Unless you have been living on an isolated Island without Internet, or cable television you are aware that Angelina Jolie recently gave birth to twins via c-section. Paparazzi were all over the hospital attempting to get pictures of the newborns. Angelena and Brad are splashed over the cover of various magazines. While I celebrate the birth of any child, I am really starting to get irritated by the amount of attention that this is getting.
Angelina is the mother of 6 through adoption, and natural birth. Very few have bothered to comment on her quickly growing family. Let's imagine for one moment that Angelina and Brad are not successful actors. Let's imagine for a minute that both are working minimum wage jobs. How does this change our view of their fertility? What would happen if we were to remove "Brad" altogether from the situation and make Angelina a single mother living on welfare and government subsidies?
It is quite common to hear people say that if a woman gets pregnant while on the system that her benefits should not increase irregardless of the fact that the child will also suffer. Women are punished for being poor and for getting pregnant, yet we do everything in our power to ensure that this situation does not change. Insurance plans don't cover abortion or contraception, so how many options are we really leaving open?
As a society we pay a lot of lip service to respecting motherhood, but in truth unless you are of a certain colour or class, it is more likely that you will be punished, or somehow stigmatized for "choosing" to give birth. The pro life movement has dedicated itself to ending abortion but offer no good solutions to help women who decide to keep their babies. There is no social conversation about socialized daycare to make it easier for single mothers to work and raise their children. We "support" a woman staying home to raise her children but if she has to be on social assistance to do it, she is labelled a "welfare queen," and is told to be grateful, as it is the social myth that these women are living in luxury.
Age is even a factor in our discrimination. If it is a young woman that happens to be pregnant, even without hearing her story we are quick to judge her. The reactions to the so-called pregnancy pact made it clear that we don't support the choice to become pregnant. These girls were continually referred to as stupid. Imagine that they became pregnant in a woman friendly world, where each child was welcomed as the blessing that it is. Imagine that this occurred in a world that had daycare centres in all schools so that girls who became pregnant could continue their education. Imagine a world where all new mothers had access to free prenatal care and parenting classes. The problem is not that these young women got pregnant, the problem is that these women got pregnant in a world that does not value women, and reproduction unless you fit into a very narrow category.
Our social obsession with the pregnancy of celebrities is a confirmation of which bodies matter in this society. We care more about these privileged babies than the children that everyday go to school without breakfast. As the homeless rate continues to rise with the mortgage crises, and the failing economy, this false alignment with the rich and powerful is a symbol of the anomie that we are facing. We need to begin to care whether or not the child next door has enough to eat, or warm clothing to get through the winter. We need to care not only because it is the human thing to do, but because children are our future, and they collectively represent our greatest potential.
To continue to expect women to suffer quietly the daily humiliations of poverty and motherhood is cruel. When poverty is combined with racial stigmatizations it can lead to even more tragic results. There is a connection between the fact that most black single mothers live in poverty, and the high rate of young black men in prison. There is a connection between the poverty of black families, and the high drop out rates. As we move increasingly towards a technological society those that already live on the margins will be further pressed into more desperate measures to survive. We do not live in a meritocracy or those that currently occupy the bottom sphere of the race and class hierarchy would not be where they are. No one works harder than a single mother. The problem is as a society, we do not understand that what these women do is labour. No group of people work harder than the working class, who in many cases have two, or even three minimum wage jobs, and yet we tell them to work harder, or blame them for their poverty, rather than the system that impoverishes. The lie that people are not trying hard enough is circulated by the ruling one percent so that we will be blind to the ways in which the system not only creates poverty, but ensures that certain bodies are destined for a lifetime of poverty. So when I here people like Obama, or Bill Cosby talk about personal responsibility I want to ask them, have you no shame sir? Where is your responsibility? It is far easier to sit in judgement and lecture people on the fallacy of their ways, than to offer concrete solutions that will make a difference.
Angelinas tribe of children matter socially, but only because of the status of their mother and father. I would like to live in a world where children regardless of race, class, or ability are celebrated. When we begin to validate the humanity of the least amongst us, we show our potential as a species. Congratulations Brad and Angelina, but I would also like offer my congratulations to the uncelebrated children that were born in ghettos, or in villages, and slums globally. Though certain factions are greedily plotting ways to exploit you young ones, it is my hope that you will rise up, and offer some sense of decency, to this clearly unbalanced and troubled world.