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?