nightmare, The Career Woman (cue the murder scene music from Psycho). According to popular belief these women are sad and alone; so (selfishly) wrapped up in their work they can’t hold down a relationship and, therefore, don’t have children (let’s not even go into the fact that, had that been a man, they would have been a bachelor). “Your clock is ticking… what happens in a few years when you change your mind and it’s too late?” Note ‘when’; ‘when you change your mind’. Not ‘if’. There is a general assumption that a woman will, eventually, look back on her life and mourn her lack of children, and then spend the next 40 years sobbing every time she goes past the local primary school. That doesn’t happen for men. George Clooney doesn’t deal with that crap; he’s the ‘silver fox’ still available to be snapped up by women everywhere.
Tracey Emin recently admitted she wouldn’t have had the same success in her career had she had children. When the Daily Mail got hold of this story, they so kindly focused on the fact Emin has had two abortions, and framing Emin as some kind of monstrous child-hater. At least, then, that was an explanation for the paper to take hold of. She’s not just some unfathomable woman who loves her career and would rather not interrupt it – no, she despises all children and would never want them.
This shaming of childless women, or older mothers, does nothing positive. Women aren’t just sat there, twiddling their thumbs, waiting to fall pregnant through Immaculate Conception. Chances are, if a woman wants children and hasn’t had them, there’s a reason for it. And, even more importantly, if she doesn’t want children, that actually might mean she just doesn’t want them. There’s no hidden agenda, she probably doesn’t cry herself to sleep at night over a Baby Born doll, she might just actually not want to procreate. And, in my opinion, there doesn’t need to be more explanation than that. Women are in charge of their own bodies, and they don’t need Kate Garaway patronising them by telling them something they probably hear every day of their lives. If Jennifer Aniston wants children, I’m sure she’ll have them. If not, let’s just leave the poor woman alone.