Dear Drew Barrymore,
First off let us just say that we think you are the greatest. Seriously. Even before the BFF acronym existed, you were the celebrity who wore the other half of our imaginary heart necklace: We devoured Little Girl Lost (even when our parents called it “unsuitable” reading material); we spent hours trying emulate your artfully-tousled coif; and we cheered when you flashed David Letterman. Hell, we cheered when you did almost anything—including marrying Tom Green and making those last two movies with Adam Sandler.
Because that’s what besties do—we support each other through the good times and the bad. We are also the people who aren’t afraid to give it to you straight, whether that means telling you that your new patchwork dress makes you look like a member of the Von Trapp family, or calling you out when you’ve said something stupid. Spoiler alert, Drew: this letter is not about your wardrobe choices.
Like everything else in your life, your taste in clothing has grown up a lot in recent years (#RIP daisy hair accessories, ’90s slip dresses, skater sunglasses). While so many of your ’80s child star cohorts fight over gigs on I’m A Celebrity, Get Me Out of Here!, you are a massively impressive individual—successful not only as an actress, but as a producer and an entrepreneur. After decades of personal drama, you have also found yourself a good husband (one who has never once starred in a movie about getting “Fingered”). With him you now have two daughters with adorable faces and cool (but not too cool) names. Olive and Frankie are actually a big part of why we’re reaching out today, but first let’s back track…
Recently you did an interview with our sister magazine Hello! (love you, Hello!) where you talked about your current state of domestic bliss. After a childhood spent on the Hollywood club scene, we can only assume that simple routines like family dinner excite you the way a night at Studio 54 might excite June Cleaver. That makes a lot of sense and it’s wonderful that you love your life…but did you have to go ahead and take a proverbial piss all over somebody else’s by saying that “my life started the day my kids were born.”
What’s wrong with that, you may be wondering. After all, you are hardly the first celebrity to gush about motherhood. (The fact that Hollywood mommy-dom has become its own booming industry is another headache for another day.)
To clarify—famous or otherwise—there is nothing wrong with saying that your kids are the bee’s knees, your top priority, the thing that makes you happiest in the world, and so on. Earlier this year, Victoria Beckham wrote an essay for Time in which she calls motherhood her “greatest achievement,” and while we would argue that ’90s Girl Powah! and the Pob hairstyle are also pretty rad, we totally support her parental pride. What we’re taking issue with is a sub-sect of “gushing mommy” comments that imply that life without children is like the Spice Girls without Ginger (read: a vastly inferior product).
Don’t feel too bad—you’re certainly not the only famous female to make a comment along these lines…
Angelina Jolie: “Everything that matters in life has to do with being a parent.”
Ergo: The things that don’t have to do with being a parent don’t matter.
Gwyneth Paltrow: “[Motherhood] gives your life real meaning.”
Ergo: Your life without motherhood has no meaning.
Consider first, how these kinds of statements might offend/upset/piss the hell out of women (and probably some men) who for any number of reasons don’t have kids. Whether they wanted them or not is—for the purposes of this conversation—irrelevant, since the two camps here aren’t moms vs. non-moms, but rather people who believe that a life without children can be rich and full and people who don’t. We doubt very much that you, Drew, fall into this second camp—we just want to remind you that words matter.
To wit: Kim Cattrall recently expressed her opinion that we need to come up with a word other than childless to describe women without kids. Her feeling is that the term child-less implies that a person without a child is lesser. Personally, we find this a bit extreme. (Less, after all, means only that you don’t have something, which is not necessarily a bad thing—selfless, flawless, topless). Still, Cattrall’s frustration at being constantly defined by a thing she is not is understandable. And she’s far from the only one who feels this way.
Last month the first-ever Not Mom Summit—a weekend-long conference, featuring lectures, notable authors (like Meghan Daum) and child-free advocates—took place in Cleveland. The purpose of the event was to fight back against the stigma that still surrounds women without kids; the stereotypes that suggest they are selfish or misguided or lacking in some essential female component. For the all of the strides and advances in female empowerment, we still live in a society where (to quote Anne Kingston’s fantastic “The Case Against Having Kids”), “saying ‘I don’t want kids’ is akin to ‘there’s a bomb on a plane.’” People find it alarming, panic inducing and even dangerous.
Of course the real danger is in comments that equate purpose and parenthood. Because suggesting that a woman’s life only begins or is fully realized when she has a child is not that different from saying that procreation is female destiny, our biological function, and well, maybe this is a good time to remind you that the candidate currently leading the U.S. Republican primary recently said that he would love to see the abortion law overturned. Or that there are still many places in the world where infertile women are cast out of society. Or that part of the reason that the gender pay gap persists is because people don’t believe that women can commit to both family and career.
And not to call you out or anything Drew, but you went back to work just a few weeks after your second daughter Frankie was born. It wasn’t because you needed the money. You went back because the opportunity to star in Miss You Already sounded amazing and because it wasn’t going to come around a year later and because as well as loving your daughters, you love your work. That’s not something you have to deny or feel bad about or justify to the judgey mummies at daycare. (We know you know these women, because you talk about them in your new book.) Think about how much effort you put in to play Little Edie in Grey Gardens, or all of the guts it took to start your own production company or your work as a World Food Programme Ambassador Against Hunger.
You are Drew Freaking Barrymore. You have achieved so much in your 40 years on this planet including movies that inspire, major strides for women in male-dominated industries and becoming a mother. Nobody’s trying to tell you that your kids can’t matter the most, but can we all just agree that your life began on February 22, 1975? Because if nothing you did before your kids were born matters, then that means that Never Been Kissed doesn’t matter and well…that makes us question the whole “What Would Josie Grossie Do?” mantra that has been our guiding principle over the last 15 years.