Celebrities and Children: The Jennifer Aniston Dilemma

The double standards between men and women concerning the professional world and their place in society is the theme of Roland Barthes’ short essay, Novels and Children. A quote from the essay that will curdle every feminist’s milk, says, “Women are on earth to give children to men; let them write as much as they like, let them decorate their condition, but above all, let them not depart from it” (50)” Barthes is referring to the magazine Elle, which introduced a list of women novelists, along with their number of children, illustrating what this essay seeks to expose: that women are mothers first, professionals second.

The author notes that this edition of Elle was some time ago. We like to think that professional women today, are more widely recognized for their achievements in the work force, rather than bearing children. However, if we can still read our quote from Barthes and say that it no longer applies to women today, then why are people so obsessed with asking famed childless actress Jennifer Aniston why she has not settled down, got married, and given birth?

In an ABC interview about her film “We Are the Millers”, Aniston says journalists try to ask her questions related to her film family by “trying to relate it to the movie with, ‘Oh, if I was to have a child how many kids do I want?’ And ‘do I want a boy or a girl? (ABC News, Jennifer Aniston: Stop Asking Me About Babies!)'”

Aniston says repeatedly in interviews that she is “happy” and feels “content” surrounding herself with friends, her partner, fiance Justin Theroux, and her dogs. That the actress must assure the public she is indeed happy without having children to add to her list of achievements, implies that today’s society has not totally abandoned the principle Barthes discusses in his essay.

Aniston is a Golden Globe and Emmy award winning actress who has starred in over fifty movie and tv show productions. Her movies have grossed over $1 billion worldwide. She is a business women, philanthropist, director, and face of Smartwater. She also happens to be unmarried and childless at the age of forty-six, which even in everything goes Hollywood, makes a person stand out more than starring in a blockbuster movie or wining shiny awards.

Aniston in a December 2014 interview with Allure magazine said:

I don’t like [the pressure] that people put on me, on women — that you’ve failed yourself as a female because you haven’t procreated. I don’t think it’s fair. You may not have a child come out of your vagina, but that doesn’t mean you aren’t mothering — dogs, friends, friends’ children.

The actress touches on the assumption that a woman has somehow failed or cannot be happy in life if she has not had children. Because bearing children is singular to women, it is expected that carrying out this process is the natural thing to do, and to not do so, is strange, making those childless women outcasts. A woman who has succeeded in their professional life has not truly succeeded until she has succeeded at becoming a mother.

Barthes writes, “But let men be quickly reassured: women will not be taken from them for all that, they will remain no less available for motherhood by nature” (51). When google searching Jennifer Aniston, ‘kids’ is one of the first words to appear as the search engine’s automatic filler, atop ‘movies’ and ‘net worth’.

Unsurprisingly, these are not the results if you were to search the actress’s fiance, Justin Theroux, or newly-wed George Clooney. Even when a woman is as successful as her male counterparts, who may or may not choose to have children, her choice to not have children will always stump us, because that is what she is supposed to do after all, right?

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