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Octomom: Single and So What? March 2, 2009

Posted by Onely in Everyday Happenings, Heteronormativity, Just Saying..
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The Octomom is almost as sick and selfish as the doctor who impregnated her.

However: the media’s fixation on her single status is just as disturbing.  Yes, it’s harder to be a mom if you don’t have a supportive, caring partner. But NPR, CBS, CNN, ABC, TIME, and MSN, among others, are flagging her single status above the facts that she’s unemployed, broke, already burdened with six other kids, and plain crazy.  This kind of coverage gives all single moms a bad name, and in fact, it also encourages the stereotype of “single” as innately bad, thereby giving even childfree singles a bad name too!

Why don’t they say “A broke, unemployed woman on food stamps with six kids gave birth to eight more”? That is more indicative of the problem than “A single woman gave birth to eight kids”, which could also refer to an unmarried Octomom  living with a supportive, competent cousin and grandmother and making 500,000 a year–someone who would probably be able to give eight kids a good home (ignoring for a moment the side issue of why she didn’t just adopt and help “decrease the surplus population”).

Thankfully, smothered amongst these semi-singlist articles was this thoughtful post by  Earl Ofari Hutchinson about how Octomom coverage is further stigmatizing single mothers, even while the Octomom herself rails against the fact that she would be much less controversial if she were coupled. This is true–if she and her husband were both unemployed, broke, and crazy, well, at least the children would be living with married parents, right?? YAY!

What we need to do is stop beating up single mothers and find ways that people can more easily raise children while single.  Suggestions welcome!  And also, Copious Readers, are you angrier at the Octomom or at the media’s coverage of her? Neither? Both?



1. Lauri - March 2, 2009

I think this woman, single or not, has a sickness. Why else would anyone who already has six children undergo the cost and invasiveness of IVF? It has to be some kind of disorder similar to the people who hoard cats. I don’t think I can be mad at her then, but I am mad at any family members or people close to her who haven’t recognized this and tried to get her help before something like this happened. I’m not angry at the media. While I agree that they are, as usual, to quick to harp on her for being single, as a person who is suddenly realizing that all my current financial problems could be solved by simply being married, I can see how it under scores her lack of resources. I am happy that the media is not presenting her as a wonderful person doing something wonderful for society as they present the Duggars. But here is the singlist rub: the Duggars are gods, octomom is the devil. The Duggars are married, Octomom is single. I don’t think they should be treating octomom better, I think they should be treating the Duggars worse. No matter what the marital status or financial situation, these people are ill, narcissistic, and a drain on all of natural resources and healthcare system.

2. Anita - March 2, 2009

While I don’t agree with this woman’s decision, I’m uncomfortable with labeling her and judging her mentally ill without knowing her. I’m *very* uncomfortable with the word “octomom”, as it has monstrous overtones.

Maybe we could discuss this issue with a little less judgment?

3. onely - March 2, 2009

Lauri, you are right about the Duggars–very good point.
Anita, I’m going to have to agree with you that “Octomom” does sound kind of monstrous, good point. Didn’t think about that!

I do feel that the facts of her behavior, and her statements in interviews, strongly indicate she is mentally ill, along the lines of Lauri’s cat collection analogy. Upon reflection in light of your thoughtful comment, it occurs to me that I can either think this woman is a selfish brat, or I can think she is mentally ill–but not both, because we shouldn’t chastise people who are mentally ill, given that it’s not their fault. But whether she is ill or just selfish, she has taken advantage of the good hearts of a lot of people–and “endangered” fourteen children. And that is very hard to discuss without a lot of exclamation marks!

4. trauma queen - March 3, 2009

not exactly related to this post – but thught you should put this up too. shows the ridiculous extent media conglomerates go to to cash in on the unmarried loneliness feeling that is so rampant in India. I have poked fun at it on my blog:

‘Mujhse shaadi karoge?’ translates to ‘Will you marry me?’

5. Lauri - March 3, 2009

But will the need to keep having kids ever be considered a real mental illness? I am no psychologist by any means but it seems so similar to hording animals, which is a real disease. I wonder if the medical community just won’t go there just like the environmental community won’t go there. For some reason, people won’t touch the subject of reproduction.

6. Rachel - March 4, 2009

I find the whole idea of in vitro fertilization disturbing. Why is it SO important to have a child who is biologically related to you that people go through the time, expense, and risk of IVF? Adoption seems to only be considered as a last resort. Granted, it can be quite a challenge to adopt a child who is older than an infant, which many kids in foster care are. Though raising multiple kids – a common side-effect of IVF pregnancies – is also rather challenging.

There seems to be some cultural/societal stigma against adoption. The kids aren’t “really” yours then. Why does biology trump love?

7. Linda - March 4, 2009

‘Octomom: Single and So What?’ totally misses the issue. The issues are that she has 6 other children, and has no means of support, except her mother’s retirement check. Not to mention that she lied to her mother about being pregnant, he mother’s home is in foreclosure, as she merrily goes about paying for IVF and getting her nails done. She is obviously not in touch with reality. It will be interesting to get Children’s Services take on her ability to care for her fragile infants and needy brood.

8. Lauri - March 4, 2009

Rachel, I’ve often pondered this question as well. I am big proponent of adoption and have seen it work out so well for some of my friends. My thought is that, no matter what people like to claim, having children, for many, is a selfish act. Adoption is an unselfish act. If the real reason people had kids was because they wanted to devote their lives to someone else and raise tomorrow’s leaders for the good of society, more would adopt. Because so many people try so hard to have biological children against their own bodies’ nature, it leaves me to believe that the real reason these people are having kids is to perpetuate their genes through the species (for better or for worse). And when you think about it, how many people do you know who want to have kids say something like “I want to have a little me/my husband running around.”

9. lori - March 4, 2009

This woman does engender anger for several reasons: mainly, she wanted what she wanted and to hell with the impact upon her family, her 6 children, her community, and the maxed-out taxpayers of California who will all be pitching in to cover the medical costs, on-going support, then education, and possibly even incarceration of her “litter”. How many tens of thousands does it cost to raise one child through school- excluding university? Multiply that by fourteen and she has no income other than her parents’ = WTF? She, and now her children, will be forced to mooch off anyone willing to help them. What will that do to her kids socially as they go through school?

And what mother has nails like that with tiny fragile newborn(s) in the home? She is most certainly detached and self-centered. It’s a judgment made based upon her actions: They speak loudly and clearly of a person very not right in their thinking/behavior, and she IS somewhat monstrous. Breeding eight babies at once? She’s a woman, not a cat.

Just as a footnote- a local family has twelve children in their household, one or two biological, but the rest are adopted, including a group of young siblings that would have been separated if returned to foster care. The vitriol directed at these people was less than the support because at least they are helping and loving kids who have been abused and abandoned and would otherwise have been lost.

10. onely - March 4, 2009

Linda–Actually, Suleman’s little hobby unfortunately entails *numerous* issues, one of which is the media’s focus on her single status. We chose to focus on this issue, as is the wont of this blog. In that context, we also recognized the corollary issues of her insolvency and irresponsibility, as are also detailed in the above post, though as supporting arguments to our main thesis. Thanks for commenting!

11. onely - March 4, 2009

Lauri–I think that the desire to have many kids can stem either from misplaced desires/mental illness *or* it can be a cultural inclination or even necessity. I definitely believe that we should be open to discussing the problem of people in well-off cultures having lots of kids just because they like it–I think it’s an irresponsible self-indulgence (as you and Rachel point out), but I am WAY too scared to say that, and I think you’re right that the people in power will NOT touch this issue. As for people in developing countries having tons of kids because that’s the only way they can eke out a living farming hardscrabble, or because they don’t have birth control, or because the men are raised to think “I get it whenever I want it”–that requires a whole ‘nother set of social restructurings.

Rachel–I hear you! I get really upset at the *constant* fertility clinic ads they play on the radio here in DC for some reason.

12. onely - March 4, 2009

Oh lordy, I loved your fingernail comment! That is the funniest thing I have heard all day! Because you are RIGHT.

Sorry to hear about that family in your area–that is really not right that they should get vitriolified.

13. esn - March 5, 2009

Everybody is absolutely right about this öctomom”. But one thing I want to know is as single people what can we do to undo/overcome this media bias about single person.
Having said that I dont really think the media attention on this lady is wrong. She has brought up an important issue-crazy loony people wanting kids by IVF and it has to be addressed. 14 lifes are at stake today due to a narcissist opportunistic person who just want to mimic the life of A. Jolie. I apologize if the language is strong but she makes me sick. About the nail, Lori, you totally nailed it.

onely - March 7, 2009

ESN! Yes, we can gripe all we want, but really we need to figure out a way to “turn that angst into action”, as one of my politic-wonk friends once told me. I guess we can take baby steps and write letters to the editor of magazines/newspapers that print offensive articles and headlines, and also write to our governmental reps (or straight to Obama!) and insist that the feds stop funding the campaign for marriage and redistribute the 1,000 plus benefits for married couples so that they are reaped by everyone. . .

14. lori - March 5, 2009

Glad y’all liked my nail observation. I did go off topic a bit though.
It doesn’t bother me so much to hear single-mother, single-father and I’m not sure why, even though I usually bristle at any whiff of singlism and I know how language is so powerful in shaping our reality. Hearing “single mother” implies to me someone who married, had children, then divorced. That was my mom, and she did struggle financially and emotionally to give us a clean, safe home on her sole income and with little free time available or support from family. But since it wasn’t her choice; there’s no stigma.

It’s situational I guess- and yes, I would much rather hear this baby-machine referred to as something closer to what her actions depict- like “laboratory-mom” or “wonder-womb”. Of course, it would be an enlightened person who simply reserved judgment & referred to her by her name.

Interestingly, the local family to whom I referred earlier were vilified even in spite of being a two-parent/twelve-kid home. Octo-lab-lady ought to be referred to in the media as something other than “single”, because that is SO not the predominant issue that rankles. For instance, she’s also now going to be a world-class Polluter just beginning with the 40,000 to 50,000 disposable diapers heading for the landfill or ocean from 8 babies.

onely - March 7, 2009

OH lordy, how do I get the mental image of 50,000 diapers out of my head? –CC

15. Lauri - March 6, 2009

I was thinking about this topic this morning in the shower, so I thought I’d leave one more comment. I had this professor in college who loved to hear himself lecture and would go off on tangents and one tangent he always went off on was “thin is only sexy in countries where there is an abundance of food.” I think this same reasoning holds for reproduction. I often wonder what the cultural pressure to have children was really like in ages before effective birth control (and current societies without access to it). When it was so common for women to have hordes of children, and they really didn’t have much choice in the matter, did they think pregnancy was “beautiful” and wish for more and more kids? It’s hard for me to imagine that my grandmother, a poorer-class Catholic in 1945, being happy to be pregnant again 7 years after having twins (and of course not knowing she was having twins until 2 babies popped out!). I am thinking that since the invention of modern birth control, society has rallied around talking up pregnancy and motherhood, so that women will choose to do it, because really, we don’t have to. I’m always amazed by society’s idea that “pregnancy is beautiful” when we don’t consider things like vomit, weight gain, parasites, hemeroids, headaches, mood swings, blood, etc. as beautiful. As Onely (I think) mentioned above, women in some developing countries have to have more kids so that one will survive, but I really wonder- are these women excited when they discover that they’re pregnant? It’s probably just seen as a part of life…

onely - March 7, 2009

Lauri, great great point. If they’d had People magazine back in the 1800s, I doubt they’d be playing up all these high-society and/or starlet type people walking around with their babies like little fashion accessories. But you forget that Angelina’s hemorroids are assuredly very beautiful. –CC

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