The Natalie Portman “Motherhood-gate” scandal; should we laugh or cry?
I must admit that I’m behind the curve on this one. Until I just saw Sarah Wildman’s article in theForward (4/22/11, “A Woman’s Greatest Role?”), not only was I unaware that pregnant actress Natalie Portman had kicked up a cloud of dust with her Oscar acceptance speech, I also had no idea that she had even won an Oscar, and in fact was blissfully unaware that the Oscar presentations had taken place at all! (I must confess that these days, if given the choice between sitting through the entire Oscar Awards ceremony or committing seppuku with a samurai dagger, I would have to consider my options verycarefully.)
What caused the entire ruckus? Appearing luxuriously fecund as she mounted the stage to accept her best-actress award, (“her swollen belly wrapped in luxe layers of Mulberry colored silk”), Ms. Portman publicly thanked her fiancée for giving her “the most important role in her life” (i.e., motherhood). In some feminist circles, however, this seemingly innocent remark bordered on the blasphemous. One writer queried: “But is motherhood really a greater role than being secretary of state or a justice on the supreme court?” Authoress Lizzie Skurnick twittered her own classless and vulgar comment: “Like, my garbage man can give you your greatest role in life too, lady.” (Perhaps Lizzie was simply bitter due to the fact that Natalie Portman – aglow with feminine radiance – was basking in wealth, fame, accomplishment, and beauty.)
Ms. Wildman’s article, while ostensibly an analysis of the debate that took place in the media and “the Twitter-Facebook-blog-o’sphere” regarding Portman’s thank-you to her unborn child’s father; it is, in fact, just another wearisome (albeit sincerely written) example of what has become a cliché in feminist literature: agonizing, hand-wringing, and occasional breast-beating regarding the motherhood vs. career conflict. She describes her own experience of emotional upheaval when near the end of her own pregnancy, she was told, “confidently, snidely, chauvinistically,” by her male editor that she would not be able to write until six weeks after the birth. Ms. Wildman’s response? “Perhaps, just to prove the editor wrong, I wrote stories the week I got home.” Quite the dilemma: which is more deserving of the Mazel Tov, the birth of the baby, or for getting back to her journalistic career so quickly? On the other hand, perhaps it wasn’t that much of an accomplishment; after all, native-American women returned to scraping buffalo hides with the newly delivered baby strapped to their backs! (How do you say “I am woman watch me roar!” in Navajo?)
By all accounts it is clear that Natalie Portman is a highly talented and successful actress. While I certainly have some level of appreciation for the thespian arts, when all is said and done, what is acting anyway? It is the ability to pretend that you are someone else. The better your ability to pretend, the better the actor/actress. While some dramatic presentations may very well contain meaningful messages; films and plays essentially convey distracting and entertaining illusions. Pregnancy, motherhood, and child-rearing are not entertaining illusions. They are as real as it gets. Let’s put it another way. If God forbid an earthquake devastates a city, we become elated and exhilarated, if against all odds, a living human being is extracted from the rubble after being given up for dead. We do not risk life or limb, nor waste valuable resources in the aftermath of such devastation looking for lost film archives (even if they are Academy Award winners).
When a woman gives birth she is bringing a live human being into the world. There is nothing more precious or valuable. We should all be cheering. What spiritual bacterium has infected the soul of a Lizzie Skurnick, that she not only attacks and disparages the creation and nurturing of life by another woman, but that she feels the obscene compulsion to denigrate the sanctity of the relationship that created that child? Her garbage man could have also impregnated Natalie Portman?! Is it not profoundly meaningful when a man and a woman in a committed relationship bring life into the world together and joyfully celebrate in appreciation? Is there no difference between that and providing an anonymous male/stud donor to inject seed into an available uterus? It is hard to feel anything but sadness for someone (particularly a female) who has developed such a bleak, empty, and cynical view of life.
It is nothing short of abominable that feminist ideologues have artificially created an existential conflict within women that they must weigh “career” vs. “life.” That a woman who is ready to be passionately and lovingly absorbed in nurturing her baby must feel a gut-wrenching sense of guilt that she is somehow betraying her “feminine mystique.”
The exquisitely painful irony, of course, is that there is nothing more “feminine” than being pregnant, giving birth and nursing a baby (never met a male yet who could it).
The fact that a woman is a successful journalist or personal-injury attorney has nothing to do with her unique womanhood. Men are quite capable in these professions also. If a race of gender-neutral Martians landed on Earth and had the ability to litigate successfully they would also be snapped up by top law firms. It is the aforementioned God-given abilities (although not exclusively those) that make a woman uniquely “female” as opposed to “male.” Do you think perhaps it is this inescapable and all-pervasive inner-reality that inspires an actress at the peak of her career to unabashedly declare her impending motherhood to be the “greatest role in her life”? Is the Chief Rabbi of Israel Jewish? It is time for women everywhere to dump this false and destructive feminist guilt trip once and for all. Choose Life!
Moshe Averick is and Orthodox rabbi and author of Nonsense of a High Order: The Confused and Illusory World of the Atheist. His website is http://rabbimaverick.com/.