Leave Jillian Alone
The media is skewering Jillian Michael’s comments on adoption as “disturbing” but I say she gave an honest answer that other women are afraid to cop to.
I never thought I’d be taking sides with a TV exercise guru, let alone The Biggest Loser’s Jillian Michaels. First of all, I find the concept of fat people competing to lose weight totally objectionable. While we’re at it, in spite of all the rave reviews I’m terrified of trying 30 Day Shred. Some people get off on being yelled at but for me there is nothing that makes me want to quit sweating and flop on the couch in defeat more than some woman yelling at me from the TV like a tanned, spandex clad Trunchbull.
What’s she in the news for that’s got me in her corner? The ethics of her TV show haven’t come under fire. Nobody’s hating on her for announcing that she’d like to be the next Oprah, either. So what’s earned her criticism everywhere from Yahoo News to Jezebel? People are dissing on Michaels for one of the most personal decisions a woman can make, how she plans on becoming a mom.
Check out this passage from the May 2010 issue of Women’s Health:
”She also hopes to have kids someday saying, “I’m going to adopt.” One of the reasons: Jillian admits to having an aversion to pregnancy, the result of being an overweight kid. “I can’t handle doing that to my body”, she explains. “Also, when you rescue someone it’s like rescuing a part of yourself.”
Her life, her body, her choice? Right? Wrong. I’m not surprised by the mainstream media backlash against Michaels, what disturbs me is how she’s been slammed for her choices by so many feminist journalists. The Huffington Post obnoxiously sensationalized the article with the misquoted headline, “I won’t ruin my body with pregnancy.” While Jezebel’s Anna N opines, “It’s certainly disturbing that Michaels, who likely represents health to millions of Americans, seems to equate pregnancy with some sort of bodily injury.” OK, well fair enough, but doing “that” to her body is only one small reason in a larger rationale that involves “rescuing” another person. That’s certainly laudable, right? And even if “ruining her body” was her main concern, who cares? Is it really that big of a deal that Jillian Michaels might do a valuable service to society by adopting a child and manage to avoid stretch marks while she’s at it?
Part of the reason why I hate this controversy so much is that it reeks of the old, “Adopted moms aren’t real moms.” bias. As if women who don’t have babies the old-fashioned way are somehow cheating because we all know that the only way to become a true mother is to carry a baby for 9 months and then squeeze it out of your cha-cha because what makes a mom a mom isn’t your unconditional love for another human being but the morning sickness, the night sweats and the leaking titties. Puh-leeze.
And if this isn’t a glaring example of feminist, “UR DOIN IT WRONG” then I don’t know what is. Feminists are supposed to support the reproductive choices of other women, not slam them. Whether or not Jillian Michaels plans to use her own uterus in her quest to become a mom isn’t supposed to be anybody’s business but her own.
I say that women are disturbed by Michaels because she’s given voice to a fear that all of us have (I challenge you to find a woman of childbearing age who hasn’t experienced a bit of anxiety regarding her body and pregnancy.) and she’s found a way to circumvent that fear in a way that we find selfish. She’s cheating. You can’t have your cake and eat it to. You can’t be a fitness guru, have a baby and avoid the physical trials of pregnancy. That’s not playing by the rules. Therefor, we must censure her.
Our culture consistently treats female anxiety over the physical ramifications of pregnancy as mere vanity when in reality it is often so much more than that. The physical pitfalls of pregnancy are more than just stretch marks and excess flab. They can include incontinence, uterine prolapse, diabetes and sexual dysfunction. I think I speak for many women when I say that I can handle the extra flab, but the idea of my uterus falling into my vagina is what really scares me. Why are women’s very real physical concerns about pregnancy always played off by the media as shallow, immature and hysterical? For fuck’s sake, we live in a country where women can be treated as abusers for refusing a C-section and provisions for the criminalization of miscarriages have been discussed. To be pregnant is to completely give up control of your own body and put your faith into a heath and justice system that is often completely misogynistic. If that isn’t terrifying, I don’t know what is. Why can’t we say it? Why do we have to play it off as vanity and selfishness?
I guess all of this hits a little too close to home because like Michaels, I dream of becoming an adopted mom. Maybe it was all those Anne of Green Gables books I read as a child but adoption has always been something I’ve been drawn to. For me it also serves a practical purpose. Like Michaels I’m no spring chicken, I’m already over 30 and not interested in having kids for another 5 years or so (And no I’m not willing to hurry that timetable up, thank you very much.). And OK while we’re at it, I’ll just go ahead and out myself here and tell y’all that I also have a rare hormonal disorder that would make getting pregnant difficult in the first place and pretty much guarantee a risky pregnancy if I finally was to get knocked up. I simply can’t imagine going through roller coaster of fertility treatments, miscarriages and complicated pregnancies into my late 30s. (Let alone the expense and exposure to cancer-causing hormones.) Going through all that just to have a little genetic copy of myself, especially when I know that there are kids out there (probably in my own zip code) who need loving families is what seems selfish to me.
Time and again when I explain my interest in adoption I’m looked at as if I’m immature, unwomanly, unnatural. People just can’t fathom why I would choose adoption before every other avenue toward biological motherhood had been exhausted. I’ve even had people tell me that if I don’t want to get pregnant then I shouldn’t become a parent. Ouch. Overall, the message I’ve received from the pitying looks on the faces of acquaintances and the withering silence on the other side of the phone when I explain my hopes of adopting to my mother send a clear message: adoption is an inadequate substitute for biological motherhood and women who choose to adopt for reasons other than necessity are selfish.
Why do we feel this way? Why is it that men who choose to raise somebody else’s children are lauded as heroes while women who do it are treated barren, pathetic and psychologically damaged? Why is the notion that biological motherhood is the ultimate fulfillment of femininity still so widely accepted and unquestioned? Awfully sexist, not to mention heterosexist, when you think about it.
I feel that part of the problem comes that we have so few lenses through which to view motherhood. Society likes to pigeonhole females. We’re either the Madonna or the whore, the self-sacrificing martyr or the evil, avaricious, mommy dearest. Snow White, or Wicked Queen. You need only look as far as any Disney move to see that our culture likes our mothers beautiful, innocuous, and preferably dead. The woman who adopts out of choice and dares to admit that she won’t mind keeping her waist line in the process doesn’t fit into this script. We’d rather censure her than learn from her how to expand our narrow notion of motherhood.
In all the articles I read about Michaels, not one person stuck up for her. I’m here to say that I sympathize with and understand her reasons for making the choices she’s made and I support them. Beyond that, I hope to be a part of a generation of women that’s rewriting the script on motherhood. We don’t need no stinkin’ Barbie Dream Family to be real moms. Moms can be of all ages, backgrounds and persuasions. Moms are adopted, surrogate, single, partnered, whatever. Love makes a family and love makes a mom, no genetic material (or stretch marks) required.
Entry filed under: autobiography, body image, celebrities, entertainment, feminism, news, opinion, Uncategorized, women's health. Tags: 30 day shred, adoption, celebrities, childbirth, dead moms, disney, feminism, jezebel.com, jillian michaels, motherhood, the biggest loser.