Well, it’s finally happened, you guys. After weeks of speculation, a couple of overly-scrutinized photos circulating the web, and a flat-out denial from her publicist, Jennifer Aniston herself has finally come out of the woodwork to set the record straight: she is NOT pregnant, and in fact she’s pretty ticked off at all this scrutiny of her personal life.
Though the actress usually declines to comment on rumors — especially those pertaining to her alleged pregnancy plans, which have literally been circulating for years — she penned a candid essay for The Huffington Post Tuesday that officially denied recent claims. And while she was at it, she also took the opportunity to voice her concerns about what these rumors say about the state of the media (and our world, for that matter).
“For the record, I am not pregnant,” Aniston wrote. “What I am is fed up. I’m fed up with the sport-like scrutiny and body shaming that occurs daily under the guise of ‘journalism,’ the ‘First Amendment’ and ‘celebrity news.’”
My first thought when I read these words? Amen, sister!
It truly does blow my mind the way the media has remained hyper-focused on Jennifer Aniston’s uterus for the last two decades now — as well as what is or isn’t in it. It’s as though most of the world just can’t imagine why someone so beautiful and successful would choose not to have a child. Either that, or they’re overly concerned about whether she’s still able to become pregnant at the “ripe old age” of 47. (In other words, most people’s definition of ancient.)
Whatever the reason, Aniston has had enough, and is addressing our unhealthy obsession with her childbearing decisions head-on.
“The sheer amount of resources being spent right now by press trying to simply uncover whether or not I am pregnant,” wrote Aniston, “points to the perpetuation of this notion that women are somehow incomplete, unsuccessful, or unhappy if they’re not married with children.”
Now let me just pause right here to say that ever since the days of Friends — and really, all throughout her very respectable post-Friends movie career — I’ve always been a fan. But this just took it next-level: Not only does Aniston have an infectious and likable personality on the screen, but she’s clearly an eloquent writer and a kick-ass feminist, too. And when she speaks to the unfair scrutiny she’s experienced over her “worth” as a woman, she’s not just speaking for herself; she’s speaking for us all.
Because this issue isn’t just about Aniston; it’s about how we as a society view women, motherhood, body image, and gender roles.
In so many ways, we’ve haven’t broken out of our traditional, 1950s-era perception of a woman — that her whole identity is wrapped up in her dual (and expected) roles as mother and wife. And yet, we expect even more of women now: we expect them to be superhuman mothers while balancing successful, high-powered careers at the same time. We are supposed to “do it all,” and do it well. But what if we just want to focus on one? What if that’s “enough” for us? And whose business is it to judge or scrutinize us for making that choice, anyway?
In her essay, Aniston also addresses the issue of body image that comes into play any time pregnancy rumors swirl. This latest one began after a bikini photo taken of Aniston went viral, and the fact that every inch of her body is under a microscope has the actress understandably disturbed — not just for herself, but for all women, whose bodies are regularly objectified by society.
“I resent being made to feel ‘less than’ because my body is changing and/or I had a burger for lunch and was photographed from a weird angle and therefore deemed one of two things: ‘pregnant’ or ‘fat.’”
The messages we send to women and young girls about their bodies is important, she warns; and we need to be careful about how we send them. Aniston contends that we’re all guilty of this — any of us who consume celebrity gossip in any way.
“The message that girls are not pretty unless they’re incredibly thin, that they’re not worthy of our attention unless they look like a supermodel or an actress on the cover of a magazine is something we’re all willingly buying into,” she writes.
Yes, yes, and more YES. I’ll be the first to come clean and say that even I get somewhat wrapped up in all this nonsense, but I’m so glad she’s calling us all out on it in such an important and eloquent way. When I first heard the rumors about her latest “supposed” pregnancy, I admit I was a little curious. But when I saw that it was all based on Aniston’s very NORMAL-looking belly, I felt terrible. Terrible for her, terrible for women, and maybe most of all, terrible for our daughters — this is NOT the world we want for them.
Aniston points out that these rumors about her bump were circulating the same week that mass shootings were happening, and major elections being decided. (Just put that in perspective for a minute.) But she also argues that the change is in our hands: we get to decide what is and isn’t important in terms of media coverage. We choose to click on the headlines, pour over the photos, and perpetuate the cycle of voyeuristic celebrity culture.
Should we care whether someone we’ve never met before is pregnant, gaining weight, losing weight, had plastic surgery, or is wearing flattering or unflattering clothes? We are the consumers, after all, and it’s up to us to change the dialogue surrounding women, bodies, motherhood, and gender roles.
As for when and if Aniston will ever become a mom, she says she might someday — and if she does, she will tell us right away. But as far as I’m concerned, she doesn’t need to. It’s no one’s business but her own.