A Lightning Rod

Poster wigamer made this comment on a recent blog entry:

I may regret coming out of anonymity, I don't know. Here goes nothin':

I've wondered why this woman engenders so much hatred, and the only thing I can come up with is that she must represent something bigger than herself. The vitriolic reaction to her is sometimes so out of proportion to her actual "crimes". I find her disagreeable and annoying, and her choice to expose her children to the world seems to be a terrible mistake.

But I think it goes deeper than Kate's many foibles. I think she has become a lightning rod for some of the feelings that mothers in this country have to deal with. There is so much pressure on a woman to be (and look)perfect in our society.

Look at parenting books, parenting blogs, magazines, television, the message is clear: to be the ideal mother you have to breastfeed your children,and if for some reason you don't (you're probably too lazy and selfish) you must investigate every bottle nipple for toxic chemicals, though you probably won't be able to afford the safe ones. Thoroughly investigate immunizations, because if you don't your child will probably be autistic & it will be your fault. Organic baby food is the way to go, homemade preferably. Your child should be on a set schedule for sleeping (never on the stomach!) and eating. Wait, no, research shows attachment parenting is so much better, your kid needs to be with you 24/7. And that's just infancy.

In my opinion, (and it's just opinion) mothers are constantly sold a message of inadequacy, and Kate seems to have bought it hook, line, and sinker. Striving, striving, for perfection with her organic cooking, tummy-tuck, hyper-organization, crazy cleaning, rigid control. And she's proud of it. It's all designed to look great on the outside, but I promise you it's hollow and joyless on the inside. And it's all being brought to us via heavily edited phony "reality" TV footage that tries to make a character out of a real person. Yuck to all of it, I say!

Again, take all that for what it was worth...a very long-winded 2 cents.

I can understand where wigamer is coming from. I think that, among mothers, probably the single most polarizing topic -- even above religion and politics -- is parenting itself.

So many mothers stew in guilt and performance anxiety, causing so much emotional angst that they sublimate it anywhere they possibly can. And what better target than a woman with the audacity to live her life under a scrutiny far more acute than any of us would dream of agreeing to? Someone who could be seen as "just asking for it".

Then, add to that mixture, Kate's narcissistic personality that not only blinds her to her faults, but makes her believe she really is deserving of the idolatry that many hold for her.

I'm not saying that all critics of Kate fall into this category; it doesn't take being a parent or even suffering a bit of parental guilt to feel plenty of outrage for what Jon and Kate are dragging their children through and for how they are deceiving the public. It is one thing to admit that one has the occasional less than stellar parenting moment, but it is on a whole other level to orchestrate and keep alive the circus that is the Gosselin life.

And it seems like just when we think we've seen the worst, a new episode airs and Jon and Kate just dig their hole even deeper. These are people who will pursue any and every freebie, donation, or sponsorship with no compunction, no hesitation at the thought that in order to reap the benefits their children must be exploited and their public must be deceived. THAT complaint has nothing to do with maternal guilt and a convenient scapegoat.


NS said...

Excellent posts - both Serena and wigamer.

No histrionics. No slashing, burning and crashing.

Just how it is.

Maggie said...

Being a parent is a thankless task that is open to criticism by everyone around us. Those that choose to put themselves on televsion open not only the windows, but invite the nation to observe their parenting skills. Jon and Kate are not terrible parents.

If you look at all the parents in this country, they are good parents, considering how low the bar is. If you look at most parenting blogs that reference the name of this show, you will read so many young moms or future mothers who really do believe that they have the dream marriage and are the perfect parents and do nothing wrong.

They do many things wrong, many things right, but when they are being held up to worship and they are an example of "perfect" parents, I believe the show is not setting a good example.

The show long ago left the concept of a middle class family struggling to make ends meet while raising two sets of multiples. That was relatable. Sadly many people who are copying their every move missed the moment that the shark jumped.

Anonymous said...

Just something I've been meaning to ask for awhile- I've lots of posts claiming that Kate has pushed away long time friend Beth. How does anyone know about this? I haven't seen or heard anything.

Robert said...

I don't think many of J&K's fans have really considered the fact that this show no longer presents "reality".

Reality for most families is one, if not both parents having to bust his/her ass working as many hours as possible just to be able to afford food and a place to live.

Reality is wondering how you are going to be able to afford to just buy clothes for your kids, let alone matching "name brands".

Reality is wondering who you can get to watch your healthy kids while you take the sick one to the doctor.

Reality is wondering if this is the time your boss finally decides to replace you because you've missed 5 days of work this year because little Johnny keeps getting an ear infection.

Reality is trying to find the time to feed your children, bathe them, feed them, clean the house, wash clothes and buy groceries all within a 24 hour day. Reality is not having nannies and housekeepers handle these chores for you.

I neither hate nor despise J&K. While I don't agree with many of the things they do - I belive they honestly feel they are doing the "best" for their family. Even if I feel they are misguided with the "how", I understand the "why".

The show itself however (and by extension I guess you have to say J&K as well), I find quite insulting to the average family.

While this family's situation is no doubt somewhat unique, to paint their current life as any kind of a struggle is a farce.

If this is reality, I want to know when somebody is going to pay for my family to go skiing in Utah? Where is that kind neighbor to fold my laundry? My kids love Juicy Juice, when does my lifetime supply arrive?

It may be "their life", but it sure isn't a "real life".

laura linger said...

I think that, much of the time in the United States, we deify motherhood to assuage our own justified feelings of guilt and shame for how difficult it is to actually be a mother in our society. It's as if we think that saying the words of praise will somehow negate the collective reality.

Robert's comment, by the way, is outstanding.

Anonymous said...

I think Robert's comment is absolutely the best. I would love for someone to pay for my family to go absolutely anywhere on vacation but seriously doubt that will ever happen. Regular families do not look like Jon and Kate's family. Regular day to day life is tough and noone is knocking on our door to lend a hand, give us a vacation or offer us free products.
I would also like to see the question about Beth and Kate's friendship explained. Does anyone know what happened?

AynRand said...

Robert's comment is great. But, sorry, why is it a surprise? This show isn't reality in any way. It never was. Why would this be reality and say, Bret Michaels Rock of Love or Deadliest Catch, or ANY reality show be considered reality?

Hasn't everyone known for a long time now, at least a few years, that reality shows are so far from reality? It's very close to scripted, in order to make a profit for all involved. Have any couples from those dating shows actually stayed together? There was one (I forget their names), but that's it.

And, yes, I know the argument could be that Figure 8, TLC, and Jon & Kate all present it as reality, but so what? That's how ALL reality TV is presented. The only "real" reality show was the very first season of MTV's Real World, the first reality show. After that, there's a formula: create drama, people will watch, put the money in the bank. The end.

I've never, ever watched this show and considered it reality. Not even close.

And it bothers me when people who don't hate or feel outraged by Jon & Kate are called sheeple, when frankly, the people who are sheeple are the ones who thought this was in anyway "real" and expected to be shown a real slice of life with multiples. Doesn't a viewer have some responsibility to know that it's all about profits? It's like people who are still being suckered into Internet scams. Isn't there enough info out there now to know not to buy into the scam?

I'm not pointing fingers at any one person, but in general, being irritated or annoyed that this was "sold" as reality TV when it's not just seems like a silly argument. By virtue of it being a TV show with the world reality surrounding it.

Serena said...

Robert's comment is great. But, sorry, why is it a surprise?

Who said it was? I think the point of dismantling it as reality is not to "expose" a previously unknown truth, but to emphasize to those who idolize Jon and Kate that they are worshipping a golden calf.

I'm not saying that everyone who defends the Gosselins "idolize" them, but there are myriad forums where people post breathlessly about how amazing and wondrous and admirable Jon and Kate are for doing what every other parent in the country is doing -- raising their family.

Big deal. So they have eight. They also have an obscene amount of help and support doing it, although TLC loves to pimp them out as "an ordinary couple struggling to raise an extraordinary family". PLEASE.

Robert said...


Your point is a valid one, none of these "reality" shows are actually "reality". Actually that's somewhat the point I was making.

My comment was meant to be directed to those that look upon J&K with awe because of the way they manage their "life".

It was meant to be directed towards the crowds that buy tickets to their "appearances", pay "love offerings" and mistakenly think appearing on TV automatically makes a person an "expert" on anything.

J&K are no different than flim flam preachers who beg the congregation for their last pennies, then drive home to the mansion paid for by their followers.

The only difference is that their story is given more credence by virtue of it appearing on a network that is known for displaying shows based on truth, rather than fiction.

While you and I realize this show is as real as General Hospital, there are many who don't. Those people are being taken advantage of, and that bothers me.

Although in all honesty it appears J&K and the show's producers are true believers in the phrase "a fool and his money are soon parted".

As it is, the show is just barely a step above an infomercial for whatever speech they are giving next.

WatchOverThem said...

Kate's upcoming "How to be Me" book, index page:

1) How to get HOTTTT for someone who looks completely opposite of you, with only deep and meaningful relationship in mind.

2) How to move in together quickly, against Daddy's will and get engaged your first Christmas morning together.

3) How to get married before the sun sets on puppy love and lust.

4) How to make a baby (or several) before puppy love and lust end in the marriage.

5) How to be bored with the small amount of attention twins created, and long for only "one" more.

6) How to think of ways to keep hubby in marriage after puppy love and lust end.

7) How to cement your wonderfully mature marriage and relationship, getting hubby to perform acts that a doctor may have strictly advised against.

8) How to get months and months of attention, being waited on hand and foot, while shake'n bake'n a litter.

9) How to start playing the system and sheeples' heartstrings for donations, just the cash, please.

10) How to make a one-time television special about your circus side show turn into a faux-wealth building experiment.

11) How to keep your stories straight, and hope that sheeples don't watch too much of reality television.

12) How to get so stressed with the whole Family Business extravaganza, that you no longer care to hide your FishWife ways on national television.

13) How to keep hubby in line by having him quit his job for who knows what reason having him home 24/7 so that he has no visible means of escape.

14) How to become so ungrateful with it all, as everyone knows you deserve it all, so that you cannot be friendly or civil in public to your public.

15) How to proclaim on national television that everyday should be a spa day, because you're worth it.

16) How to pretend to play with, spend time with, talk with and show affection to your litter.

17) How to pack your own money away, so that when it all ends and you have burned every bridge imaginable and no one speaks to you anymore, you will have the funds to move into the Hershey Hotel, and make every day a spa day.

iluveeyore said...

For the present time, the information about Beth will have to be accepted as is. A very close "insider" has explained the situation, but we have no go-ahead to repeat it.

I'm sure that the story will be published here eventually.

Serena said...

For the present time, the information about Beth will have to be accepted as is. A very close "insider" has explained the situation, but we have no go-ahead to repeat it.

I'm sure that the story will be published here eventually.

I second this. While we will be publishing the Aunt Jodi situation, the Beth situation is on hold for now.

Katie said...

Watchover them: I have to say that this "1) How to get HOTTTT for someone who looks completely opposite of you, with only deep and meaningful relationship in mind." kind of left me cold. What is wrong with being attracted to someone who looks different? I know you're trying to say that's what Kate said/did, but I don't think that's what she has said remotely. She thought he was good looking and she went for it. And by writing it in such a manner you are implying that what she has done is wrong. I find that HIGHLY offensive. As to 11, per the WIKI article quoted before they got together 10/5/97, engaged Christmas 98, married 6/99. They were actually together more than a year before they got engaged (on their second Christmas as a couple, not first).

WatchOverThem said...

Is it Kate that has talked about having "china doll" children and loving the asian look, wishing she looked asian? Yes. Nothing wrong with that at all, but I did not start the asian fetish conversation, Kate did. The comment points out the possible shallowness of the relationship, as it still looks like they, to this day, don't treat each other with support and respect, rather berating disdain.

I am so glad I was a year off on the engagement thing, and she gave Jon another year to "hang" before becoming a daddy ;-)

Katie said...

Its the fact that you felt the need to point out the "someone who looks completely different" that makes me a little uncomfortable. She finds Asian men attractive, I fail to see the problem with that. IMO it just borders on highly offensive to mock on that that particular point.

WatchOverThem said...

Ok, Katie...I just posted that your issue about "being completely different" here is not a problem for me, I would never have a problem with someone like Kate being with someone like Jon...or anybody being with anybody. It was Kate that originated all of the Asian statements and Kate that brought it all to the forefront, otherwise it may have never ever been and issue on or off the show. It's also Kate's behavior that brings her issues into parody again and again. Obviously the whole original post is fiction and a bit of tongue in cheek fun, but take it as seriously as you need to and leave your sense of humor at the door, if that's what you like. If I lived my life the way the Gosselins live theirs, I would have to expect the same kind of posts and comments coming at me. If they would just be honest and tell us how cool it is that they have come out of bad times and are now so grateful, happy and excited to be doing better, I would also be happy for them. Especially if they limited filming on behalf of their kids and paid more attention to what they might really need.

Kill the dead horse, I give you the floor.

Katie said...

You feel the need to mock, and I respect that because there is a lot to be mocked here (blush application comes to mind) but I think its odd that you seize on that particular part of her life as mockable. When I read that I had an honest drop in my stomach. So she liked someone completely different in looks, many people do and it is not necessarily a shallow relationship (as you say it is here). I have to say, I've read your posts and you of anyone are the most vitriolic and the least likely to respond in any positive way to any real discussion or difference in opinion. I have a sense of humor, but it doesn't extend to hatefulness (which I see in your post on so many levels). She did move fast, on the baby thing. That I find mockable (she herself has made fun of her burning desire when she should have waited). Her blush application and the wearing of huge earrings while trying to deal with 6 young kids, all mockable. Choosing to mock her for being attracted to someone Asian when she is white is offensive.

funkycatt said...

Yes, definately, some of my criticisms of Kate are actually criticisms of other parents in general. Does it make one a bad person to criticize how another does something? What if you truly feel another parent is making huge mistakes? Are you not allowed an opinion on that?

Though, my crticisms of Kate are not because my standards are too high. But she does represent a type of hands off, for status and appearances style of parenting that goes against my own combination of feirce devotion and attempt at letting him learn on his own.

Anonymous said...

Just as Kate obviously makes every effort to mold her children in a way that adheres to her own personal agenda, she does the same to her husband. More often then not, an episode does not go by without Kate bringing to light the fact that Jon has more weight, less hair, lacks the ability to parent without her constant supervision, is less educated, and fails to stay within Kate's self described gender role duties and responsibilites to name a few. A far cry from the early years episode where she vowed to support, encourage and accept Jon for who he is.

Anonymous said...

It's an interesting thread. I admit that Kate evokes a visceral reaction in me because so much of her behavior reminds me of how I grew up. My well-meaning, but high-strung, insecure, narcissistic mother belittled us and my father to bolster her own self-esteem. The effect is damaging. Still, we had outside family in our and no cameras making us into weekly entertainment for strangers. I become so sad when I think about the stress and confusion in the lives of the Gosselin children.

Anonymous said...

I apologize for the long post..

We are fed a Norman Rockwell ideal of "family" and "parenting" that makes for classic paintings, but ignores the fact that every family is different, and even within a family, each child is different.
This notion that women need to have their houses look like something out of Martha Stewart has been crammed down our throats for too long. (See the book "Parenting Inc" to see how the baby/kids products industry capitalizes on the fears parents have)

"Perfection" is a meaningless chimera that too many of us, esp. Kate Gosselin are chasing after. To paraphrase the great Coach Wooden, success is peace of mind in knowing you did the best you're capable of. He never talked of perfection, but he did speak of relentless practice, of working hard, of respect.

I'm a father to twins and I know I can feel the pull of being "perfect". But I also know that our kids, like your kids, are unique little people. They are not pieces of equipment where you just follow some steps in a book or DVD and expect to have things work. What works for us may never work for other families, and vice versa. The joy is figuring out what will work for our little ones, nurturing their unique personalities, and helping them discover the world.

Certainly, if I had to be "perfect" to be an "adequate" parent, then I'd just accept being "inadequate".

I don't idolize people on TV. I live in Southern California, and look upon the media with a skeptical eye. My wife used to work in TV. Even news is scripted and mistake ridden. Most reality shows have writing staffs (who, like the Gosselin kids, have no union representation). Editing can make anyone look like a paragon of parenting or a complete moron. Media is about sensationalism, not substance. If it were the other way around, Jerry Springer would still be a politician, not another PT Barnum.

For those of you feeling the pressure of "perfection": Don't let slick magazines, or phony TV shows make you feel inadequate. Go to bed with the dishes dirty, the room cluttered with toys. Leave the stains and messes there! Oh, except for the grape juice stained shirt, better soak that in detergent... Enrich your lives by enriching your childrens' lives with the treasure that is your love using what works for you and them. And keep Coach Wooden's definition of success in mind: Peace of mind from knowing you did the best you are capable of.