Jennifer Aniston, Sania Mirza and the pursuit of motherhood
On Monday, Jennifer Aniston wrote a blog on Huffington Post. Titled ‘For The Record,’ it stated in unequivocal terms that she was fed up of media focus on whether or not she was pregnant. I read a lot of trashy tabloids such as Daily Mail and TMZ.com and even our own city supplements. All of which, even the latter, which have a thousand degrees of separation from Aniston, have gleefully reported over the past many years over how she’s going to give birth any second.
Aniston’s blog is an extremely well-argued and-presented piece of writing. And you can almost feel the rage in Aniston, one of the most popular and successful actresses in America, on constantly having her fertility or lack of it commented on. Much as would happen with a prize mare.
She summed it up succinctly, especially in these two paragraphs—“Here’s where I come out on this topic: we are complete with or without a mate, with or without a child. We get to decide for ourselves what is beautiful when it comes to our bodies. That decision is ours and ours alone. Let’s make that decision for ourselves and for the young women in this world who look to us as examples. Let’s make that decision consciously, outside of the tabloid noise. We don’t need to be married or mothers to be complete. We get to determine our own ‘happily ever after’ for ourselves. I have grown tired of being part of this narrative. Yes, I may become a mother some day, and since I’m laying it all out there, if I ever do, I will be the first to let you know. 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.”
The day after Aniston’s blog appeared, we had a repeat performance of this expectation that only pregnancy and motherhood can complete a woman, however successful she may be in her career or however content she may seem with her life. During an interview of Sania Mirza by Rajdeep Sardesai on India Today TV, Sardesai asked her when she was planning on settling down and embracing motherhood. Mirza, very graciously and with a smile, told him that it was surprising that he didn’t think she was “settled down” despite being world number 1 or having won as many grand slams as she has. And that only becoming a mother seemed to be the end goal and the final accomplishment for women. Sardesai, in his defence, immediately apologised and did say that he realises he would never have asked a male sportsperson this question and apologised twice again before the end of the interview.
This seems to be the one tie that binds us women from the Third World to the First World. However successful you are in your career, happy you may seem in a relationship or without one, independent, self-sufficient—all that matters finally is, when are you going to get “settle down” and get married and have children. Being married without children is no good. There are no accolades to be won for having a career and being married. Your god-given uterus must be put to good use.
Kudos to both Aniston and Mirza for calling out the media for subjecting them to this ridiculousness. Which is beyond misogyny or regressiveness. Of course they’re celebrities, so their private lives are considered public. But if they’d like to keep it private, they have every right to do so. And to tell off those who expect otherwise.
The problem is that it is people of their own fraternity who encourage and feed the media monster, instead of telling them to sod off when asked an unpalatable question. Take for example how on 10 June, when Kareena Kapoor Khan was asked if she was indeed pregnant, instead of saying that she saw no reason to share her pregnancy status with the media, she said —“God willing hopefully. I am a woman. But right now there is nothing to say about it”. Two weeks later, on 3 July, her husband confirmed to the press that she was indeed pregnant. This is one short step away from when Amitabh Bachchan had tweeted and announced to his millions of followers that Aishwarya Rai Bachchan was pregnant. Or Shahid Kapoor announced his wife’s pregnancy.
If you don’t want the media to prey on your privacy, especially on whether you’re putting your womb to good use or not, it would help if your colleagues felt the same way as well. No one is saying that the media is right in being overtly curious and not knowing the concept of personal space. But for every Aniston and Mirza, there’s an over-sharer like a Kim Kardashian or a Taylor Swift distributing minute-by-minute press updates on her relationships and breakups or a Bipasha Basu sharing per second pictorial accounts of her wedding and honeymoon. It’s difficult to tame the beast when your own colleagues keep feeding it. Till this stops, female celebrities will have to suffer along with the rest of us common uterus-bearers and keep explaining why they and we just aren’t settling down.