Wednesday, January 6, 2010

The Classic Hollywood Sellout

I'm venturing into sensitive territory today since I live to stir the pot and cause upheaval. It's what I do. Recently, I was watching Four Christmases with Reese Witherspoon and Vince Vaughn. I was thoroughly enjoying it until the classic Hollywood sellout moment. A perfectly happy, childless, unmarried couple must do one of two things to fulfill a socially acceptable narrative: get married or have children. This caused me to wonder if most movies are financed by the multi-billion dollar wedding industry or the Republican Party.

It also happened in the film He's Just Not That Into You. If you've seen it, you'll recall the storyline between Jennifer Aniston and Ben Affleck. Perfectly happy, unmarried couple. Actually happier than their married friends in the movie. Oh, but wait. If Ben's character didn't want to marry Jennifer's, something must be wrong. Maybe he's just not that into her.

You may note here, that in real life, both Reese Witherspoon and Jennifer Aniston are divorced.

George Carlin asked us to "question everything", and he was a pretty insightful guy. So here goes... If the institution of marriage has a 50% failure rate, and of the 50% that are successful, a percentage of those couples aren't in thriving relationships or are dealing with infidelity and/or abuse, why is marriage being sold as a prerequisite to happiness?

Same goes for having children. What is this overwhelmingly sanctimonious idea that a woman, or man for that matter, is not complete if they don't procreate? Biology, you say? Survival of the species? There are millions of starving, homeless children around the world. Does each and every female really need to make more? 

Elaine Lui, of Lainey Gossip fame, appeared in a Maclean's article with her husband, discussing their decision not to have children. She received hate mail. Corinne Maier's book, 40 good reasons not to have children, was met with a firestorm of criticism from the self-righteous mommies of the world.

I myself decided long ago not to have children. The common assumptions about this decision are that I : 1) am lazy, 2) am selfish and 3) hate children in general, none of which are true. It's simply a decision I made. 

So why are the childless held in such contempt? Is it because our presence causes others to question their decisions? If anything, I know my own mind, and feel no need to give in to societal pressures to conform, especially when it comes to such a crucial, life-changing decision.  

Having children makes you a better consumer. Think about who's selling parenthood to you.

I have friends who are married and friends who are not. I have friends who are parents and friends who are not. There is not one who is better or "more complete" than another. They are all amazing, for different reasons. 

My sister-in-law nailed it when she said what it really comes down to is respect of people's decisions. Isn't that what the feminist movement was fighting for? The right to choose and have that choice respected, and not denigrated for failing to fit into a narrow view of what a fulfilling life should consist of?

In case you're wondering, I'm in a blissfully happy, long-term, committed relationship with a wonderful man. We have no plans to marry. He has two fabulous teenage daughters. I do not hate them. Quite the contrary, actually.


Laura said...

You are so right on--It does boil down to respecting others' decisions, and it Was part of what the feminist movement fought for. The focus however was/is more on the choice of when to have a child, than the choice of whether reproduce at all.

Since I published Families of Two, while the choice not to have children has become more accepted, it still remains misunderstood in a society that chooses kids more than not. To me, we will not have true reproductive freedom until the choice not to reproduce is seen as just as legitimate as the choice to reproduce. I am committed to being part of making that a reality...
--Laura Carroll

Sassy Stylings said...

Thanks so much for your comments Laura - greatly appreciated!


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