by Guest Contributor Kenny Darter, originally published at Hate on Me
“What color is she?”
White ladies have a bunch of kids and get TV shows. A Hispanic woman pumps out eight babies and gets scorn – and maybe a few high-profile interviews.
California woman Nadya Suleman birthed octuplets late last month after having six kids earlier this decade – all through in vitro fertilization. Having 14 kids isn’t the soundest family planning – throw diaper subsidies into the stimulus package, Barack! – but we’ve seen this before, and we’ve seen a celebration, not a simultaneous national gag reflex.
The 2003 remake, “Cheaper by the Dozen” and its 2005 sequel track the craziness and hilarity of a couple with 12 quirky, good-looking kids. Audiences saw that it was tough managing a small army of mouths to feed, but in the end, it’s all just really quite funny and heart warming.
“John & Kate Plus Eight” on TLC has tracked the trials of the Gosselin family as they manage their eight little offspring. They somehow manage, and viewers send money.
Another TLC show based on overactive ovaries and warrior sperm is “Seventeen Kids and Counting,” a reality program about Michelle and Jim Bob – yes, Jim Bob – Duggar, who have 18 children.
Every episode is a new way of praising the family for its relationships and unflappable faith.
Then Suleman, who is Hispanic, goes and has eight kids all at once. People freak. Someone asks me, “What color is she?” Unsure how to respond, I tell him she’s Hispanic. He nods his head in disapproval and makes a tisk, tisk sound.
Let’s not forget the sexism – how can a woman raise that many kids without a bread winner, without a brawny man to bring home the bacon? And lots of it.
In an interview on NBC’s “Today Show,” Suleman admitted having a platoon of babies can be perceived as “selfish,” but I’ve never hear anyone call the Duggars selfish or irresponsible. The sentiment seems to be the Duggars and their ilk might be freak shows, but damn it, they’re lovable, respectable freak shows.
Columnists and talking heads have taken their shots at Suleman, too. Phyllis Chesler called Suleman’s baby-bearing “a Frankenstinian moment.”
“It is grotesque, a freak Circus Act,” Chesler writes, pointing out that “Osama bin Laden’s father had 57 children.” Hear that, TLC? A pilot of “Suleman and bin Laden Plus 71” for spring sweeps? Ratings gold.
The Daily Mail, a British paper, quoted a perturbed doctor calling Suleman’s pregnancy a “medical disaster.” Another baby guru said the births were “clearly not a medical triumph.” I know the white families referenced above didn’t have octuplets, but Suleman having 14 kids to raise is cast in an unwaveringly negative light when compared to the predominately Anglo-Saxon baby makers starring in their own shows.
If you’re going to hate on families with enough kids to run Halliburton, hate equally. It shouldn’t matter what “color” the baby machine is or whether she’s hitched.
Ed. Note – Reader Calisha wrote in about this story as well, pointing our attention to this LA Weekly blog post which summarized some of the racially motivated vitriol surrounding the births. There were a lot of assumptions that Suleman was not in this country legally, with one reader asserting “she looks Middle Eastern” and implying a terrorist connection.
Calisha also notes:
Aside from the obvious race issues here, the thing that most concerns me is that many, in their need to govern others based on their own moral code, have declared that they will boycott any companies that provide support to the families. It concerns me that we would punish the children because we don’t agree with their mother’s actions.
I agree. It’s interesting to see this story slide from “oh, babies!” to “she just had them for the welfare checks.” The fact the Suleman is a single mother who had these children as a result of IVF treatments fuels a lot of the hatred, but the significant racial component of this is not to be discounted. – LDP
Update: Cynthia and Rchoudh in the comments clarified exactly why there are mixed racial insults. According to Rchoudh: “It’s turning out that Nadya’s father is Iraqi and her mother Ukrainian. Her being considered as Hispanic is due to her keeping her ex-husband’s last name after the divorce (he was hispanic).”
UPDATE 2: This thread is now closed to comments.