It goes beyond Michele Bachmann claiming the shot heard round the world happened in New Hampshire or that the founding fathers worked tirelessly to abolish slavery. America has probably already forgotten, if not forgiven, Christine O’ Donnell for her comments on masturbation, AIDS and HIV, along with witchcraft; however, when 2012 possible presidential candidate Mike Huckabee decided to bash Oscar winner Natalie Portman for being an unwed, pregnant mother to be, calling it a bad example among other things, it was a different story. Political anchors immediately wondered if he was serious about running, making such a comment; others couldn’t help but flash back to Dan Quail’s similar comments regarding the story line of ‘ 90’s sitcom Murphy Brown, depicting the lead character as a single mother. While most of the public probably can’t believe we’re still having these kinds of conversations in the 21st century, more individuals are likely tuned in to the crisis in Libya, rising gas prices, lack of jobs and could care what Natalie Portman is doing, and the real question is why does Mike Huckabee?
Anyone one with an ounce of political acumen or a small understanding of public views today can see that running for office, especially as one as important as President of the United States, means connecting with those who have a more conservative value system and mindset, something increasingly prevalent in these lingering tough times. What makes Mr. Huckabee’s comments so strange is not the modern times we live in, it’s the perspective; he’s not arguing on the basis of religious belief, moral doctrine that premarital sex is wrong and bad for individuals. He’s instead focused only on the social aspects. Yet what galvanizes his comments as so offensive and seemingly out of place is applying them to this particular actress, portraying her as another poor, uneducated young girl destined to be unemployed and on welfare. None of which remotely describes Portman who is 29, has a rewarding, profitable career and a BA from Harvard. Further choosing her as a target for his lecture on role models, values and Hollywood, he causes it feel all the more like an attack, incidentally attacking one of the few stable figures in the celebrity world today. Unlike some stars, she is not reported on every other day for some wild, outlandish behavior; to public knowledge she’s never been arrested, no reports of her trying drugs, getting drunk ala Amy Winehouse, having anger problems channeling Chris Brown, or showing signs of mental instability similar to Britney Spears, despite being in the business from an early age.
Showcasing his utter ignorance on the subject of single motherhood, he appears to have confused teen mom and single mom grouping them together stating how many are poor, uneducated, on welfare, can’t get jobs. Yes that does statistically represent teen mothers, not always single mothers. Taking a hard look at single parenting, it’s obvious Mr. Huckabee is leaving out widowed mothers, mothers who left a domestic violence situation, divorcès who have sole custody of the child, children either because the father is deemed unfit or simply refuses to see his children on a regular, consistent basis. While Huckabee is correct that most single mothers are not likely to take home hefty Hollywood sized incomes, also ignored are the financially, career secure women who choose single parenting via technology because they haven’t found the right person, the right relationship to bring children into, don’t want the encumbrance of a relationship but feel their biological clock ticking. Women who likewise haven’t broken any religious laws, due to their being no sex involved, premarital, inappropriate or otherwise, women who have a support system in family, friends, plenty of positive roll models lined up if they give birth to a son who will need a strong male influence. As opposed to women who want a baby, go out and begin a potentially unhealthy relationship to that end, ultimately raising the child alone depending on mentoring programs, Big Brothers Big Sisters type entities to fill that gap or running themselves ragged trying to be both mother and father.
Additionally his comments project the idea marriage is best when it may not be, particularly in Hollywood where marriages are short lived and too often leave young children with broken homes; Charlie Sheen, his 2 latest exes and the 4 kids involved, Pete Wintz and Ashlee Simpson along with their young son are just the latest in a long string of similar cases. Outside of celebrity, many ordinary people avoid marriage not because they are unwilling commit, fear it but owing to the negative connotations marriage holds for one or both parties, people who function better as a couple, as parents, committed partners minus that piece of paper carrying so much weight, so much expectation. Nor is it healthy for children involved to grow up in dysfunctional homes where parents stayed together believing that to benefit the kids while being subjected to yelling, screaming, constant fights, endless rounds of the silent treatment, continually living in a place where there is always an elephant in the room. People who grew up like that say time and time again they wish their parents had divorced, moved on with their lives; the above truths magnify exponentially in situations of abuse where a child is exposed to domestic violence, watches dad physically, psychologically, mentally, emotionally, possibly even sexually, mistreat their mother. Numerous studies have proven a direct correlation between growing up in such a home and repeating said sad cycle as parents themselves. Translation, a young man who sees this will think that’s how you are supposed to treat a woman; a young girl raised in such an environment will go on to marry a man exhibiting the same traits, behaviors, both equally detrimental to society, equally morally reprehensible to religious believers, than unwed motherhood, if not more so.
Returning to Natalie Portman, she was not at a rally promoting premarital sex, attempting to abolish marriage, contrasting the bizarre events some GOP candidates have either organized, sponsored or attended; neither was she glamorizing unwed motherhood, being honored for it; she was at the Oscars, there as a possible award winner, noted for her achievement in acting, and when she did indeed win, she made an acceptance speech speaking of how happy she was to soon become a mother, ecstatically praising the father she feels he gave her, her most important role. But how many other women feel their most important role in life is mother, millions. Happy mothers to be usually gush over the father as well; an inconvenient fact rendering Hukabee’s and other naysayers’ comments almost moot is what she says about the man being the love of her life, calling him her fiancè, public knowledge they met and fell in love during filming of Black Swan, who will likely cohabitate once the baby is born, assuming they aren’t already doing so. Meaning their intention is to get married at some point; however when your schedule looks like theirs, it’s not so easy.
To say nothing of wanting to do it right rather than just getting a piece of paper to appease a political values hound, avoid another moral scarlet letter. That might better explain the blasè, quasi defensive attitude Huckabee reacts to in this quote: “One of the things that’s troubling is that people see a Natalie Portman or some other Hollywood starlet who boasts of, ‘Hey look, you know, we’re having children, we’re not married, but we’re having these children, and they’re doing just fine.” Reactions like that come from mothers, couples who feel they are being pushed by society to do something they aren’t ready for, their desire to do things when they choose; in a free country that is their prerogative.
Divorce rates in America stand roughly at 50 percent yet here is a career politician chastising someone for not rushing into marriage just because they there is a child coming. A famous example of committed individuals cohabitating, raising their kids, doing well Brad Pitt and Angelina Jolie; complicating matters, there are older children, adopted children from pervious relationships, on the part of Jolie, along with their own biological offspring. Still they manage to create a loving, positive household, better than fine. Now, to be fair, they have indicated on multiple occasions they will marry when all people enjoy the right to do so, a veiled reference to gay rights, marriage rights for homosexual couples, but at the end of the day, the Jolie-Pitt children are thriving aside from whether or not their parents tied the knot. And many young people raised in single parent homes are happy, well-adjusted, productive members of society. Had Portman not said something about her obvious pregnancy, inevitable headlines would read “is she ashamed of her child, trouble in paradise for Portman and her baby daddy,” regardless of what was actually occurring. And, why is it strikingly easy to conclude Huckabee would then be bashing her for acting ashamed of the precious life inside her, given off some derogatory barb, no matter what she said. The public is already shocked he alludes to the fact he doesn’t think she should show her face in public in her “condition.”
If Huckabee wants to speak out against the factors that lead to teen moms, poor, uneducated young women, a far more accurate description of what he wants to prevent, he should be blasting shows like MTV’s 16 and Pregnant, Teen Mom, not Natalie Portman, shows that, not so coincidentally, have caused young girls to want to get pregnant, some even getting pregnant on purpose hoping for a spot on reality TV, hoping to be cast, hoping for their 15 minutes of fame. How bout at least acknowledging the impact of Bristol Palin, her very publicized teen pregnancy, being tapped to do Dancing With the Stars, her interview in People magazine and the very public drama between her and her son’s father. By not starting there, or even making mention of it, he displays another troubling type of ignorance, cultural ignorance. Related issues to be addressed, consist of ensuring young woman are afforded the opportunity to pursue dreams besides family and motherhood, are provided with access to college, career so they don’t feel the former is the only thing life will let them have.
Therefore he should be blasting GOP and Tea Party cuts to everything- education, scholarships, grant programs, job training, retraining for displaced workers. He should be sounding off on businesses sitting on piles and piles of cash still not hiring, refusing to consider the unemployed. Or isn’t he aware of the staggering number of well educated poor people who can’t get jobs, young people coming out of colleges virtually unemployable through no fault of their own, whether they’ve already started families or not. Perhaps the real reason single parents, mothers in general, are so financially destitute is the ingenious ways companies find not to hire them to begin with, blatantly saying they don’t hire mothers without consequence, or punish them for daring to have children at all; not providing maternity leave, denying advancement due to the gap caused by it, because an employer mistakenly thinks a woman cannot handle the riggers of a promotion and parenting. Again showing an astounding lack of cultural comprehension on the part of someone vying for the job title leader of the free world.
Ironically the conservative, home grown, values based platform is somewhat to blame regarding rising pregnancy rates in high risk groups seemingly pining for the nostalgic 1950’s where men worked and women were in the home barefoot and pregnant, perpetuating the socially devastating concept to be a complete, whole human being you must bear children. A platform leading the push for abstinence only sex education, railing against masturbation, birth control, putting a disproportionate emphasis, not on families that already exist, but ones that will be created in the future, proliferating the notion that creating a family is the good Christian, religious, moral thing to do, the be all and end all goal for women. Unfortunately young people presented with those messages, possibly lacking self esteem, certainly lacking options try to cultivate this ideal, with young people of the opposite sex who aren’t interested in marriage, are acquainted with the feminist movement, hints another reason for the teen parent phenomenon. Political candidates out of the GOP and Tea Party clinging to things that no longer exist, who’s ultimate agenda is clear; in the midst of smaller government, less taxes, more decisions given back to the people they simultaneously want to hit the social rewind button, overturning Row vs. Wade, calling emergency contraceptives abortifacients.
That’s what causes candidates like Huckabee send up alarm bells surrounding questions of what’s next outlawing divorce, forcing unwed mothers to give their babies up for adoption, denying them assistance should they chose to raise their child, removing them from society until the child is born; we already did that in days past, de ja vu anyone? Going back there serves no one; in fact it only breeds an environment ripe for more babies born, drowned in toilets, newborns found in garbage bags, horrific acts done by panicked teens terrified of disappointing their parents, fearing the shame. Larger questions posed to the American people center, once again, around do we want someone so backward in the White House, do we want someone so out of sync with all the realities of an issue, someone so ignorant holding the most important job in our nation?
Natalie Portman is a role model, a role model for how to avoid the negative trappings of Hollywood, how not to be an object of negative media attention. And she is a role model for something else too, waiting to have children until you are educated, career established, until you feel you are mature enough, ready enough to have children, until you find the right person to be with. Why is it those positives are thrown away because she dared be honored for her career and be pregnant at the same time? No she is not perfect; then again, who said she was and we’ve all seen the devastating effects of trying to be, usually landing some poor soul behind bars for snapping under the weight having killed or maimed another person. Pregnancy is not a disease, it is not unclean and unwed mothers, their babies are not an unpardonable sin, even in the eyes of the dominate religions of the world; Mike Huckabee should remember that and for god sake find something better to do than try to be president of a nation he does not understand and apparently doesn’t want to.