Saturday, April 24, 2010

Jillian Michaels' Statement About Motherhood Controversial--But for the Wrong Reasons


In a recent interview with Health Magazine, Jillian Michaels, the trainer from The Biggest Loser was asked whether she was planning on having children. Her response has critics mad about the WRONG things. She said, "I can't handle doing that to my body." And then she continued explaining that she planned on adopting and that, "when you rescue something, it's like rescuing a part of yourself."

First of all, let me express my clear and unwavering support of Ms. Michaels' right to make decisions about child-rearing and pregnancy. No woman should ever be forced to endure pregnancy and childbirth against her will, or made to terminate a pregnancy against her will. I trust women to make the best decisions for themselves and their families, period. In addition, adopting a child is as legitimate as giving birth to a child, period. Watching Pete and Trudie's infertility issues on Mad Men is a real lesson in how stigmatized adoption used to be and apparently people still hold some of these anti-adoption views to this day. Don't get me wrong, I know that genetics can be a very difficult to combat in terms of certain diseases, such as addictions and mental illness and by adopting a child you may not know their full family medical history, but nothing is ever certain.

Now, critics have glummed on to how her concern over pregnancy is about how it transforms one's body--which pregnancy most definitely does and it carries certain risks of death or injury, though greatly reduced by modern obstetrics and pre-natal care.

A Fox News commentator responded to Michaels' concerns about the impact of pregnancy on one's body by stating: "Women [...] have children all the time and get right back in shape particularly if they exercise."

Uhh, that is decidedly not the right way to address this issue because statements like that demonstrate why it is so stressful for someone like Michaels whose industry, personal training and network TV, to consider pregnancy. The expectation that women get back into shape six weeks after pregnancy and birth to walk in Victoria Secrets shows or to pose on US or People is the real issue. Baby-bounce-back-bodies are almost as pervasive as "baby-bump" watches, which are by the way, incredibly misogynistic and creepy to boot. Having a burrito and soda for lunch almost always equals a "baby-bump" watch for slender starlets, even Jennifer Garner's shirt getting blown, obviously, by the wind got a speculation as she carried her infant and held her toddler daughter's hand walking down a Boston street. Stop that noise, people, or at least don't buy People.

Now, it is true that Michaels and perhaps women who suffer from eating-disorders or body-dysmophic disorders may reject pregnancy because of its perceived "maiming" of a highly controlled body size. By no means to I suggest pregnancy for such women, but I do think that treatment for such perceptions are important because getting freaked out by pregnancy might just indicate the need for coming to terms with the variable, out of control bodies we all inhabit--after all, we all will age and die and dealing with bodily reality is something we will all have to do eventually. I'm not saying that Michaels' has an eating disorder or exercise anorexia and once again, I support her right to determine her own reproductive path. I'm just saying that her exact words do sound like she sees pregnancy more as an injury or a disease than a natural process that is legitimate for those who choose it. Since she is so influential and may start her own talk-show in 2011, I hope that she really tries to grapple with her views on pregnancy or corrects her remarks later to clarify her position in a more broad understanding of "health."

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