Monday, October 20, 2008

Angelina Jolie: The Worlds Greatest Mother

Okay I waited as long as I could to comment on the recent spate of Angelina commentary in the media.  I am sick of Angelina being portrayed as the worlds greatest mother.  Enough already, simply enough.

image First we got to hear about how wonderful it is that Angelina is breastfeeding.  Yeah for her! Does this mean that women who can't breast feed, or choose not to are somehow not qualified to rank as good mothers?  Newsflash, having a child feeding from your breast does not necessarily signify that you are an excellent mother. 

Yeah, isn't it wonderful that Jolie can breastfeed on the cover of a magazine while the rest of the population that is not blessed with celebrity status are shown to restrooms, or simply forced to vacate public premises.  What about the mothers that are so undernourished that their breast milk is not capable of sustaining their child?  What about the exploitation that is occurring in the the newly revived wet nurse industry?  Nope, none of those issues really matter because Angelina is breast feeding.

How did this Hollywood starlet with a penchant for collecting third world children like Prada purses suddenly become representative of motherhood? image The answer is very simple really, Angelina is white and rich.  No one objects to bringing more white babies into the world.  It is always the brown mothers that are chastised for exercising their biological imperatives.  We are the ones responsible for the overpopulation of the world.  We are the ones responsible for the starving children, despite the fact that poor brown mothers are as far from exercising power globally as any people on earth could possibly be. Thank goodness there are pure rich white women like Angelina to raise the children we have so irresponsibly brought into this world.

Angelina is the mother that keeps nurturing and wanting to share despite her hardships (huge snark). Yep the energizer bunny of motherhood.  Now this mother of 6, with a uterus that has yet to shrink to normal size is contemplating adopting yet another child.  When you have so much love to give why not bestow it upon the world.   Now before everyone gets into a knot, carrying on about how this child will have a much better life because it will be raised in opulence and wealth, let's consider that there is more to motherhood than what we can give our children financially.

image What effect will it have on this child to be removed from not only their parents but all the links and ties to their culture.  Not to worry though, all will be cured because of the loving embrace of Angelina. Who is she the virgin Mary, that all of the children of the world should all crave her loving embrace?  Should we be anxiously waiting her appearance at various places.  Is she going to walk on water, and grant vision to the blind as well?

Okay sarcasm aside, if Ms. Jolie really cares about the poor children of the world, the best way to help them is to work on programs that allow their mothers to raise them.  Globally many children are in foster care not because their mothers want to give them up, but because they cannot afford to raise them.  I am sick of celebrities adopting kids thinking that they are helping the cause and yet not confronting the issues that caused their adopted prada purses children to be available in the first place. 

image Angelina Jolie is upheld as a model for the world because of her class and her race. When women of colour cry out to have our motherhood validated, we are told that we are irresponsible breeders.  Children are removed from homes where mothers cannot afford to pay utility bills, but yet they are still good mothers.  Capitalism and racism do not make it easy for marginalized and exploited mothers to raise children in this world, and yet their struggles are unheralded.  Instead of praising these courageous women who daily go without, so that their children may eat, have clothes, or a place to live, we are worshipping a woman that was born into race and class privilege. 

There is nothing special about Angelina in terms of motherhood for her to garner the kind of attention that she does.  Our sick obsession with maintaining the race and class hierarchy has caused us to ignore the struggles of women all over the globe.  There is nothing that Angelina does on an ordinary day to differentiate herself from any other mother. She does not love her children anymore than I love mine.  I am sick and tired that every time we seek to praise some key aspect of women's lives it is always represented by a rich white woman of privilege. 

Enough of the monolithic womanhood.  Enough of the erasure of women of colour.  There can be no sisterhood as long as we are not represented in discussions that are central to women's lives.  The whole idea of a white woman being the ideal and sole representative of motherhood is insulting.  It is time to step off of the pedestal Jolie, despite your high ranking on the coolness meter, motherhood is about more than class and race.

 


24 comments:

Danny said...

If you're just getting fed up with it now let me congratulate you on lasting longer than I did.

SunlessNick said...

The answer is very simple really, Angelina is white and rich. No one objects to bringing more white babies into the world.

I can't help but notice that as the number of her biological white children increase, fewer front page pictures feature her adopted brown ones. And not too long ago, she would have thanked you for every point you just made; she would have responded to the hype she is garnering by making them herself, as well as a white person could. But now, it's like she's started buying into a brand of herself that she used to challenge. And that challenge was why I respected her, not the brand.

Danyell said...

I don't particularly have a problem with her adopting kids...If they will actually be cared for and loved and not just stuffed in a closet somewhere when the African-baby-fad dies down like so many tube tops and leisure suits.

But I do feel uncomfortable for her being made to seem like a humanitarian for it. Also, what's wrong with Black babies from America? There are so many kids here, in this country, who get shuttled around foster care their whole lives. Why not make one (or a dozen) of their lives better? Are Black orphaned children some kind of untouchable? Or does she just feel so much better about herself having "rescued" Africans from their "savage" continent and bring them to a "better" life in America? I actually can't decide which reason is more racist!

And breast feeding is the most natural thing in the world. Sure, it's nice that she does it when she technically doesn't have to (they still have wet nurses, don't they? *shudder*...) but she hardly deserves a frigging plaque for doing what millions of mothers have done since the dawn of time.

I really do think that Brad & Angelina are clearly nice people with good intentions- but they kind of ruin it when they want tons of publicity for it, saying "Look at me, I'm such a nice person!" They just don't really deserve any more or less attention than anyone else. There are so many worse Hollywood sleaze bags around. All I care about is whether or not I want to see their next movie. And really isn't that ALL I need to know about ANY actor?

Anonymous said...

"How did this Hollywood starlet with a penchant for collecting third world children like Prada purses suddenly become representative of motherhood?"

Would you care to explain exactly what in the hell gives you the right to question whether or not this women loves her kids. I am not saying she is the best mother in the world, since I don't know her and have no idea how she interacts with her kids. But you don't know her either. So what gives you the right to judge?

Renee said...

@Anon
Would you care to explain exactly what in the hell gives you the right to question whether or not this women loves her kids.

Clearly you didn't read the entire post. I specifically stated that she did love her children. The problem is that she is being placed on a pedestal over and above other mothers.

Renee said...

Would you care to explain exactly what in the hell gives you the right to question whether or not this women loves her kids.

Clearly someone did not read the entire post. I specifically said that she loved her kids. The issue is not whether or not Jolie loves her children but that she is being put on a pedestal over and above other mothers.

Anonymous said...

@Renee

"I am sick of celebrities adopting kids thinking that they are helping the cause and yet not confronting the issues that caused their adopted prada purses children to be available in the first place."

When you say that a woman views her children in they same way that she views a prada purse I think the implication is fairly obvious. In your eyes the children are playthings for her amusement.

For the record if she obeys the laws of the land she has every right to adopt those children.

Kelley said...

Joan Crawford adopted children as well. That didn't turn out so well. I'm not saying that AJ is a bad mother, or will turn out to be, but as Renee said, there is more to motherhood than the financial ability to care for children.

By the way, why the hell are we judging anyone's motherhood? Why do women's bodies, and any functions related thereto, continue to be the topic of public consumption?

Danyell said...

Kelley, I think Angelina puts herself out there to intentionally display her motherhood. No, it should not be a topic of consumption or conversation amongst perfect strangers to her. But those pictures didn't end up on a magazine cover on accidentally or without consent. One has to question what the motivation is for that sort of "motherhood-as-performance".

I'm not suggesting that those kids want for anything, including love, but I think a lot of parents don't always realize the difference between doing something for their kids, and using their kids to do something for themselves.

It gets borderline exploitive. But there are plenty of celebrity parents who are just exploitive-exploitive with their kids. But maybe you're right and we shouldn't even discuss it. All we're doing is giving them the attention and publicity that they were seeking in the first place.

Naomi said...

I have an adopted sister from China. The entire process took three years, and involved a year in which a social worker would visit our house weekly and ask questions varying from family finances to past relationships my parents had had. Research has also shown that adopted children often have issues with attachment which necessitate that their care is carried out by the immediate family, that they must have a real sense of home, that a great deal of one on one time is spent with them amongst other things. It seems that things are amiss when celebrities can apparantly adopt children very quickly and I guess I question how stable their family lives are- particularly if multiple children are being adopted in a short space of time. The studies carried out highlight that if attachment issues are not resolved in adopted children it can make it much harder for them to form close relationships as adults.

mycolorfulheart said...

"What effect will it have on this child to be removed from not only their parents but all the links and ties to their culture."

Yes. I think (and I'm guessing, obviously I don't know her personally) what Angelina assumes is that the children will bring the culture with them. Which is pretty impossible. They need to be educated about their culture from others and have role models that are like them. It's not enough to have your white mom say, "You're from Mexico! That's awesome! Tonight I'll make tacos! Here's a book on Frida!" The child needs Mexican people to teach them and be around them so they feel normal. (Using Mexico as an example, I don't know where her kids are from.)

I was adopted by white parents. I love them, they love me, but they made mistakes. I think we all have different racial baggage, but the racial baggage I have isn't shared by many people and generally works to make me an outsider.

nia said...

People do not want to admit that the reason why many of these rich celebrities go overseas to adopt children is simply because it is often easier for them to adopt from third world countries than it is for them to adopt in their own countries, and because the governments of many of these countries and the media in general bestow them with a "benevolent earth mother complex".
For many people, the adoption process itself can also be highly addictive and exciting. The whole process of selecting a child from a foreign, "exotic" land, getting to travel to said country, picking out the child from an orphanage or what have you and taking it away, all the while being heralded as some sort of saviour of third world babies can give many of them a type of emotional high.

Ojibway Migisi Bineshii said...

I am not into celebrities nor I am into them being lifted up on high like saviors. So therefore I do not idolize their lifestyles and choice.

Samantha said...

I'm so glad I'm not the only one who's sick of hearing about her, her kids,,,,,,,,,,and on and on.

Anonymous said...

Your bitterness and judgment is appalling. Obviously you have done no research and are unaware of her humanitarian work with the UN Refugee Agency. She's donated millions of dollars, paid for all costs relating to her missions, and raised awareness of the plight of children in several countries. She honestly wants to help...but nothing makes you happy, does it? AJ doesn't parade around telling everyone what a good mother she is -- the media does that. She is contractually obligated to do PR for her movies. That's her job.

Honestly, you don't even know the woman personally and you're judging her as a mother? Saying that her children are nothing more than Prada accessories to her? If someone were to question YOUR mothering skills that had never met you or knew you, how would you feel?

Shame on you. YOU are the one that brings women down with all this negativity. I wish you could see that.

But oh wait! AJ deserves it because she's white! Oh, I get it now.

Mybad.

Chris said...

"No one objects to bringing more white babies into the world. It is always the brown mothers that are chastised for exercising their biological imperatives."

It isn't "always the brown mothers", it is the mothers, of any race which "exercise their biological imperative" without regard for the fact that they can't support their children.

The fact is that in america, currently, the poor are more often of a minority group then white. Because of that there is a correlation between the people who are criticized for overpopulation (which doesn't mean too many people, but too many to support effectively), and those who are black. But there is an even stronger correlation between those critisized and those who cannot manage to support their children. This isn't a question of black people being critisized for having many children, it's simply criticizing people who can't support children who CONTINUE to have unprotected sex and continue to bring another mal-nourished, undereducated child into the world.

Don't pretend there is a race issue when it is most definitely a poverty issue.

nia said...

@Anonymous,
One of the reasons why the type of adoptions and aid work that celebrities such as Jolie engage in is critiqued so much, is because very often it can cause more harm than good. I am from a developing country myself and trust me I have seen it. This type of aid and adoptions tend to be handed out to 'third world' citizens like salted peanuts. The more you hand out, the more people tend to want. It doesn't really get to the root of the problem, or enable the citizens to be truly self-sufficient. It just tends to foster a sort of begging complex, where you regard 'benevolent' westerners as the answer to all your problems.
And as Renee pointed out, many of these celebrities adopt children from third world countries without a clue as to how they themselves as Westerners are contributing to the developing world's problems in the first place. They absolutely have no regard for the importance of culture, family and blood ties of many of these countries. It is not enough to adopt a black child and take it to Kwaanza celebrations every year and think that is enough.
Some relief organizations are actually very against the type of 'aid and adoption' that celebs like Jolie and Madonna engage in. They feel it is doing more harm than good to remove the children from their cultural settings. And these organizations, mind you, are headed and run by white people. So it is not a case of Jolie being criticized just because she is white.
You also cannot deny that if Jolie were a non-white woman - unwed and with six children, she would not be held in the same high regard by the media and general public.

Anonymous said...

@nia

I don't put Madonna and Jolie in the same category. Jolie has honestly tried to put her celebrity to good use, and I see that no one has declined her millions, no matter how offensive or white she is.

At least Jolie, unwed, white and with six children, is with her baby daddy and can support all of them.

Chris is spot on in her(his) comment.

nia said...

Anoymous said:
"I see that no one has declined her millions, no matter how offensive or white she is."

Exactly Anoymous. And therein lies part of the problem, as I tried to explain in my earlier post.
You are so convinced that Jolie and her money is doing deep-seated good in third world countries. Have you actually ever visited one, done research, seen for yourself? Are you aware of how or why many poor developing countries became that way in the first place?

Angel H. said...

Don't pretend there is a race issue when it is most definitely a poverty issue.

Don't pretend that there IS NO race issue just because you are too blind to see it.

Also, there are so many contradictions in your post. I don't know where to begin!

Renee said...

@Chris... There is a link between race and class, who exactly do you understand as the most impoverished bodies on the globe? I guarantee you that it is not white women.

This isn't a question of black people being critisized for having many children, it's simply criticizing people who can't support children who CONTINUE to have unprotected sex and continue to bring another mal-nourished, undereducated child into the world.

Yes the continue to unprotected sex but I don't hear any complaints from you about the abstinence only education that is being sold globally as the cure to the worlds problems. Only rich white people can breed securely, but brown bodies better get used to a life of chastity.

It is also not in least bit problematic that these bodies are purposefully impoverished for the sake of exploitation now is it? You would rather blame the powerless.

Race is very much an issue in this. You are either blind to race privilege or are living with internalized racism, take your pick. When the majority of the worlds poor are bodies of color one can hardly say that it is coincidental.

Jenn said...

I thought about this, and then I realized that even when our few popular women of color actresses have children, we never really get to see them. I mean, black actors, singers, and athletes must have children. The only one that I can think of being able to recall by name and face is Jaden Smith, and it's Will Smith's fatherhood that is being celebrated. I've never, to my knowledge, seen any sort of media attention paid to anything other than white actresses' "baby bumps" and their perfectly white privileged spawn arriving nine months later. The motherhood of anyone else other than white women is invisible. Even unwed underage white women get more positive press ("poor girl, she needs support!" editorials for instance, or that crap around Bristol Palin) than any woman of color and her children, regardless of class, age, or marital status. The fact that the only black child that I can recall as famous through his famous parents is famous because of his father and his father's celebrated fatherhood neatly illustrates this horrible intersection of racism and sexism.

I'm ashamed of my own race. Thanks Renee for pointing this out.

Anonymous said...

The reason "brown babies from America" don't get adopted is because they have made the process damn near impossible. It is much easier, much quicker, to adopt from another country. Any country. By the time you get a child from America, in reality, years and years have gone by. That is the sad fact of why celebrities and non-celebrities alike are going abroad to adopt.

I also think that it is sad that we see less of Angelina's adopted children and more of her biological children, but that is what people are fascinated with- the Pitt-Jolie wonderchildren. Won't they be beautiful? Will we be able to stand looking at how beautiful these children will be? People want to know about the newest, the latest and greatest. When Madonna "adopted" David, everyone clamored to get that and no one cares about the other 2 children anymore. They are old news. Just like any new gadget or new fall fashion line or any new car or any new movie, new equals better in the minds of Americans. We've allowed ourselves to be programmed this way.

Anonymous said...

I've had the exact opposite opinion of her. Though Im getting scared of the number of kids she's adopting and yes, how it looks to others.

I love the fact that in an increadingly conservativce America, a woman who is not married, lives with her partner, adopts children and has her own kids out of wedlock can garner any type of fame or attention. Regardless of being white or famous. She is SOOO very out of the box for hollywood standards on MANY diffrent levels. I like that she is independednt enough to choose who she wants to be with, But I know this is because she is rich.

I dont think it's for fame or attention. IF she wanted that she would not have moved to France. Over there they dont dote on her every move and the kids can be kids.

Personally, I was upset because they ( Brad and Angelina) are in talks to get married. I like what they put out, that you CAN be a family, one that ppl like, without the piece of paper! The emphasis on marriage in the USA is driving me nutz and is probably part of why they left.

To me, she seems to represent "New Womanhood", a trend that is catching on in the USA as ppl get FED UP with social conservatism and body policing.

But thats just little ole me.....