Saturday, April 11, 2009

Something That's Been Bothering Me

When I attended a two-day African-American literature conference in honor of Winston Napier a little over a month ago, one of the speakers addressed the issue of the portrayal of women of color in the media versus that of Caucasian woman. One of the points that struck me was about Nadya Suleman, a mother of 14, including a set of octuplets. At the time, I had no idea who she was, but after I had cycled through all the wonderfully trashy magazines at my university's gym, I had a pretty clear idea of who she was-- at least in the media's eyes.

Nadya Suleman is often referred to as "Octomom." Let's think about this for a moment. She is referred to with a word that makes me think of some kind of side-show oddity at the most disturbing, and simply as a slimy, bottom-dwelling animal at the least disturbing. This is disgusting, and I wanted to write about this when I saw the following caricature on Gallery of the Absurd:


This was the point where I got fed up about the whole thing. The woman has a ton of children, and not a ton of money, so she's receiving financial help to support them. I do think that this is incredibly irresponsible for someone to choose to continue having children when they cannot actually afford them. However, things like people protesting in such a rude way outside her home when she was away with her children at Disney is unacceptable:

*not actually a video; and yes, those are children holding signs that say "get ur tubes tied" and such. lovely.

I have a question for you. Has there been this kind of uproar over the White families that are getting the bulk of TLC's ratings lately? I have friends who get together to watch "John and Kate Plus Eight" on a weekly basis. Many families like the Gosselins are surely taking some handouts, if even just items from companies hoping they'll get some business from their strollers being on TV or something. I find it hard to believe that there are "regular" families nowadays making enough money to support so many children.


The above woman is pregnant with sextuplets. Her belly protudes. A lot. A lot more than one of a woman pregnant with the standard one or two babies would. She is shown wearing normal clothes, in front of her lovely doors, and with her cute daughter looking up lovingly at her.


Now the above woman is Nadya Suleman in a widely-circulated photo taken during her pregnancy. Her belly protudes. A lot. A lot more than one of a woman pregnant with the standard one or two babies would. She is shown in a dark photo with her shirt pulled up to show her abundant stretchmarks, and the two photos shown together make her appear to be in some sort of mugshot. Surely you see the difference. I have never seen photos of a pregnant woman look like Suleman's before. These photos were shown during the speaker's talk at the conference I mentioned. It shocked me because pregnancy is usually depicted so happily in the media. Suleman looks content, but it's obvious that whoever distributed these photographs wanted her to be seen in a decidedly negative light.

I don't know how much I want to delve into the race angle at this time, just because I'm not familiar with many other photographs of pregnant women of color in the media and how their stories were treated. All I'm saying is that even thouggh I don't know if there has been an official statement on Suleman's ethnicity, I've heard she's Assyrian. Hmm.

As I looked around the internet for people's opinions of multiple births, I saw that some people felt similarly about White parents as they do about Suleman; that is, that families that have multiple births shouldn't be "using" their babies to get money. This is true. You should not have children for the sake of handouts. However, I wish people would keep in mind that some families, like John and Kate and the Duggar family-- they have 18 kids, which is more than Suleman has-- are being watched for entertainment and getting paid for it, and no one is widely portraying them as unfit parents and monsters.

What is that stench I smell? Oh, yes: hypocrisy.

31 comments:

Nicole said...

i feel the same way.

amanda said...

Amen, sister woman.

At this point, I refuse to read the nasty "Octomom" gossip. Suleman obviously has mental health issues (I base this on the hearsay history her mother provided when the octuplets were born) making the media feeding frenzy just disgusting in my eyes.

Taking it back to the racial issue, I remember people were up in holier-than-thou arms over Suleman, saying they didn't want some "Latina" woman spending their tax money and it's just a case of minorities milking the hard-working white folk out of their money. My eyes rolled so hard I could barely form a coherent response. From what I've gathered, Suleman is Iraqi (or Arab) and Caucasian. She is a sick woman. There are a lot of children in that house, all of whom need love and attention.

Maverick Malone said...

WAit, wait...

DId she purposely have octuplets? When you get pregnant you don't CHOOSE to be pregnant with 8 kids, I think 99% of people just expect one kid. How is this her fault?

Vanessa said...

I think she may have had some kind of artificial insemination, which sometimes results in multiple births because they implant a lot of fertilized eggs (? I would look that up if you're really interested, 'cause I'm not expert), and I think that's part of where the uproar is coming from-- that maybe she was aware of the potential for something like this to happen/she should not have been trying to have more kids because of her financial situation.

chic said...

Although I find what she did very problematic and irresponsible, I totally agree with you that the media coverage has been heinous! Great post!

There was an interesting conversation about this very topic on Momversation recently:

http://www.momversation.com/episodes/nadya-suleman-octomom

Although I don't agree with all the things said in that discussion, they raise some very interesting points, especially what Dooce says about reproductive freedom.

I also like your point about the TLC families like the Duggers and the Gosselin's - although the situations are admittedly different, people are *celebrating* the fact that these families have so many kids and are making it work. And as you said, I know the Gosselin's are getting their fair share of monetary support from outside sources, but in their case the media has deemed it alright. It's interesting how different criteria for judging are applied to these various cases. S.

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