To say that the media blitz surrounding Nadya Suleman and the recent birth of her eight children (of fourteen) has been monumentous would be an understatement. Accusations of everything from an unhealthy obsession with motherhood and clinical insanity to criminal negligence has been levied against the infamous baby mama.
It's clear that deciding to give birth to fourteen children with no means of supporting them is unusual, jarring even - not to mention ethically questionable. But I find it ironic that a woman who has fully and whole-heartedly embraced the role of mother and caregiver which the heteropatriarchy has demanded from women for millenia, has been discursively transformed into this unimaginable, inhuman, grotesque demon-mother succubus, seeking to drain men and their civilization of its essence to sustain herself and her ever-spawning brood.
Additionally, the associations with Angelina Jolie takes an interesting turn. Allegations that Suleman went on this baby craze after being inspired by the famous actress, who has also come under fire for her nontraditional multiracial multinational family, seem tangential at best. Both women have been ridiculed for their desire for children which defies the presumed order of heterosexual reproduction. While Angelina has obviously had children biologically with Brad Pitt, she had adopted her first two children long before starting her relationship with Brad.
In addition, her conscious choice to adopt children who are non-white whilst resisting the pressure to marry that was heavily heaped upon her by the press and media, are all clear transgressions upon the western heteropatriarchy. She, understandably has become more amicable to the idea of marriage, but at the prompting of her children not the media or external forces.
All of this, I believe, stems from a deep fear instilled in our society of unbridled female reproductive power. In the same way that abortion and right to choice activists frighten the Powers That Be, Octo-mom and Angelina Jolie terrify those in the status quo, with their insistence on making families without the supervision or permission from men. It is clear that female reproductive power is a key resource which requires a firm hand. Unfettered control over women's reproductive potential in the hands of women, whether to have or not to have children, fundamentally strikes at the viability of a prolonged patriarchal power structure. The notion of women making children outside of the confines of marriage, or even the need for a male participant is an even more frightening prospect. Women producing children with no men in sight? I believe that's called Themyscira.
Suleman presents an interesting philosophical question on the ethical questions which surround motherhood. The majority of the criticism levied against her is that since she can't possibly support them financially, she is being criminally negligible in putting her children at an undue risk for all sorts of ailments and threats associated with poverty. However, to argue that Suleman is being negligible based on her lack of means enters very rough territory. If we are to apply the same criteria to all childbirths presents a very real problem.
It becomes difficult to condemn Suleman for her choice to have children when there are hundreds of thousands of women of little means who have children every year. We don't license individuals for the right to procreate based on their ability to care for their children, then how can we accuse Suleman of such negligence?
Let it be known that I think the lady is bat shit crazy. I am deeply concerned for her children and their well-being. While it is clear that Suleman has the emotional tools to give affection and care for her children, there is little evidence that their more material needs will be met.
Doubly unfortunate, most other large volume births which receive significant media attention benefit from the invasive interviews with significant donations of child supplies from the public. But due to the controversy surrounding Suleman, no major corporation has signed up to donate baby supplies. And it is even more unlikely she will be receiving a swell of individual gifts. We are punishing the children for the (perceived) sins of the mother.
(originally posted on BelowtheBelt.org)