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“Why we all need to STOP feeling sorry for Jennifer Aniston”

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Kayleigh Dray
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Once again, the world has unleashed an outpouring of grief for “poor Jennifer Aniston”. Here, stylist.co.uk editor Kayleigh Dray explains why we need to stop assuming that women are victims of circumstance – and start respecting them as the agents of their own destiny. 

In the wee hours of the morning, Jennifer Aniston and Justin Theroux quietly confirmed their separation.

“This decision was mutual and lovingly made at the end of last year,” the statement read.

“We are two best friends who have decided to part ways as a couple, but look forward to continuing our cherished friendship.”

Within minutes, Twitter was flooded with incredibly emotional messages from men and women all over the world – all of whom seemingly have a direct line to Jen and know exactly how she’s feeling right now.

There were those who felt personally victimised by the Friends star’s newly single status:

There were those who couldn’t resist re-stoking the long-dead embers of the Brad Pitt Reunion rumour mill (because, yeah, every woman going through a breakup really wants to be told she should go back to the ex-husband they dumped decades ago for cheating on them):

And, of course, there were those who felt sorry – so impossibly, impossibly sorry – for Jennifer:

Newsflash, guys: Jennifer Aniston is absolutely not lying in a darkened room at her Bel Air home, hand pressed weakly to her face, prostrate with grief. Her decision to split from her husband was made last year – and no doubt for good reason: no breakup is undertaken lightly, and we imagine both Aniston and Theroux felt that they would be happier apart in the long run.

And, while their separation may have floored you (because, yeah, you weren’t privy to all the private conversations leading up to it, so we imagine it will have come as a bigger surprise to you than it did to Aniston), we bet this strong, confident and empowered woman is doing just fine.

More importantly, though, we bet she’s as sick of this eternal meme of pity as we are.

Why? Because, by saying “poor Jennifer Aniston”, we’re suggesting she’s failed in some deeply important way. That every major achievement she’s celebrated in her life is somehow negated by the fact she doesn’t have a ring on her finger. That the only relationship worth talking about is the one a woman shares with her husband. That the only way a woman can truly prove her worth is by finding the right man, getting him to marry her, settling down into a life of cosy domesticity and, oh yes, popping out a couple of sprogs before her ovaries dry up.

Considering the fact that marriage rates are on the decline and #TimesUp is the unofficial theme of 2018, this all feels… well, it feels tired. And lazy. And boring. And dumb – so, so overwhelmingly dumb.

Aniston – when you look at “Aniston the Brilliant Woman and Actress”, rather than “Aniston the Eternal Spinster” – is the complete opposite of a failure, by anyone’s standards. Her net worth is estimated at around $200million (£142m), thanks to her hugely successful career, most notably her role as Rachel Green in Friends (for which she has also earned our eternal love). She has featured on Forbes’ Celebrity 100 list – which is based on earnings and fame – every year since 2001. She ranked third on Forbes’ Top Earning Actresses list in 2014, fifth in 2015, fourth in 2016. And, in August 2017, she was ranked as the world’s second highest-paid actress, earning $25.5m (£18m) a year. 

The accolades don’t stop there: Aniston has 16 major film and television awards under her belt (including the much-coveted Emmy for Outstanding Lead Actress) – and counting. She is the co-founder of her own production company Echo Films. She has been the main event in cinemas pretty much consistently for the past three decades (her first movie appearance was in 1988’s Mac and Me – and she’s set to appear in both The Yellow Birds and Dumplin’ later this year). She also has a new TV series on the way with Reese Witherspoon

Plus, as if that wasn’t enough to convince you that, yes, she’s fine, she also has a seriously close-knit friendship group – and spent her 49th birthday with them in Malibu just a few weeks ago.

In short, she is a bonafide Princess in her own right – and she’s never, ever needed a Prince Charming to remind her of her own worth. 

And yet somehow, despite all of this, Aniston is still judged on the basis of her personal life. Just how great a guy did she manage to ‘ensnare’ into marrying her? How good is she as a baby machine? Is her marriage still intact? Does she run an efficient household? WILL SHE EVER GET BACK WITH BRAD PITT?

Don’t believe me? I did a quick Google search for ‘Jennifer Aniston tabloids’, and here are just some of the headlines she’s faced over the years…

It’s little wonder, then, that Aniston has spoken out against the stigma attached to so many women in the public eye, whether they’re single, divorced, or living a child-free lifestyle.

“My marital status has been shamed; my divorce status was shamed; my lack of a mate had been shamed; my nipples have been shamed,” she told Marie Claire.

“It’s like, Why are we only looking at women through this particular lens of picking us apart? Why are we listening to it?”

The Friends actor added: “I just thought: I have worked too hard in this life and this career to be whittled down to a sad, childless human.”

Amen to that. 

So next time one of Aniston’s so-called fans starts blubbing about how sorry they feel for the actress, remind them that Aniston doesn’t want their pity – and she certainly doesn’t want to be treated as a victim of circumstance: she’s a badass agent of her own destiny.

And if they still don’t get it? Well, then they’re the ones who deserve to be pitied. After all, how can anyone so narrow-minded and ignorant ever hope to survive in our increasingly #woke new world?

Images: Rex Features

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Kayleigh Dray

Kayleigh Dray is editor of Stylist.co.uk, where she chases after rogue apostrophes and specialises in films, comic books, feminism and television. On a weekend, you can usually find her drinking copious amounts of tea and playing boardgames with her friends. 

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