Natalie Portman may be basking in the glow of her Oscar, but her new honor has occasioned criticism from both the left and the right. One was a post at Salon.com entitled: Is motherhood Natalie Portman's "greatest role"? In her acceptance speech, the "Black Swan" star suggests that pregnancy trumps a career. She's wrong.
The author, feminist Mary Elizabeth Williams, criticizes pregnant Portman for thanking her “love” and father of her baby for giving her what is "the most important role of my life." Clearly she is saying that being a mother will be an even greater role than the one by which she earned an Oscar. This admission is obviously a disappointment to Williams who ponders, “But is motherhood really a greater role than being secretary of state or a justice on the Supreme Court? Is reproduction automatically the greatest thing Natalie Portman will do with her life?” Williams’ point was echoed by Politics Daily author and blogger Lizzie Skurnick, who tweeted during the Oscars: “Like my garbage man could give you the greatest role in life, too, lady.”
On the right, we have Mike Huckabee who, as reported on yahoo news was critical of the star for glamorizing being an unwed mother:
"There aren't really a lot of single moms out there who are making millions of dollars every year for being in a movie," Governor Huckabee said. "And I think it gives a distorted image … Most single moms are very poor, uneducated, can't get a job, and if it weren't for government assistance, their kids would be starving to death and never have health care. And that's the story that we're not seeing." Unlike Williams, it should be pointed out, Huckabee did not go out of his way to comment on Natalie Portman but merely responded candidly to a direct question by Michael Medved who was interviewing him at the time.
Now for the media coverage. Of the two stories, which one do you think “slammed,” “dissed,” or “lashed” Portman? Which one contained “hateful comments”? Which one made us all ask if “this is what our country is coming to—slamming actresses”?
All of these statements, it turns out, were reserved for Governor Huckabee, and unfairly, in my opinion, for there is a difference between being critical and being “hateful” or “slamming.” Huckabee is, of course, a bigger target than Mary Elizabeth Williams, and no doubt the media were only too happy to take aim at a likely Republican candidate for president. Still, the relative apathy they showed about Williams’ and Skumick’s criticisms of Portman is telling.
No one, for instance, seemed particularly upset that the Williams-Skurnick brand of feminism is a violation of feminism. I thought the mantra of feminists everywhere was choice, choice, choice, but for these authors, Portman’s choice to believe that motherhood will be her greatest role is unacceptable. “Wrong” even. What gives? To me it seemed like a sweet and humble thing to say when receiving the Academy’s highest honor. I guess that choice is only good when you choose the doctrines of Betty Friedan over those of millions of mothers since time immemorial. Despite the hysteria that ensues anytime a conservative figure is caught violating his principles with shady or lascivious practices, hypocrisy or self-contradiction on the left is permissible when it affirms the “correct” ideology.
Of course, Huckabee got in trouble not for violating his principles but for acting on them. The funny thing is, his principles about the travails of unwed motherhood aren’t that new or radical but have been shared by virtually all civilizations past and present, Judeo-Christian and otherwise. I find it interesting that despite their differences, Portman and Huckabee found themselves in the middle of the same bull’s eye: one for affirming motherhood, the other for affirming marriage. Yes, indeed: what is this country coming to?