How appropos that this story broke just as I finished writing the chapter of my new book (due out in March) about this very issue. In fact, I even refer to the new movie, “The Switch,” and Jennifer Aniston’s choice to star in it.
Last week Aniston was in LA to promote her new movie about a 41-year old woman who opts to become a mother by means of donor insemination. At the press conference, Aniston said,
“Women are realizing more and more that you don’t have to settle, they don’t have to fiddle with a man to have that child,” Aniston said. “They are realizing if it’s that time in their life and they want this part they can do it with or without that.”
Afterward, Bill O’Reilly responded to Ms. Aniston’s comment on “The Factor” by saying it’s a bad thing when powerful women promote the message that men aren’t necessary. It was an astute and wise observation — and Aniston fired back in a relatively gracious manner, though she was no doubt backpedaling.
Of course, the ideal scenario for parenting is two parents of a mature age. Parenting is one of the hardest jobs on earth. And, of course, many women dream of finding Prince Charming (with fatherly instincts), but for those who’ve not yet found their Bill O’Reilly, I’m just glad science has provided a few other options.
Unfortunately for Aniston, the damage was done. O’Reilly is correct — the cultural message that men and marriage are expendable is abundantly clear. Consider these condescending, elitist examples:
Author and journalist Natalie Angier begins an article in The New York Times this way: “Women may not find this surprising, but one of the most persistent and frustrating problems in evolutionary biology is the male. Specifically…why doesn’t he just go away?”
In a CNN interview with Maureen Dowd about her 2005 book, Are Men Necessary?, Dowd says,
Now that women don’t need men to reproduce and refinance, the question is, will we keep you around? And the answer is, ‘You know, we need you in the way we need ice cream – you’ll be more ornamental.”
Messages like these, along with Jennifer Aniston’s and author Elizabeth Gilbert’s (who, in Committed, the sequel to the wildly popular Eat, Pray, Love, questions the purpose of marriage and blames conservatives for all that is wrong with modern marriage) are pernicious. Any woman — any person — with power has a duty to convey cultural messages that are smart, helpful, and positive to society.
These clueless, liberal, self-absorbed women do just the opposite. Their message is clear: Marriage is passe, and children do not need fathers.
Aniston softens her theme by portraying women as helpless — as if women who haven’t found “the right guy” have no choice but to resort to alternative methods of conception. Women must order up some sperm because there just aren’t any decent, marriageable guys anymore. But research shows it is women who have become less marriageable — not men.
Women who identify with Aniston should pick up a copy of Lori Gottleib’s Marry Him: The Case for Settling for Mr. Good Enough. Gottlieb, 37, decided to become a single mom after years of searching for Mr. Right. When she still hadn’t found him, she decided to take a good look at her dating habits to determine if the problem is not a dearth of good men but rather women’s expectations of them.
Her finding? That women aren’t willing to compromise — many leave good relationships assuming they can find something better with someone else. Later, they can’t admit that their idea of the perfect man isn’t realistic and that this is the crux of their discontent.
Indeed, modern women have been raised to think of themselves as the be-all-end-all, as though nothing and no one is good enough. Despite Aniston’s intentions, whatever they may be, the fact remains that any woman who says she needn’t “fiddle with a man” to become a mother is infantile and short-sighted.
This is a terrible message to send to young women — as O’Reilly pointed out. Young girls (unfortunately) look up to women in Hollywood. These women have tremendous influence. Because of this, they have a moral duty to espouse messages that help create a stable society.
The topic of single mothers should not be an issue of “judging” this now very large — 41% — group of women in America. It should be about reversing a trend that is beneficial to no one. As single mother “Dawn” says in response to the Aniston debacle,
“[Aniston] is a moron. As a single mom who struggled by herself to raise a little girl, I can tell you that fathers are needed and appreciated. I watch the differences with my nieces who not only have a dad, but a devoted one, and I can’t help but feel envious. Jennifer Aniston needs to stick with what she knows. Please do not speak to our teenage daughters, lady!”
Suggesting that men are unnecessary demonstrates a profound lack of understanding about human nature and family life. Hollywood actors may be rich and famous, but they are hopelessly doomed when it comes to their personal lives.
They are the last people on earth who should be dispensing advice.