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Is It Fair to Accuse White Hollywood Actresses of Using Black Babies as Status Symbols?

charlize theron son, adopting black babies

Charlize Theron and her adopted son.

Jezebel’s first post this morning ran with the headline, “Will Charlize Theron Help Jennifer Aniston Score a Black Kid?” When the post was shared by admins on Jezebel’s Facebook page, the backlash started immediately from fans of the liberal, feminist site. “Really Jezebel?? Are you kidding me??” “This headline is so fucking offensive. EPIC EPIC MEGA FAIL JEZ.” “WTF JEZEBEL.” “Wow! That is a wildly offensive title. Black children are not synonymous w/ animals or purses. You don’t “score” them!”

Exactly. Which leads me to my response:

“I love you guys so much, but really, this header is … it just doesn’t sit right. I mean, you can’t be calling people out for objectifying young black girls like Q. Wallis and then objectify black babies who are adopted by white people. Funny thing is, you might defend the headline by saying the celebs are the butt of the joke, but that’s what people tried to say about The Onion’s joke and Seth’s Clooney joke, too. Guh.”

That’s right. When the controversy broke post-Oscars over The Onion’s tweet using the c-word to describe child star Quvenzhané Wallis and Seth MacFarlane’s generally off-the-mark hosting, Jezebel ran a brilliant piece by Lindy West on “Sexism Fatigue” in which she wrote, “Seth MacFarlane will go on the television and make a joke about George Clooney having sex with a 9-year-old girl who is sitting right there, and your first reaction will be, “Well. At least he didn’t literally say she should get raped. Pass the cheese.” That quote really spoke to me, and I shared it with those in my social media circle, who spent a lot of time discussing it. Jezebel presented itself as being staunchly against the objectification of black children, and now they miss the mark with this headline, even though they – like The Onion and MacFarlane – were trying to make a greater point about celebrity culture. As others noted in the Oscars Fallout of 2013, there is a way to lampoon celebrity culture without leaving black children as casualties of the War on Celebrity. (Like all of America’s wars, it’s one we love to fight.)

There were those in Jezebel’s fan circle who wanted to defend the headline, calling it satire (we’ve heard it all before – satire that fails structurally is still a bad joke) and who suggested that white women in Hollywood only adopt black babies as status symbols. One commenter wrote:

The point is to be offensive because these Hollywood women who adopt kids by the dozen are collecting them to get more box office from all of you. It’s bull shit. They don’t even take care of them. They haul them out for a parade of pity and coos and then you love them and go to see all their films. It’s for show. It’s not reductive either. It’s spot on to their horrible attitudes.

Another added, “What’s terrible and offensive is the trend of adopting exotic brown babies as a mark of status.”

I’ll admit that I might have assumed the same thing before I had a child of my own. “Angelina Jolie doesn’t really want to help children. She just wants a couple of brown babies as status symbols.” But I can tell you now, after having done it for 7 years, HAVING A CHILD IS EXTREMELY HARD WORK. (I don’t care what Jessica Valenti tells you.) So if you see a mother with her child, carrying him around while she’s running errands, she’s not doing it to further her career. She’s doing it because she’s a mother and she needs to go to the grocery store. You can’t argue that a trip to the grocery store is “hauling a child out” so I’ll go see some stupid movie. If these adopted children were being treated like prizes, they wouldn’t come along on routine trips to the grocery store. They would stay home with their nanny while Mommie Dearest put on her fur and headed to Whole Foods.

Furthermore, flash forward a few years, and Angelina Jolie has a wildly inventive family of both biological and adopted children from all over the world. She is a UN Special Envoy for Refugee Issues. She travels around the world helping children. Who’s the asshole, guys? Angelina Jolie, or us for presuming to know what her “shitty intentions” were when she adopted a brown baby?

So I added my two cents to the conversation these commenters started:

Do you live with any of the women in Hollywood who have adopted babies? How do you know these babies are “a mark of status?” Maybe these wealthy women – who don’t HAVE TO have or take care of children at all – are trying to do something for the world they live in by caring for a child who doesn’t have a home? Do you know how many white couples who can’t have kids specifically wait for a white baby, which leaves all kinds of non-white kids left in the foster system?

My friend Eileen Kelly is a comedian who lives in New Jersey. She writes for Lifetime Moms, she does live shows. She’s not famous. But she is a performer, and she did adopt a black baby. One who needed a home. Is she a piece of shit? Really? Did she “score” him, just to have as a “trophy baby,” in addition to the two biological children – not to mention dogs – that she already had?

Maybe – just maybe – instead of examining this supposed secret loathing allegedly felt by Hollywood actresses toward their adopted black babies that they “scored” – maybe we should start examining OUR hatred of these Hollywood actresses. For more on why we feel the way we do about women in Hollywood, read this wonderfully insightful post by my friend Erin Judge. Cuz for now I gotta go. You know, I’m busy, I have a kid to trot out in the hopes of furthering my career.

Photo credit: Pacific Coast News

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