Although Gabrielle Union has gone on record calling her TV character Mary Jane “a hot mess,” the actress is clear that there is one storyline that is all about society’s screwiness and not about her character’s. Last season may have left Mary Jane further from motherhood after a failed egg-freezing procedure, but 42-year-old Union knows that this is not just a reality for women on television. In an interview she gave with Redbook magazine for their October issue, Union got really honest — in a very non-celeb, not-glamorous way — about the “shame” women are expected to feel when they have big careers and no babies. And based on an interview she gave this week with The Today Show, the actress, stepmom to husband Dwyane Wade’s three children, still has a lot to say.
For every woman who has thought about freezing her eggs, wondered if she waited too long or been told that she isn’t able to have children, Union’s messages are a joy to hear. Finally, next to stories of Halle Berry-miracle pregnancies (the Oscar winner was 47 years old when she had her son), here is something that sounds a little closer to their own lives and anxieties. “A lot of my friends deal with [struggles to have a baby],” Union told Redbook. “There's a certain amount of shame that is placed on women who have perhaps chosen a career over starting a family younger. The penance for being a career woman is barrenness. You feel like you're wearing a scarlet letter."
Union isn’t the only actress to make fertility and age a central issue. Tyra Banks and (newly pregnant) Chrissy Teigen talked about it recently on their show FABLife. There, the two models-turned-TV-personalities chastised everyone so eager to make a woman’s fertility (and age or marital status) a casual conversation topic — never taking into account that this could be a sensitive, upsetting area to discuss. Banks got so fed up that she launched a hashtag, #stopasking, pointing out the bad manners and potential damage that can come from sticking your nose in other’s fertility business.
It’s refreshing that in an industry where women are supposed to look ageless, women like Union and Banks are demanding that everyone recognize that they are in fact aging and successful — and this is how the public, the press and Hollywood needs to react to that. “I think TV shows and films kind of make [out that] the frigid, single-focused career woman, that her career is the root of all problems in her life," Union said on The Today Show. "That's just not the case."
She went on to endorse the options out there to help women dealing with fertility challenges. And maybe, most importantly, she said that “fertility is an issue, period.” Aging is not an issue. Being a career-minded woman is not an issue. So everyone needs to stop folding them into each other, which does nothing more than place the blame on the woman who is already going through it trying to have a baby. Maybe if Union was going to start a hashtag, it wouldn’t be #stopasking but #youareOK.
Watch a Being Mary Jane Season 2 highlight, in which Mary Jane undergoes egg freezing, below.
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