Nadya Suleman and the Dark Side of Reality

Enough has been said about Nadya Suleman’s poor judgement in her choice to give birth to 14 children. In the last few years two diverse opinions were voiced. One of them was a constant presence in the headlines and impossible to ignore. It says her house is a mess. She spent $50 on a haircut. She pampers herself and neglects her children. She filed for bankruptcy. Her bankruptcy was thrown out of court. She doesn’t really like babies. Her mother is fed up with her. These are only the opinions I’m familiar with. Until now I haven’t been paying much attention.

There is another sentiment that’s quiet by comparison and is often found in the comments to online articles. People typically wonder how she’ll get by and whether someone can’t just give her a little help. I think of this as the human response.

In my opinion, the headlines try too hard. It seems their main goal has been to deprive her of the income that was beginning to come her way from donations. It wasn’t enough to demonize her, they demonized her doctor as well. Then the character assassination really gained steam. For example, there is a petition online to boycott stores that make donations to her family. It didn’t have even half of the 1000 signatures they asked for, but this is an example of a threat to the family’s livelihood.

The moment it was discovered that Nadya was single and had 14 children, which I admit is hard to defend, the attacks were venomous. She suddenly became a gold digger who cared nothing for her children. Now it has reached the point where we are being forced to watch this woman embark on a pornography career.

This problem began when Suleman’s inability to have children led to the breakup of her marriage. Besides her single state, I can’t see anything in her story that would have predicted this treatment. Her mother and father are there for her and willing to help her. Even her ex-husband wants the best for her and worries about her.

To gain perspective I want to compare another large family with the Sulemans, the family of Jim Bob and Michelle Duggar. Their source of income in their early years was an auto body business, a used car company and a towing company. Then, according to various online sites, they went to Jim Sammon’s Financial Freedom seminar and learned how to live within their means. This enabled them to sell their businesses in 1990 and buy commercial real estate, which made it possible for them to live on rental income from their investments. However, rent payments were not their only source of income. During the same period they began traveling and earning money making speeches at Christian organizations and homeschooling conventions. Then, from 1999 to 2003 Jim Bob served in the Arkansas House of Representatives. Some websites claim the Duggars built their 7000 square foot house debt free. However, the house was finished by Discovery Networks. Its decorations and furnishings were given to them by Discovery Networks and other corporate sponsors. It is estimated that the Duggars make from $25,000 to $40,000 for each episode of their reality show.

The commercial real estate market is volatile. It crashed in the late 80s, which probably led to bargain prices in the early 90s when the Duggars entered the market. However, there is no telling if it would have continued to provide sufficient income for such a large family in subsequent years. Rebuilding and selling cars is a living at best, not the road to wealth.

Nadya Suleman graduated from High School in 1993 and worked as a psychiatric technician at Metropolitan State Hospital. In 2006 she earned a degree in childhood and adolescent development. After the birth of the Octuplets Suleman was offered corporate donations but they dried up when the media coverage turned negative. Then Gloria Allred, who was supposed to be helping her, squashed her reality show prospects by publicly accusing her of using her babies to make money. I seem to remember that Allred volunteered her services; Suleman didn’t ask for her help. Allred seemed to base her indignation partly on Suleman’s poor parenting skills. We weren’t given Allred’s parenting credentials.

By contrast, the Duggars are one of a number of families with a reality show, which they were given solely because of the number of children in their family. They have nineteen at last count. I suppose if the same mean streak were to find its way into their life someone could say Jim Bob is a freeloader. His wife had all the kids. Further, the Duggars not only use their kids to make money, they throw in Jesus for good measure.

As for Suleman, apparently the pundits would rather she stayed on welfare, became a porn star and lost her house. While they proclaim concern for the children, their actions say to hell with them. I, for one, prefer not to witness the dissolution of Nadya Suleman, but I have a feeling it will make the headlines.

The Inhumanity of Patriarchy

In the [intlink id=”904″ type=”post”]last post[/intlink] I talked about the controversial nature of the United States’ pro-natalist policies. Policymakers such as Phillip Longman have admitted that these policies will only be effective under the influence of patriarchal marriage. The implication is that patriarchal marriage eliminates a woman’s control of her own fertility. Patriarchal marriage is sexual coercion. In trying to address the hostility of recent events it has become clear to me that the attitudes about women demonstrated by David Albo, Darrell Issa, and Glenn Grothman, constitute common abuse. Abuse doesn’t deserve an explanation. However, it does have a purpose. The feelings experienced by victims of abuse include anger, sadness, depression, betrayal, hopelessness and helplessness. Victims tend to be distracted, they can’t think clearly, they have trouble sleeping. These feelings are useful to an abuser because they give him control over his victim.

The tactics used by abusers include verbal abuse. Name calling–for example, calling someone a slut, a term applied only to women–is common. When a student was called a slut in the national news media it victimized everyone who heard it. Likewise, the denial of women’s rights by tyrants who use the occasion to act out their contempt, is emotional abuse. Finally, when someone with authority to make the law threatens women with involuntary vaginal penetration and then laughs about it on the evening news, that is an act of sexual aggression regardless of whether it ever becomes law. The fact that we have trouble seeing it that way reveals much about the nature of patriarchal society.

Divide and conquer is a major tenet of patriarchal rule. The spouses of these legislators, among others, may feel they are exempt from hostility because they have been told they are morally superior to the unfortunate targets of the legislation. However, sexual morality is only part of it. According to the beliefs of Quiverfull, if a woman controls her own fertility she is somehow immoral. This belief is meant to influence married women. The fact that the policymakers don’t have large families is probably an indication of class division.  

Contrary to patriarchal propaganda, victimization is not a natural part of human experience and like other humans on the planet, women resist subjection. However, public humiliation is a powerful method of control.  The perception that some of us are exempt is a dangerous delusion, if a very persistent one. The latest attack on reproductive rights should teach us that no one is immune, but perceptions are manipulated in powerful ways.

The punch line of my life was given to me by a professor of humanities at Arizona State University. I assumed because of what I had seen in the national media that feminism had changed attitudes and earned respect for women, at least from men outside of my tradition.  So, I told this professor that I didn’t understand why the philosophers denigrate women, since they supposedly use logic to arrive at their opinions rather than religious dogma. I understand it better now, but this was in 1994.  Without hesitation he said, “They don’t want to be polluted by the world.”

Like a fool I stayed and asked him another question. “Why are women treated so badly in Muslim countries?”

He said, “Those governments know how to control their subject populations.”

Apparently, governments that don’t execute women for minor offenses are failing to properly control their subject populations? More to the point, women are a subject population regardless of whether they are properly controlled. We should have known. When one human being serves another without compensation, and when cultural attitudes and customs and even the law make it difficult, if not impossible, for her to leave, that is bondage. The problem is, we don’t call it bondage. We call it patriarchy. We have seen that even single women are defined by patriarchal standards and subjected by the state.

It is important to repeat that the subversive definition of reality often goes undetected and results in the loss of our humanity. For example, how many of us believed the things we were told about “Octomom”, Nadya Suleman? In retrospect, it seems this may have been a patriarchal hatchet job.  She is a poster-child for single motherhood. Recently it was reported that she has declared bankruptcy. In the accompanying picture of her family I imagined I could see in the faces of her children the effects of the harsh things said about their mother and the withdrawal of public affection and support. Ostracism is a vicious punishment but it is dished out to young mothers all the time. Children are an inevitable casualty of this treatment. They are a family in danger. They need help.  Hopefully they won’t get the kind of attention that the social workers offer.

Another mother who needs support is the Texas women who was fired from her job for becoming pregnant before her marriage. [ref name=”Former Coach of the Year Fired from Christian School for Out of Wedlock Pregnancy”]Former Coach of the Year Fired from Christian School for Out of Wedlock Pregnancy. Yahoo! Sports. cited May 12, 2012. Available: http://sports.yahoo.com/blogs/highschool-prep-rally/former-coach-fired-christian-school-wedlock-pregnancy-145601399.html[/ref] Judging from the things I observed in my traditional ‘community’ she can expect shunning from her church congregation. She should also be made aware of the possibility of mistreatment when she gives birth.  This could be anything from cold indifference to physical and emotional torture.