Jennifer Aniston, the actress whose frequently exposed personal life has driven untold sums of money to the celebrity journalism business, would like for it to stop speculating about the contents of her uterus.
“For the record, I am not pregnant,” she wrote in an essay for The Huffington Post this week. “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.'”
She has a point: Aniston, 47, has long been used by supermarket tabloids, gossip websites and celebrity magazines as the reductive avatar of the complicated Hollywood It Girl.
First, she was cast as the The Girl Next Door, starring in the megahit sitcom Friends and marrying Brad Pitt.
Then she became the Scorned Wife after her divorce (and, later, Pitt’s marriage to Angelina Jolie) ushered in the feverish “Team Aniston” era, which spanned several years and created an “insane Bermuda Triangle,” as she told GQ in 2008.
And the title of that GQ article, “Lordy, Lordy, This Woman Is 40,” signaled a new era for Aniston.
She became the Single Aging Woman.
“If I am some kind of symbol to some people out there, then clearly I am an example of the lens through which we, as a society, view our mothers, daughters, sisters, wives, female friends and colleagues,” she wrote in the Huffington Post essay. “The objectification and scrutiny we put women through is absurd and disturbing.”
Aniston’s marriage to the actor Justin Theroux — whom she wed in 2015 after years of speculative headlines about their relationship — has entered the territory of constant conjecture over whether or not she is pregnant.
As Aniston puts it, she has “grown tired of being part of this narrative.”
“Here’s where I come out on this topic: We are complete with or without a mate, with or without a child,” she wrote. “We get to decide for ourselves what is beautiful when it comes to our bodies.”
The obsession over women and their pregnancies goes far beyond Aniston: It is ingrained in our culture to “police and survey” women’s bodies, especially pregnant ones, said Amanda Rossie, who researches Women’s and Gender Studies at The College of New Jersey.
Rossie said that the increased use of social media and blogging, as well as the rise of so-called Bump Watch areas of celebrity gossip websites have led to a frenzy where women are not only consuming celebrity baby news, they’re posting their own bump photos on social media.
“There are more technologies that help us survey these bodies and police these bodies,” Rossie said, “and in a lot of ways we’re teaching other women and other girls to do this surveillance.”
Aniston has done traditional publicity, sometimes posing for magazine covers, but she has never willingly participated in the deeper frenzy of the gossip sites. While many celebrities have shared stories of their sex lives, fertility struggles and pregnancies with the world on social media — some have even made money off pregnancy announcements through sponsored content — she has steered clear.
“I think that’s one of our sort of cultural frustrations with her,” Rossie said. “She has all the trappings to be a wonderful mother, but it’s not a choice that she’s making.”
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