When did Jennifer Aniston become a lightning rod for all of society’s weirdest anxieties about women? For years after her split from Brad Pitt in 2005, she was poor, jilted, unlucky-in-love Jen, with media outlets and the public alike panicking over her future as a single woman — a single woman over the age of 35! Would she ever be able to find a man again? Would she be able to keep him? Or would she die alone and be found weeks later half-eaten by Alsatians, Bridget Jones-style?
To her credit, Jen took the sad spinster mantle in good humour, but she had less patience for the other aspect of her enforced narrative — the one labelling her as unhappily childless. In July, when headlines again declared her ‘FINALLY PREGNANT!’ she finally snapped, demanding in a Huffington Post op-ed that the tabloids stop peddling the idea that women are incomplete without children.
‘This past month in particular has illuminated for me how much we define a woman’s value based on her marital and maternal status,’ Jennifer wrote, arguing that the media’s obsession with her childbearing status ‘points to the perpetuation of this notion that women are somehow incomplete, unsuccessful or unhappy if they’re not married with children.’
Now, in the wake of her ex Brad and Angelina Jolie’s divorce, the Poor Jen narrative is back with a triumphant vengeance: the scorned woman finally gets her revenge! ‘Jennifer Aniston’ was trending just two places behind ‘Brangelina’ on Twitter this morning as the reaction meme took shape, with users imagining Jen’s glee at the news. Many were in the form of Rachel Green GIFs, and in fairness, some of them were really funny. It’s hard to take issue with any use of this glorious ‘closure’ moment, for example:
— Amy (@ohsoamy) September 20, 2016
But the sentiment behind the meme is that Jennifer, perennially bitter as she is, must be revelling in the news that a family is broken and six children are about to go through the trauma of their parents’ divorce. Never mind that Jennifer and Brad’s marriage ended 11 years ago, and she clearly has moved on. Never mind that Jennifer has been in a seemingly happy relationship with Justin Theroux since 2011. Never mind that Jennifer specifically said last year that she wishes ‘nothing but wonderful things’ for Brad.
When you post your Jennifer Aniston .gif then realise that perpetuating the imagined rivalry between two women over a man is lowkey sexist. pic.twitter.com/Ptq2WImN2M
— Josh ? (@J_Manasa) September 20, 2016
According to a statement from her attorney, Angelina made the decision ‘for the health of the family’, which suggests that this is at the very least more complicated than it appears. Cheering Jen on with you-go-girl GIFs mere hours after the divorce was announced casts her in a petty and mean-spirited role over which she has no control.
Fuck it. The amount of gleeful sexism and ‘other woman got what she deserved’ talk I am seeing from people is disgusting.
— Angelica Jade (@angelicabastien) September 20, 2016
Sure, it’s possible that Jennifer is loving every second of this behind closed doors. Nobody who’s ever been dumped, especially for someone else, would blame her. But why keep defining this woman by a relationship that ended more than a decade ago? Why put so much energy into perpetuating two women’s imagined rivalry over a man? In other words, it’s probably time to exclude Jennifer from this narrative. There’s plenty of drama to go around without her.
This article was originally published on Cosmopolitan.com.