Letters

"I'd like to kick Brad Pitt's ass." Emotional readers sound off on fertility, fame, feminism and the end of a celebrity marriage.


Salon Staff
January 13, 2005 2:26AM (UTC)

[Read "The Not-Good-Enough Girl" by Rebecca Traister.]

It isn't "anti-feminist" to want a child. It isn't "feminist" to not want one. I hope Jennifer Aniston does whatever is right for her. I am more than a little dubious about the "she didn't produce a child" theory as to why this celebrity marriage didn't work out.

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But let's put that aside. Let's assume the author's hypothesis is correct.

The point of the piece seems to be that poor 35-year-old Aniston was dumped by her dishy movie star husband because he wanted children and she didn't, not yet anyway. And that this was somehow unfair.

Well, but here's the thing. The dishy movie star husband is in his 40s. Maybe he doesn't want to wait an additional five or 10 years to be a dad. Does that make him evil? Maybe he doesn't want to be 70 at his kid's high school graduation.

Female fertility drops off precipitously after 35. Falls right off the chart. Not for everyone, but for most. There are fertility treatments, yes. But the outcomes of those are, too often, badly compromised babies.

My son was born when I was 32. I wanted another child. I started "trying" for it when I was 35. Never happened.

If you want kids, you are well advised to get going on that before your mid-30s. I am a little appalled at the kind of "feminism" that says, "You can have a career until you're 40 -- there's plenty of time for kids after that!" It's just not true for most people.

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Yes, some do manage it, but often at a hideous cost. And I don't mean just in money; I mean in multiple and/or premature births -- and, too often, damaged infants.

Jennifer Aniston should certainly do what she believes is right. If she doesn't want kids, that's her right! But if she does ... well, biologically speaking, she is a fool to wait much longer.

-- Jan Lewis

I love Rebecca Traister's writing and I think this may be one of her best yet. The celebrity spawn obsession is the most creepy and wrong thing about our creepy and wrong celebrity culture. Stars may have a certain scary narcissism to chase a career in the limelight, and sure, the loss of privacy comes with the job. But the double standard applied to women stars of child-rearing age is really tough to accept because it hurts all women, not just millionaires with free blowouts. To be as successful as they can be, actresses have to become simulacra of an outdated notion of "what it means to be a woman." Otherwise they're "not relatable," and therefore don't sell tickets. As Traister so aptly put it, this not only puts them at perfect odds with the reality of being an actress today but sets up an impossible standard for the rest of us.

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Every time a Star headline tolls for a babyless actress, it tolls for me too. I'm fine with my choice not to spawn at the present juncture, but I'm increasingly tired of the media deriding other career-minded women for making the same decision. Enough already.

-- Alexandra Marshall

Rebecca Traister writes as if she has information about the private machinations of the Aniston-Pitt marriage. What if the couple had agreed to have children? What if Aniston then changed her mind? Would that not alter the contract?

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Further, I am presuming that while Aniston is a celebrity, her body is subject to the same foibles as noncelebrities. Her fertility would have begun its decline seven years ago, and now that she is 35, her odds of problems in her pregnancy caused by her age have begun to increase at a marked rate.

Traister's assumption seems to be that motherhood, unlike a movie career, is something that can be put on hold indefinitely.

-- Leslie Shahlhut

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Excellent article by Traister! I'm sick of seeing pregnant celebrities lauded as if they've reached the pinnacle of female achievement.

How many closeted celebs want to speak honestly when cornered about reproductive plans, but fear crucifixion by a shallow-minded public?

It's not shameful to prefer career success, especially when one has already shattered ratings records like Aniston. It's ironic that many women criticize her for avoiding barefoot pregnancy. Wasn't feminism about choice?

I wish her all the happiness in the world, the acquisition of which does not require a baby.

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-- Abbie Foxe

The constant pressure applied by the media for Aniston to breed is appalling. It's no wonder she finally cracked -- had I been in Ms. Pitt's place I would have put off childbearing out of spite. No one, including Aniston's husband, seemed to have asked poor Jen whether she actually wanted to have kids.

Why can't being talented, rich and gorgeous be enough?

-- Kimberly Bojanowski

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Traister hit the nail right on the head again with her comments about this country's weirdly obsessive baby and mommy reverence. It reminds me of accounts of Germany during the rise of the Third Reich when German women were awarded medals for how many children they bore. Even though I haven't been a fan in the past, I plan to see every Aniston movie that comes out this year so I can do my small part to catapult her into movie stardom. As a woman, she is more than just a sum of her parts. And hopefully she can happily say farewell to Brad Pitt (and we can say good riddance to his bland Ken doll acting) while he blindly searches for some unoccupied uterus.

-- Kristin

How nice to finally read an article that doesn't take Jennifer Aniston to task for not having a baby yet. As you say, there's been this attitude, seemingly the world over, of "how dare she not spawn with the sexiest man alive!" Hey, I have nothing against mothers -- in fact, I happen to have one myself -- but where is this increasingly hushed (and somewhat creepy) reverence for motherhood coming from? Yes, it's a big miracle. And yet, no, it's not. I mean, the majority of women in a certain (ever-increasing) age range can produce a child. So can dogs. Monkeys. Spiders. Dolphins. Cats. Lobsters. So what?

I find it really interesting, though, that not even Salon has mentioned this possible option: What if Jennifer Aniston doesn't (gasp!) want kids? What if she decides never to have them? I'm sure everyone will treat her like a freak and like she deserves to lose her husband. If that's the case with Aniston (and of course I have no idea if it is), if she never does have kids -- well, good for her. Why should she -- just because she's expected to?

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I've met way too many people who had children because they thought they were supposed to but who made terrible, terrible parents. And given the amount of overpopulation in the world, and how we are sucking the life out of our planet, why on earth would we chastise someone for not reproducing? I have friends with kids. I love their kids. I love my friends. I'm happy to babysit. But I'd rather eat glass than have a child myself. I can't think of any more backbreaking, emotionally fraught, loathsome occupation than motherhood. I applaud anyone who wants to take it on; it's a thankless job. I also applaud anyone who realizes that motherhood is not for them. Frankly, I find it appalling that in the 21st century, in North America, a woman would be pilloried for daring to put her career first. Oh, what a monster! What heartlessness! How dare she want a successful film career! I don't see anyone getting on George Clooney's ass on a daily basis for not having kids.

As for Jennifer Aniston, maybe she and Brad didn't separate over the baby issue. Maybe they did. We'll never know the truth. Only they do. And really, is it anybody's business but their own?

-- Sandra Kasturi

Thank you for the reality check on the Aniston-Pitt breakup! I am not a glamorous movie star, but I too am in my mid-30s and don't see childbearing/rearing anywhere in my future. I am surrounded by smug moms who all "know better" and "give me five years" and other such stuff. My husband has been hearing the same thing from some of his friends. Luckily, he and I both feel the same way about having children. We also realize that we are human animals and that we are loving people with open hearts, so we resist the urge to say "never" about having a child. However, we are very happy with our child-free status, and feel content envisioning our future that way.

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-- Lisa

I think an editorial complaining about society's expectation of women to reproduce is nothing short of ridiculous. There is nothing more natural to a woman's purpose than having children, just like there is nothing more natural for men than protecting their family.

Is it unfair to attack a single woman for not giving up her career to have children? Definitely not. If a career is a higher priority, then she probably should not have children. However, it is ludicrous to attack society's expectation of women to bear children.

The writer exclaims that women should not have to "give up" their life and body to have children. Well, if that is her opinion, I sincerely hope that she never bears children. Any woman who feels that having children comes at the cost of their life will surely be a sore excuse for a mother. Furthermore, I would not feel unjustified generalizing that statement to apply to anyone who agrees with her article.

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-- Chris Dagenais

I'm embarrassed to admit that I care, but I'd like to kick Brad Pitt's ass. Here I thought Brad and Jen would be my generation's Paul Newman and Joanne Woodward, and look what Pitt's gone and done.

I'm proud of Aniston for knowing herself well enough to know she isn't ready to be a mother, and for being brave enough to resist the pressures of a man and a society that deem you unworthy if you decline/delay motherhood once you've reached a certain age and place in your life.

More women should share Aniston's maturity, but I'm afraid that her career will suffer because people will judge her to be some shrewish money-hungry cold fish for choosing work over babies. I will now be sure to see all of her movies, on principle.

-- Gina Boyd

It never ceases to amaze me how feminists snatch defeat from the jaws of victory. The whole point of the feminist movement is (or should be) that women should be able to choose how to live their lives, gain power, earn wealth and be safe from assault and abuse on terms that were unavailable to them just a few short years ago.

So, instead of penning a whiny article about what an absurd newspaper like the New York Post has to say, why not focus on the facts?

And the facts are, even though I doubt this was her intention, Aniston's divorce shows that feminists have won an unqualified victory. Regardless of why she did it, Aniston decided to divorce Brad Pitt. She was able to make this choice because she is successful, rich and free -- the New York Post and anyone else be damned.

If a woman who has attained great power, success and wealth is willing and able to kick Brad Pitt out of bed in favor of her own goals, then the entire feminist movement should declare victory and go home.

-- Joel Rothstein

While I can appreciate Rebecca Traister's takedown of the tabloid press, my immediate reaction to the news was apparently different from most people's. My first thought was, "Good for her!" Jennifer Aniston was married to possibly the highest-equity movie star in the world and yet you never got the sense she was impressed by it. She was always her own person.

This backlash against her now represents our unspoken awareness that even in 2005 nine out of 10 women in her position would have had the baby, ready or not, to keep Brad Pitt. All this carping about the glories of motherhood, and the implications that she was shirking a responsibility, have nothing to do with actual motherhood. They are the publicly acceptable expression of America's virulent dislike of women who do what they want to do and who make it clear they don't need your approval -- just as the controversy about Teresa Heinz Kerry's "swearing" had exactly zero to do with bad language.

I was only sorry that the article unnecessarily and unfairly trashed Angelina Jolie. By conflating what are clearly pre- and post-motherhood behaviors -- some of them quite a bit in the past (and we all act stupid when we're young, it's just that most of us aren't filmed doing it) -- Traister creates an unjust depiction apparently merely for the sake of contrast. Angelina Jolie and Jennifer Aniston both seem to be doing what they want to do in a responsible and self-reliant manner. It would be nice if we could all respect their choices and leave them the hell alone.

-- Katherine Eisenhauer

Rebecca Traister hits the nail on the head with this story. As a 40-something woman who grew up during the feminist movement, and as a wife in a happy, 18-year-old childless-by-choice marriage, I am appalled over the present pronatalist fervor exhibited by today's culture. I have no doubt that the constant pressure on Aniston to reproduce was one reason that her marriage to Brad Pitt failed. Apparently, 30 years of social change, of women flocking to college campuses and successfully entering the workforce, means absolutely nothing these days: Women are judged only on their reproductive status. Shame on the media for attempting to drag women back to the 1950s, and shame on those of you who are buying into it.

-- K.A. Cowart


Salon Staff

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