Editor’s note: Patricia Grisafi is a freelance writer and has published articles in The Guardian, Salon, NBC, Los Angeles Review of Books, The Mary Sue, The Daily Dot, and other outlets. The opinions expressed in this column are exclusively those of the author.
(CNN) – America loves to punish “bad moms” and has a long history of using celebrities as warning signs about abysmal motherhood. So when news broke that musician Joe Jonas, 34, had filed for divorce from actress Sophie Turner, 27, it wasn’t surprising that the media narrative said Turner wanted a night out while Jonas wanted to be a father. Was.
Tabloid sites such as TMZ and Page Six emphasized their “different lifestyles”: Turner as a party girl and Jonas as a “homely” man who tries to take care of his daughters.
To media analysts, this sounds like a strategy from an introductory course on celebrity image control, based on stories of the bad mother and the self-sacrificing father.
Given how eager we are to reward parents simply for being parents, American society is ready to embrace these types of stories. I have seen it firsthand. Once, my husband and I went to lunch with some friends in Brooklyn. I was engrossed in my sandwich, my six-month-old baby, and yes, a glass of wine. My husband saw that I was in trouble, so he picked up the baby and took me outside to comfort me.
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When he returned, he told me that at least two older women had stopped to congratulate him on how well he was holding the baby. We laughed about how low the bar is for parenthood. But I was secretly angry. That same morning, a woman had stopped to scold me for not wearing a cap to my son.
This narrative, whether used to valorize fathers or denigrate mothers, is a blatant misogynistic attack on women who do not publicly present themselves as traditional caregivers or Who gets caught on camera making some kind of parenting mistake.
Britney Spears is one of the victims of this type of rhetoric. Spears was called a bad mother in the early 2000s and, unfortunately, that’s still the case today, even though we know everything about her abusive conservatorship and her fight for autonomy and self-expression.
But there is still some hope left in this story. In the past, efforts to portray women as bad mothers during divorce worked. But that’s not happening so far with Jonas and Turner’s situation.
On social media, users were immediately skeptical of Jonas’ claims. Many commented on their seven-year age difference, the fact that Turner was 19 when the two started dating and she became a mother at 26. He also noted Turner’s public expressions of homesickness for his native England, including a desperate comment that he misses his family and friends: “I miss England so much,” he said in May 2022. told Elle UK. “The people, the attitude, everything. Slowly I’m encouraging my husband to come back.
Why does all this matter? In many ways, celebrities help us identify and define our own experiences and articulate our own anxieties. We see how the world reacts to their lives. And in this specific case, we see how our culture treats women who are considered “bad mothers.”
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These voices are joining a growing chorus of rejection of the banalities of the past. For every person who criticizes Cardi B for being overly sexual, there is someone who defends a mother’s privilege to own her sexuality and feel good about it. For those who attacked Emily Ratajkowski and Meghan Markle for holding their kids “the wrong way,” there are plenty of others who are rolling their eyes at such a sexist decision. And when people discuss Julia Fox’s parenting advice, others praise her candid observations and realism on being a single mom.
The COVID-19 pandemic opened people’s eyes to the enormous amount of physical and emotional work that mothers do on a daily basis, and also to the ability of fathers to take on the same parental responsibilities. Nobody is special; Everyone tries their best. Fathers should not be rewarded for taking care of their children while the mother works. Moms shouldn’t burn when they go out with their friends. Are you going to shame me for not wearing a hat to my son? Mind your own business, we’re just trying to stay healthy and alive here.
In their official joint statement, Jonas and Turner shared the following posts on their respective Instagram accounts: “After four wonderful years of marriage, we have decided to amicably end our engagement by mutual consent. “There has been much speculation as to why this is the case, but in reality it is a joint decision and we sincerely hope that everyone can respect our privacy wishes for themselves and their daughters.”
We don’t know what’s going on behind the scenes with these two people. But this is not really the point. These tabloids are opportunities to take the cultural temperature, to measure changes in our cultural attitudes. But more importantly, they are opportunities to look less at what’s going wrong in the lives of others and to consider more seriously how to challenge gender stereotypes in parenting. It can have big benefits even on a small scale.
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