Friday, August 21, 2009

The Hypocrisy of the Cult of Hating Nadya Suleman

The recent reviews of Octomom's new reality show are in, and as expected they are overwhelmingly negative. Not against the quality of the show, mind you, but against the person herself. Not that I would watch a program like this, as I intensely dislike reality t.v. shows (which have infested all of my old favorite channels like Discovery, National Geographic, History and Bravo [God, I hope they don't take PBS next]), but whenever the word Octomom is orated people begin to reach for their lighters and torch sticks. Why is that?

After the California mom of 14 was revealed to be poor and unemployed, creating a media furor, the hatred of the general public began to swell. The death threats, denunciations, etc., is odd but predictable. This is the same public who feeds on hating media-created villains (the main plotline character template used in reality t.v. to sell its uncostly product to advertisers and viewers [and avoiding the harsh reality of trying to produce actual shows that would require stockholder-unfriendly inconveniences like paid actors, scripts, and real talent-based direction]).

I would even concede that it was probably not the greatest idea for a woman with six kids to be receiving vitro fertilization treatments, but what offends me the most is the utter hypocrisy of those most vociferously critical of her. To see Charles Murray (the racial scientist most famous for claiming that blacks were endemically, intellectually inferior to whites) exclaiming in the LA Times that a woman's birth rate should correlate to how many children she could financially support, I cannot help but wonder: Are these not the same conservatives who tell pregnant women they are cold-blooded murderers for aborting their fetuses? Are these not the same critics who cry crocodile tears at the thought of those precious little fetuses being ripped out of the mothers' wombs? And yet when a poor woman has what people claim are too many kids, they want to sterilize her and take her kids away from her? The same folks who claim children's services exist only to break apart traditional families?

When and how did we become so convoluted on this issue? Yes, Nadya Suleman is costing California taxpayers. So is Charles Murry every time he drives on a road, or puts one of his kids through school, or uses public facilities for any reason. Why is it that these people see nothing wrong with sweet 16 birthday parties that waste hundreds of thousands, and even millions, of dollars on the children of the wealthy, but paying a million dollars in hospital bills (at the potential expense of the barely taxed people throwing private orgies for their spoiled kids) is suddenly too much for us to bear?

The invectives aimed at this woman reminds me of much of the Welfare Reform Act debate back in the '90s, which was preceded by decades of baiting poor and non-white single mothers as 'welfare queens' out to suck dry off the tax dollars of white Christian suburbanites. It succeeded so wildly that an entire generation of poor women are being pauperized, relegated to working at McDonald's, and enduring the continued societal backlash and intolerance towards their very existence. It never made sense to me, but then I was not raised to look down on people for this.

But if we are to take seriously the notion that Suleman is such a terrible person for having so many children, as a jobless single mom, is this not an issue for millions of other mothers in this country? Over the course of their underage lives, children in this country cost on average about a quarter of a million dollars in care (clothes, housing, medical bills, school, books, toys, etc.). The average number of children per household (under the age of 18) in this country is 2 (actually, it is 1.9, but I will round so as not to depress the 9/10 kid). That means the average family in this country is paying out a half million dollars for their kids, which is significantly above the accumulated annual per capita income, savings, and assets of the average household. If we followed Murray's command to base childbearing on the means to support that kid, the vast majority of the women in this country would have to be put in the same category of Nadya Suleman.

Yes, she spent $1,500 buying clothes for herself with 14 kids. How many other parents in this country have overspent on themselves? How many moms and dads have more debt than they can afford (spent on such needless items like an F-150 [which very few F-150 owners probably need], shoes, and hobby trinkets)? Ah, but she took tax payer's money. Well, how many of you, out of solidarity with the same preached fiscal prudence for others, will be giving back your Medicare and Social Security check once the benefits begin to exceed your tax contributions? I can guarantee you that Charles Murray will not be one of them (and he is already receiving and living off your dollars now as a Social Security recipient). If Octomom's detractors held the mirrors up to their own lives, they would find much more in common with her than they would otherwise like to admit.

Could it be the directed hatred toward this woman is society's way of extrapolating its own frustrations? Could people possibly be upset because their own bank accounts are not doing well at this time? And could not people be really projecting their own socially constructed and accepted prejudices against poor(er) women who have children? If any or all of this is the case, then the problem is not with Nadya Suleman. The problem is with those among us who use her situation as an excuse to vent their own hatreds against anyone who remotely fits Suleman's circumstances.

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