Four Children by Four Different Fathers: Feminist Issue?

British television personality and self-proclaimed “4X4 Mum” Ulrika Jonsson recently wrote in Mail Online of her frustration over being criticized for having four children by four different fathers while men in similar situations are accepted, even indulged.

The feminist in me fails to understand why men and women are treated so differently. I should point out that having four children by four different fathers was never part of some grand plan.

Au contraire, I did always dream of having several children, but in a blissfully domestic nuclear family. Alas, the cruel hand of fate—combined, at times, with too much trust and enthusiasm—created the situation in which I know find myself. My domestic circumstances have evolved over a period of nearly two decades, so I’ve had plenty of time to acclimatise.

But the adjustments I have had to make in my home life have been nowhere near as stressful as being judged or pilloried in a manner alien to the many men who have committed the same ‘crime’ against the family.

Jonsson has a solid argument in terms of the double standard (this is a frequent complaint, and usually one with merit). Rod Stewart, for example, has seven children with five different women (Jonsson refers to him as a “7X5”). Clint Eastwood, another “7X5”, is affectionately known as a “sexual womanizer.”  She saves her harshest criticism, though, for a real jackass:

But perhaps the worst offender of all is the edgy, multi-talented funnyman Eddie Murphy, who has not only given life to eight children by four women, but who initially rejected the existence of one of them.  Now, that’s class and masculinity for you.

When I was reading Jonsson’s piece, I was reminded of conversations I have with my six-year-old. You know, the “Mommy, I got yelled at for talking at school today. I don’t get it … everyone else was doing it. Thomas was talking a lot more than I was. He should have gotten yelled at a lot more than me” chat. My high school sophomore does it, too. “Ohmigod, Mommy,” she huffs with adolescent outrage. “Mr. Jones threatened to take my cell phone away because I was texting. Susy and John spend all class texting, and he threatens to take MY phone away?” Needless to say, I’m not sympathetic to either of my daughters when these issues arise. They know what the rules are and they damn well know the consequences for breaking them.

If you want to be upset about criticism, fine. Good. It’s certainly your right to do so. What drives me b-a-n-a-n-a-s, though, is when people justify said criticism by deflecting it toward equally or even more egregious offenders as though it makes it okay for them. It pisses me off when my children do it, it pisses me off when my students do it, it pisses me off when I do it myself (I do sometimes, much as I wish I didn’t), and it pisses me off when Ulrika Jonsson does it. Just because Eddie Murphy and Rod Stewart and Clint Eastwood have kids with four different women does not make it any less disturbing that you are a 4X4 Mum, Ulrika. Sorry, but it’s true.

I’m especially frustrated that Jonsson tries to turn this into a feminist issue. I just don’t see it that way. I see instead someone trying to justify her actions in the same way a kindergartener would.

Am I wrong here?

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28 thoughts on “Four Children by Four Different Fathers: Feminist Issue?

  1. Can’t quite agree with you, I’m afraid – having read the full article, I don’t see her ‘justifying’ it in this way at all, just pointing out the double standards.
    For one thing, if she were trying to justify it by saying “but everyone else does it”, then other women with children by multiple fathers would be a better comparison – and there are plenty out there to choose from.
    Also, I’d like to point out that of those four fathers, she was married to three of them at the time (and the fourth she thought was a serious relationship). OK, so two of those marriages broke up, but of the men she mentions, few of the children were born to a wife, and some were concieved during an affair.
    I don’t see Ulrika “trying to turn this into” a feminist issue – I believe it was one already, along with all the other “it’s OK for men but not for women” things.
    And as for your kids – I’m sure it is annoying, but it’s just as annoying for them when they percieve their teachers to be playing favourite. Of course, to make the comparison to Ulrika complete, your sophomore would have to be complaining that it’s not against the rules for the boys to text during class…
    Because at the end of the day that’s what it comes down to – not Ulrika going “but everyone does it”, but saying “why is it against the rules for us, but not for them?”

  2. Well, I don’t like it for anyone (male or female), not that it’s really up to me to set standards for other people’s sexual behavior, adult people anyway. I work in human services and I see this situation a lot. What gets me is that in these situations, the fathers generally don’t take a role in the children’s lives. It seems like when the relationship breaks up, they give up on the kid. That may happen in any relationship but it seems to be more common the more fathers that are involved.
    What’s really unfair is not that male movie stars get away with it, it’s that you don’t hear people criticizing these women’s partners. It seems like it’s okay for men to “screw and run” and if a child comes out of it, well, it’s for the woman to deal with.

  3. Whether it’s a man or a woman, I personally don’t find such a situation even remotely ideal, and I certainly wouldn’t praise anybody for it.

  4. Who is making the assumption that it’s acceptable for men do father multiple children with different women?

    There is a small subset of men who find this to be a symbol of their “manliness”, but the few that I met were losers in general.

    • Agreed; I think anyone who keeps having kids from relationships that aren’t stable has some problems. Yes, I realize the author was married for three of them, but one would think by the third marriage you would be a bit hesitant to pop out yet another child.

      • “I think anyone who keeps having kids from relationships that aren’t stable has some problems.”

        Yeah, they can’t figure out how a frigging condom works…

  5. I don’t think it is socially acceptable for either. It might be more obvious in mothers, since they are more likely to be custodial, but it makes any person rather questionable.

    Men getting away with it is not a reason to excuse a woman. It is a reason to stop excusing men. Speak to those who do.
    I don’t, and I’m not going to support your justification.

  6. The kids are being well taken care of yes? then I don’t care who or how many fathers there are, it only becomes my and societies concern when harm is being done.

  7. Simply an idiot. Can anyone logically justify this? I doubt. But the taxpayer can carry more and more, it doesnt matter, his resistance is legendary.

    • This woman is not on public assistance and her kids are happy and loved.

      So, if she wishes to have a few more to different fathers, it is none of my – or your business!

  8. I had a neighbor who was married to a guy, had a baby with his best friend, then had a baby with him, then met a guy on a trip to texas and had a baby with him (while she was still married to the first guy). I mean, she was a great woman, a sweetheart, but she had three children with three different men and she was married to one man the whole time. But she had some kind of issues because she never knew her dad and her mom was an alcoholic. She once told me that when she was little, all they ever had in the fridge was beer.

  9. A woman’s children are hers, unless she is asking for some sort of support, who fathered them is none anyone’s business. Why the world needs to know why my siblings and I have different surnames is beyond me. All that matter is we were loved, cared for, educated straight through college by this amazing women who loved kids but stopped loving whom she had them with. People should get over this!

  10. Anybody that plans to have children by different dads obviously has issues but things are not always that black and white. Just because a woman has been left holding the baby more than once after trusting someone to stand by and love them doesnt mean they should give up all hope for the future.It takes a lot of courage to believe in yourself after being dropped from a great hight. Every time you get dropped the hight is higher and so harder to carry on each time. The last thing a woman in that situation needs is ignorant people that have no idea making her feel she should have in some way seen it coming. That is ridiculous. I guess you could say im a 3×3 but soon will be a 4×4 ;) Im not going to give up on having a happy family because i put my trust in the wrong person more than once. It’s not the end of the world or my life. We pay our way, were not on benifits and my children are very well looked after and happy. Infact our family works better than a few i know who have children from the same parents. Were not in the 50s anymore the mistake isnt the child it was the father it doesnt have to define the rest of your life.

  11. Anyway, the problem here is that one thinks that since some people believe it’s acceptable, then it should be acceptable for them by all. Which is a LOGICALLY FALLACY. Wrong is wrong no matter who or how many people are doing it. Popular or acceptable by some or many doesn’t many it’s ok for you to start doing. Grow up ladies. It’s far past time you share equal responsibility in this game of life.

  12. My wife is a whore. She has 4 babies by 4 different men and to top it off, she’s cheated on me the whole 10 months we’ve been married with somewhere around 20 guys.

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