Once again, Jennifer Aniston is setting the record straight on exactly why we shouldn’t be harassing women over motherhood.
In a wide-ranging interview with the Hollywood Reporter published on Thursday, Jen opened up about how she has navigated a decades-spanning career in the spotlight.
“I think people are still doing it today,” she said of the intense scrutiny of women in particular. “What the tabloids and the media did to people’s personal lives back then, regular people are doing now [on social media.]”
“Although I haven’t seen a tabloid in so long. Am I still having twins? Am I going to be the miracle mother at 52?” she quipped, making light of the public’s lingering obsession with her supposed pursuit of motherhood.
“Now you’ve got social media. It’s almost like the media handed over the sword to any Joe Schmo sitting behind a computer screen to be a troll or whatever they call them and bully people in comment sections,” she explained. “So it’s just sort of changed hands in a way. And I don’t know why there’s such a cruel streak in society.”
Going on to shed light on how the intense scrutiny of her personal life has impacted her mentally, Jen spoke out about the damaging repercussions of pregnancy speculation, admitting that constant rumors of her pregnancy had been hard for her to see.
“I used to take it all very personally — the pregnancy rumors and the whole 'Oh, she chose career over kids' assumption,” she revealed. “It’s like, ‘You have no clue what’s going with me personally, medically, why I can’t … can I have kids?’ They don’t know anything, and it was really hurtful and just nasty.”
She went on to detail the absurd “double standard” that is evident in the way that women, unlike their male counterparts, are valued in society based upon factors like motherhood and marital status.
“It’s the same with Dolly Parton; Dolly Parton never had kids. But are people giving her shit for it? No, no one’s tried to put her in a white picket fence,” she said, comparing their experiences.
“Men can be married as many times as they want to,” Jen stated. “They can marry [younger] women in their 20s or 30s. Women aren’t allowed to do that.”
To better understand the gravity of her statements, it’s important to remind ourselves that Jennifer has faced, and fought, persistent questioning about pregnancy since the earliest stages of her career.
After her highly publicized divorce from Brad Pitt in 2005, Jen was villainized by the media following an influx of fabricated and misogynistic reports claiming that the real reason for their split was because Jen "refused" to have a baby.
The entirely false overarching narrative of the split was that Jen was too focused on her career to have children and that, as a result, Brad was tragically forced to go in search of a woman who could provide him with a family — i.e., Angelina Jolie.
And so, in 2005 — just as in 2021 — Jennifer went on the record to shut down speculation about her plans to become a mother.
Speaking to Vanity Fair in her first interview after the divorce, Jen revealed that she was “really pissed off” by the sexist reports that she chose her career over having a family.
“A man divorcing would never be accused of choosing career over children,” she said of the double standard, as blatant then as it is now. “I’ve never in my life said I didn’t want to have children. I did and I do and I will!”
“The women that inspire me are the ones who have careers and children; why would I want to limit myself? I’ve always wanted to have children, and I would never give up that experience for a career. I want to have it all,” Jen said at the time.
The false reports speak to a much wider generalization that presents women with the archaic conundrum that deems motherhood and a thriving career to be two mutually exclusive endeavors — something that Jen, like plenty of others, has been tackling for many years.
In an attempt to reclaim the narrative, Jennifer — who was married to Justin Theroux at the time — penned a scathing yet powerful essay for HuffPost in 2016. She addressed false pregnancy reports by debunking the “warped” cultural standards by which a woman's worth has been historically calculated.
“For the record, I am not pregnant. What I am is fed up,” she began.
“This past month in particular has illuminated for me how much we define a woman’s value based on her marital and maternal status,” she wrote, before detailing the relentless pregnancy speculation at the time.
“The sheer amount of resources being spent right now by press trying to simply uncover whether or not I am pregnant (for the bajillionth time ... but who’s counting) points to the perpetuation of this notion that women are somehow incomplete, unsuccessful, or unhappy if they’re not married with children,” she continued.
Drawing the bottom line, Jen wrote: “Here’s where I come out on this topic: we are complete with or without a mate, with or without a child. We get to decide for ourselves what is beautiful when it comes to our bodies. That decision is ours and ours alone.”
And frankly, we couldn’t have said it better ourselves.