It was my final straw. Because yes, I agree, I’m no psychiatrist and I’ve never met the woman, but the attention-seeking single-mother-by-design of fourteen–including eight octuplets–is probably “off the rails.” What I don’t understand is why some people choose to react to her probable mental illness with name-calling like “bitch.”
Well, I do realize it sells tabloids and/or generates blog hits or reflects already reflected light–however unflattering–on the writer. But commenters in threads following stories about her are filled with vitriol too. Nastiness flies like cold germs at a Chucky Cheese in January. And now it’s an epidemic. Suddenly, we are all supposed to love to hate Nadya.
I just don’t get it.
Here’s why I don’t hate Nadya:
1. I don’t know her. I have no idea if she’s truly an awful person, a misguided sweet person or a seriously ill person so out of touch with reality that it’s impossible to judge her.
2. There is no way to actually get to know her. Magazine stories and television interviews and press conferences designed by a professional publicist are not going to tell me any more about her. It’s all spin. Spin she’s probably only partly controlling and even then, how the heck do I know what’s truth or fiction or why she even wants it spun a particular way?
3. There are so many other forces to hate. There’s the fertility industry and its unregulated ways. There’s an unethical doctor out there who, apparently does this sort of thing with some frequency. There’s the publicist who took the job of spinning Nadya. Nadya’s idea to hire her? Probably. But again with the crazy. The publicist didn’t have to agree to take the job. She could have said, “honey, you don’t need a publicist, you need anti-psychotics.” But there is money to be made in public train wrecks, isn’t there? And let’s not forget to hate the ridiculous romantic claptrap about motherhood that encourages women to view themselves as saints or goddesses just by virtue of having a vagina that once squeezed out a child or fourteen.
4. Finally, I have to say that all the poison cast towards Nadya Suleman reminds me uncomfortably of the same viciousness cast towards mothers who don’t meet ever narrower, ever shifting culturally normative standards for all kinds of other reasons. Can’t anyone else see that the judgement hurled at Suleman is just a stone’s throw from the judgement hurled at any single mother, regardless of how she came by her children? Got pregnant the old-fashioned way? She’s a slut. Used a sperm donor and hired a nanny? She’s a selfish old maid. Needs some public assistance? She’s a leech on the taxpayer. Self-supporting? She’s a workaholic. And those judgements are yet another stone’s throw from the ones that plague other mothers. Stay at home? You’re a door mat, a bore and a bad example to your daughters. Work for money and use daycare? Why’d you bother to have kids if you didn’t plan to raise them? Used fertility treatment? Obviously the good lord didn’t want you to be a mother and you went against nature. Adopted? You stole a baby from its real mother to serve your own desires.
Do any of these sound familiar? And before you say “sure, but the one that sounds familiar to me is not fair, whereas Suleman really deserves our criticism,” I say, it’s all the same thing. It’s the same big, tired, old argument that mothers are responsible for everything bad about children, families, society. It’s the flip side of that saint/goddess nonsense.
We’d be doing ourselves a favor to quit judging women we don’t even know for situations we have no real access to–especially when those mothers are clearly compromised in some serious ways that are not within their control. Whether it be mental illness, poverty or legal injustice that compromises them. If we’d not be judged ourselves, we ought to shut up about others too.
And if you really, really want to keep hating Nadya, nothing could hurt her more than letting her story die quietly so that the people who are really close to her can turn their attention to getting her the help she–and her 14 kids–really need (hint: it’s NOT a t.v. show).