Tuesday, June 9, 2009

The Demonization of Kate Gosselin - Backlash Against a Working Mom

I began watching "Jon & Kate Plus 8" last year, mostly to marvel at how the Gosselins dealt with eight kids - six of them being toddler sextuplets - with minimal angst, while I sometimes can barely keep up with my two. I didn't always agree with how controlling Kate was with her kids and how short she could be with her husband. However, since I couldn't possibly imagine the chaos that would ensue if she wasn't in absolute control, I felt I shouldn't judge. And these moments seemed "real" to me.

Of course, all hell broke loose when Jon was photographed coming out of a bar at 2AM with another woman. Let the media frenzy begin! Quickly, the non-stop coverage changed -- from slamming Jon for probably cheating on his wife while having eight kids at home -- to the demonization of Kate. "From Mom to Monster", one headline screams. "Mom, You're Mean!" another one cries.

As I caught up on my celebrity magazine fix at the nail salon, I read about Kate's egregious offenses. Now, let's leave aside the subject of whether the children are being exploited by the show or whether the show caused Jon and Kate's marital problems. Both parents bear responsibility for these issues. When examining why Kate has suddenly become the lightning rod for criticism and Jon the victim, what it really boils down to is that Kate doesn't fit with society's image of "the perfect mother". Let's examine her crimes as detailed in these magazines:

- She "made" Jon quit his job and stay home with the kids
- She gets $30 manicures every two weeks
- She spends an hour a day exercising
- She got her teeth whitened
- She got a tummy tuck
- She traveled for her book tour, leaving Jon at home to take care of the kids

How dare she get a tummy tuck after carrying sextuplets! (My God, have you seen the photos of her pregnant?) How dare she insist that Jon take a turn at staying home with the kids? That's the mother's job! Never mind that Jon got hair plugs or that Jon worked outside the home for the first few years of the show. Kate is the selfish one, because (gasp!) she wants to look good, (heaven forbid!) wants to take care of herself and be healthy and (the horror!) she actually travels for business.

Yes, she is a working mom. And in some ways, in our modern society, we still can't reconcile the notion of a working mom with the image of the all-sacrificing mother, who suppresses all of her own needs for those of her children.

And apparently in this scenario, being a working mom is even worse than being a cheating spouse.


Ashley said...

Nice post and I couldn't agree more.

I was always a fan of the show, despite Kate's ummm...issues. But I think they have turned it completely around. Cheating to me is the worst of the worst.

Renee said...

I have been following the demonization of Kate and it amazes me that people don't see the inherent sexism in the criticism. No parent who was watched 24-7 would be perfect but with Kate they take the smallest mistake and magnify it to shame her. It is ridiculous. If I had been her I believe I would have jumped out the nearest window and run away. I think they need to lay off and give her a break.

Cristina said...

I am so glad I am not the only one who has noticed this!

Sarah said...

What Mom hasn't been called "mean" when a child doesn't get their way? Great post!

steve49w said...

Devil's advocate here: Should Kate be manning a household as described I would be sympatheic. But she has a staff of nannies, she has a filn crew with a staff, and i am sure there are more people there to help.

What she does to Jon emasculates him weekly in front of a national TV audience,. And whether there was a affair or not (all parties including Kate deny this) she treats Jon in such a way that a sympathetic ear would be nice,. Say like Kate's trainer's sympathetic eat (another rumored affair all parties including Jon deny).

The woman is not a working mom. She is a TV star. And Jon is a zant side kick.

She is controlling and mean spritied to him. I don't see any spouse wanting to stay in a marriage where the other is so abusive in public.

Cristina said...

I am not trying to offer a comprehensive defense of Kate. But I am commenting how the media's criticism of her is magnified, I believe, by the fact that she is a working mom -- and writing and traveling to support the marketing efforts of the book and TV show is a form of work -- and doesn't fit the idealistic notion of "mother".

suddenly sahm said...

hear hear!!! I've never watched this show, but you can't avoid them in pop culture regardless of whether you are a viewer or not.

Thanks for the concise analysis.