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Return of the revenge of the daughter of the Welfare Queen

I’ve been following this whole octuplet controversy with mixed feelings. A part of me very much groks the anger being directed at Nadya Suleman. No single person can give 14 children the care and attention they all need; hell, I’m not sure a couple could manage it. If “it takes a village” to raise one child, this woman’s going to need five boroughs, and Yonkers too.

But that didn’t account for the vehemence I’ve been seeing in the media and elsewhere about Suleman. Sure, some of it is clearly rooted in the revelation that the state will be paying for these kids’ care, and the creepy possibility that she may have blown some of that state-provided money on plastic surgery to look like Angelina Jolie. But there’s far worse examples out there of unhealthily large families, narcissistic parents, and exploitation of public resources. Why’s this one got people so riled?

Then I read this analysis of the situation, which I think does a good job of explaining the outrage.

The great storm of public fury that has been kicked up by these octuplets is more than an annoyance at the water cooler. It is a vivid demonstration of the price that our country pays every day for the comforting moral clarity of the “right to life,” a fragile construct that has always been partly about not letting pregnant women “escape responsibility” for their actions. If a mother’s life goes to hell because she can’t afford to raise a child, well, she should have thought of that when she let herself get knocked up. The child becomes a sort of righteous punishment, not a person — and, in similar fashion, those “outraged” by Suleman’s story clearly hope that she (and, inevitably, her children) will have a rough time of it. It is the worship of motherhood, and the hatred of mothers.

This analysis feels intuitively on-track to me. But I think it’s missing two additional layers of meaning.

First, I think this is not just the worship of motherhood, but worship of ideal motherhood — ideal only if it’s within the strictures of traditional marriage and patriarchial religion, and therefore controlled one way or another by men. Uncontrolled (or female-controlled, which is the same thing in some of these people’s eyes) motherhood is never desirable. Most media outlets are reporting that the father of Suleman’s children has been caught by surprise by this, and is “a bit overwhelmed”. I think the anti-abortion movement will hold up Suleman not as a heroine, but as a cautionary tale: men, control your womenfolk, or they’ll have babies as they see fit, and see what happens then?

Second, it didn’t escape my notice, when I saw clips of her on TV, that Suleman is a bit on the brown side. And I could be wrong about this, but her name seems like a derivation of a common Arabic name, Suleiman — common enough that I, a garden-variety American with about as much knowledge of Arabic culture as I have of nuclear physics, recognized it as such. I could be totally spinning in the wind here; she might be Swedish for all I know. But I can’t help wondering how much of the rage I’m seeing — not merely outrage, but murderous incandescent fury — is because the Welfare Queen specter has been raised in Americans’ minds, perhaps conflated in some weird-ass way with The Arab Threat and maybe even The Brown Conspiracy To Outbreed White People? (Suleman’s fertility doctor appears to be Indian, see. We’re all in on it!)

You remember the Welfare Queen, don’t you? Ronald Reagan created her to get elected 20 years ago, as columnist Paul Krugman notes:

As Thomas and Mary Edsall put it in their classic 1991 book, “Chain Reaction: The impact of race, rights and taxes on American politics,” “Reagan paralleled Nixon’s success in constructing a politics and a strategy of governing that attacked policies targeted toward blacks and other minorities without reference to race — a conservative politics that had the effect of polarizing the electorate along racial lines.”

Thus, Reagan repeatedly told the bogus story of the Cadillac-driving welfare queen — a gross exaggeration of a minor case of welfare fraud. He never mentioned the woman’s race, but he didn’t have to.

So even though the vast majority of welfare recipients in the US are rural whites forced into poverty by the destruction of America’s industrial economy, the association of welfare with greedy, lazy, urban brown women has become indelible in the American subconscious. And even though the pendulum seems to have swung back since Reagan’s time, and we’re now in a vaguely liberal phase, my suspicion is that this linkage still exists, hair-triggered in our national zeitgeist, ready to fire at the first sign of dusky skin and fertile ovaries. That Suleman may be of Arab ethnicity — the zeitgeist’s latest boogeywoman — just compounds the issue. Now instead of black wombs destroying America for selfish gain, we’ve got Arab wombs destroying America in order to imitate and replace white women. It’s like Invasion of the Bodysnatchers without the giant beanpods.

I wouldn’t be surprised to see Suleman’s case trotted out again in about 18 months, when the Republicans start campaigning for the midterm elections. After all, if Reagan’s Cadillac-driving mystery woman could be so effective, how much more effective the collagen-injecting octuplet mom, who at least has a name?

48 thoughts on “Return of the revenge of the daughter of the Welfare Queen”

  1. G. R. Crisp says:

    Most of my upset with this furor comes from my concern for the kids – her own mother doesn’t seem to be interested in helping, and children, ESPECIALLY preemie children, need a lot of interaction to thrive – more than forty-five minutes a day.

    Add into that mix at least one previous child with special needs (specifically autism), and I am deeply concerned that Ms. Suleman isn’t looking at her ability to care for these kids logically.

    The whole thing disturbs me and makes me worry about the repercussions we’ll see.

  2. Gwen says:

    This is a great analysis, thank you. It helps me to clarify the disconnect I was feeling between the reaction to this case and the reaction to the McCaughey septuplets born in Iowa in 1997 (my family is from Iowa – it was a common topic of conversation.) As I recall, the situation was similar in that the McCaugheys were using fertility drugs to get pregnant, and then declined to abort any of the fetuses. And different in that they were a white, middle-class, married couple from the Midwest. The outpouring of praise, sympathy and help, both monetary and labor was pretty incredible. Their neighbors took shifts to care for the babies all day and night, Proctor & Gamble gave them a lifetime supply of diapers, the state government of Iowa asked companies to donate materials and labor to build them a bigger house, and they were given a van and free college tuition for all of the children. A very, very different response.

  3. Joy-Mari says:

    If she loves children that much why doesn’t she help out at an orphanage instead of having 14 children?

    I know I shouldn’t judge but I just can’t see how she can possibly give enough attention to 14 children. But now I’m just projecting my own reality onto her.

    I’m also concerned about 2-parent families who have more than the ‘normal’ amount of children. I don’t think it’s fair towards the children.

    And yes, I’m sure there are many people who would fit the profile that you just described. They’re scared that the brown people will take over. I’m not one of them, though; I am a brown person.

  4. Valerie says:

    I had actually missed a couple of the thoughts that Kugelmass makes more accessible.

    1. Right-to-lifers (and the media which they control) hate it as much as the next blowhard when their ideology is revealed as being pernicious bullshit which ruins the lives of those who listen too hard.

    2. The same people who believe that motherhood is essential also feel that motherhood should be a demeaning punishment. The idea that this woman had lots and lots of babies and is really happy about it makes them feel like the authoritarian parent who just discovered that their kid enjoys being grounded.

    3. Right-to-lifers (and the media which they control) become angry and flustered when people notice that last point.

  5. Adam says:


    I always like reading your thoughful posts.

    This raises some deeper questions for me.

    When this story broke, I immediately began to think of Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein – not because I was horrified, but because it raises the issue of science running amonk with no consideration of long range consequences. Just because it can be done, and I desire that it done, should it be done? Much like splitting the atom, cloning, and more recently, the Fed printing money out of thin air.

    I was thinking about how science, medicine, technology and even economics expands the range choices for people. And how people unquestioningly swallow this notion that having (and embracing) an ever expanding range of choices somehow equals freedom.

    The other writer you quoted may very well be correct about the worship of motherhood and the hatred of the mother phenomena. But I wonder if “autonomy”, “individualism”, and the need to always have a range of choices at all times has been elevated to sacred cow levels.

    I do not know how much thought and consideration Suleman gave to the risks and long range consequences of her actions – or the doctor involved for that matter. Is she attempting to make a statement about motherhood, non-traditional families, autonomy, or something else? I do not know.

    But I do think the consumer/customization/disposable approach that is being taken to nearly everything in life now is also worthy of close scrutiny and critique.

  6. Saladin says:

    This is why I can’t stand the American media. Thanks to the assinine (or is it brilliant?) corporate militarist priorities of TV news, every fucktard and his brother is informed and outraged about this non-issue.

    Meanwhile, the “change” president has appointed a deputy defense secretary whose last job consisted of drumming up business for a multibillion dollar missile company. And an attorney general whose last job was defending chiquita banana in court when they funded and armed right-wing death squads in colombia, and who recently made it clear that umm, well, torture and secret trials are still ok after all (

    But, please, dear God, somebody stop this woman and her fourteen kids! THAT’s the REAL danger here!!

  7. bfp says:

    Saladin, I mostly agree with you–like 99%. But even as I agree with you, I think it’s also hugely important to understand why people are so pissed off about this woman, because as nojojojo points out, it has definite repercussions for women of color especially living in the u.s. The welfare queen myth had devastating consequences not just for women of color but their children as well, and then with clinton’s “back to work” bullshit, it’s only gotten worse.

    I don’t really much care who has what kind of child or how many or where–but it’s been very revealing to see how many “feminists” are calling this woman a breeder, insane and abusive–and these are the people who are *supposed* to be standing against sexism and violence against women.

    What does it mean that even feminists are throwing the evil scary breeder woman of color under the bus? What will it mean for all women of color in the future?

  8. G says:

    I think you are wrong. I am about as common as they get and my white hot anger is at the life that these children will have. And I can say, as a person who has extended family with as many as 12 children, that it does take a village.(They have one.) And that the older children lose childhood as they become junior parents. These children, these octuplets and the poor older children, cannot have any quality of life. They will be treated like Bulgarian orphans, or like feral animals, because no one person (or even 4, I think, before the age of 2) can handle this. US law requires that in daycare situations there can be no more than 4 infants per caregiver, and that is not taking into account the problems of prematurity. How can this be allowed? For their safety, the children should be taken into care, particularly as the grandmother, who has already been taking care off the other children, has said her daughter has psychiatric issues and that she cannot handle the additional children that her daughter has created, against the will of her parents, the providers and caregivers.
    If these were cats, they would be taken away for their own welfare. Are children less valued in the US?

  9. yellowmix says:

    There is a photo of her parents in this ABC News story:

    I think she is probably of Persian or Lebanese descent, but I agree that perceived ethnicity is a factor here.

  10. Leigh says:

    Fantastic post. My headache grows with each passing day of coverage on this story.

  11. Lisa says:

    As a preemie mom, MY problem with this woman (and her doctor) is that the health and lives of these babies were knowingly and willfully jeopardized. Sure, this case can open a lot of discussions about welfare reform, but I don’t see it as a race issue. I think there would be outrage on many levels even if she were Snow White.

  12. Anna in PDX says:

    Your post echos a lot of my thoughts about this issue. In general, when the media concentrates on a non-celebrity person doing something odd, you have to ask the question why. To be fair to the media, I have not seen them particularly focus on the Arab name (yes it is definitely a Middle Eastern name, but since she’s apparently Christian, I guess they don’t see it as an issue). However, obviously there’s an overtone of “she is being irresponsible” that it is hard to get, since she’s an individual citizen. The problem does not seem to be that she decided to have the kids, but that she can’t afford it, and that she’s single.

    Although I disagree with many other people’s life decisions, and definitely think this woman is really making a horrible one, I don’t think it’s really any of my business on this sort of personal level, and it disturbs me that there has been so much focused attention on her.

  13. Noir says:

    What amazes me is the obvious misogyny that isn’t even addressed. Everybody is “worried” about the kids because the mother ‘is irresponsible’ and hell of a lot of stereotypes they like to put. What about the father? He is like an absent figure here. “Their mother isn’t interested.” Huh.

  14. Noir says:

    And wow, Adam. “Sacred cow.” Seriously, she doesn’t need to be brown to experiment the obvious misogyny from the media. Yes, a lot of kids, but people in my country have more (I MEAN IT) kids with a lot less resources and hey! They manage just fine!

    The “hate of the womb” and seriously, this new ‘progressive’ view that has it roots in very racist “population control’ movements always scares me. Those kids are the less of my worries, seriously, their mother preoccupies me more. We all know how people “love” kids and hate their “irresponsible ” mothers.

  15. Noir says:

    *Irresponsible mothers who have to deal with them.

    I’m so sorry for the spam.

  16. idyllicmollusk says:

    FYI Nadya appears to be of Iraqi or Palestinian descent. (Read the bottom paragraph of the article.) And yes, there have been people on the interwebs claiming that she is an illegal alien here to use her 14 children to bleed the American system dry (perhaps for the benefit of Al-Qaeda or some similar boogeyman).

  17. Lisa says:

    As far as the absentee father, that was by her design. According to her Dateline interview earlier this week, the sperm donor was a friend, and she “made sure” he would have no claim to the children. What that means exactly, I don’t know- she didn’t elaborate.

  18. G says:

    Well, the mother , as far as the media have stated so far, used sperm without the acquiescence of the donor in having these children. Therefore I would absolutely say the problem lies with the mother. She has been called mentally unstable by her own mother, she lives in her mother’s 3 br apt with her 6 kids and now 14 kids, her parents don’t want to support them and the US is not a family friendly country. I don’t think this is misogyny. If there were a man there I would be just as incensed at him and saying that the children should be removed for their welfare.

  19. L.G. says:

    While it’s horrible that it comes at the expense of the privacy and peace of mind of this poor woman, I do like that this is finally shoving the hypocrisy right back into the faces of the “pro-life” movement.
    You love babies sooo much? You think every single possible baby ever conceivable has a right to life? So help pay for them! Go ahead, do it!
    But no, they evidently love money more than life. This woman wasn’t even having immoral, out-of-wedlock sex to have her babies! She did what you would think would be the very ideal of Christian motherhood (except for the no-father part). Virgin birth, people! Isn’t that worth a few tax dollars? No? Well maybe you should stop trying to restrict our reproductive rights.
    I am perfectly happy to counteract Suleman’s large family by giving birth to no children at all of my own, and I’m sure a lot of my fellow women are willing to join me on that, given the choice.

  20. Adam says:


    I equated unconstrained individualism and autonomy in the west as being the sacred cow….or the “golden calf” if you will. I was making a broader point about society.

    It is unconstrained individualism and autonomy (or the idea of it) that drives a lot of decisions people make.

  21. OJD says:


    In California, if a man donates sperm and it passes through a doctor’s hands, he has no claim to the embryos/children produced with his sperm, nor is he responsible for them in any way. If he agreed to be a donor and not a father, Suleman can keep him from having any responsibilities or claim.

  22. Cathy says:

    Great to see a post about this story too. I’m of the opinion that something was very wrong in her having all of these children at once. My thing from the start has been why aren’t families like the Duggars attacked for this kind of thing, when they have even more children than Suleman does? Obviously, they don’t need public funds to survive but to me, that wasn’t the point. It’s as though money alone will guarantee these kids’ well-being when in my opinion these two families are one in the same when we’re talking about being children exposed to the media (most likely against their choice in the Duggars case) and having to share a ridiculous sized household with only two parents to divide their time amongst with their siblings. Not to mention I think this is hugely irresponsible to the environment but I’ll leave that alone.

    I feel like no one wants to talk about that fact that when you’re white, Christian, and married, you don’t get questioned on motherhood. I’m pregnant now, so I’ve felt some of this from the beginning. When trying to register and post messages on sites like thebump, I honestly felt embarrased. Every woman on there is already in a marriage, at least six years older than me, and I’ve seen maybe two different black women participating. This is a mainstream pregnancy website and even it (although I believe unintentionally) makes me feel as though I have no place in motherhood.

    People are so outraged that our tax money might be funding these kids. Outraged so much that it, as you brought up, may actually have a bearing on people’s decisions on the next election, and yet we won’t start as big of an uproar over the tax money we paid for bailouts for big companies to make changes in that aspect of the economy that should matter more. I’ll just sum it up in saying this- there’s clearly some bias going on and the anger is getting a little bit ridiculous, the woman doesn’t need death threats at this point.

    Btw, in regards to the father, I read a quote from one of the interviews with Nadya saying that she hoped once the father got over the initial shock that he would start to support her and the children. I’m going to give him the benefit of the doubt and hope that he will. I just wish the media would be a little more clear on that- if there’s no dad around then okay, no surprise. If he does want to support the kids however he can, let that be known. I think it’s just a way of emphasizing that Suleman isn’t married, therefore she is an unfit mom, even if the father plans on helping.

  23. Orodemniades says:

    Might I direct you to Mel’s most excellent comment on Suleman:

    It is clear that while Suleman has issues, what’s most obvious is the completely and utterly unethical behavior of her doctor.

  24. Adam says:


    You stated: “Not to mention I think this is hugely irresponsible to the environment but I’ll leave that alone.”

    If children are raised to be nothing more than consumers of resources, that I can see the grain of truth in that point.

    However, what if children are raised to be meaningful contributors and resource producers in society?

    Perhaps the criticisms should fall on smaller families (like TV families Hogan Knows Best or the Osbournes) who consume far more resources than families like the Duggards?

  25. House of Mayhem says:

    The Duggar Family + Suleman Family=


    I WIN!!!

  26. Cathy says:

    Hi Adam,

    I hope that future generations are taught to be more aware of things that affect the environment and continue to discover new ways to lower our negative impact on the natural resources of our planet but with the reliance we have on technology and the way we’ve adapted to living, it’s almost impossible not to be a consumer of resources. I think there would be more to be gained from a smaller number of children in the future simultaneously consuming and contributing than a larger number. It is so much easier to cause the damage than repair it.

    I agree with you too about the criticism of smaller families who consume far too many resources. Maybe some of the problems lie with the unequal distributions, like the fact that in my family, I can count three laptops and two desktops that we own while clean drinking water is a luxury for many others. There’s a story of a billionaire in Dubai who has a 27-story building that requires 80 employees to maintain for his family of only six when he lives right next door to some of the poorest slums in the world. The problems with environmental issues and our impact are so extensive, I truly understand that how many children one chooses to have is only one aspect of it.

    As a person who could do more to make the living situation on earth for future generations better, I suppose I’d feel like I wasn’t helping things by having a large family. We’re facing population growths that are unprecedented and at this point, I really don’t think there needs to be eight more children to a household of six, in Nadya’s case, If it can at all be helped. I think it’s becoming more and more wise to have families keep their households down to lower numbers, unfortunately.

  27. nojojojo says:

    Uh… oops. I forgot to check the “pending comments” bin in the days since I posted this, and there were like 20 comments sitting there unapproved. Sorry, folks!

  28. Godheval says:

    I am guilty of being one of those who has put Nadya Suleman under fire. And while I give mention to her inevitably taking advantage of the welfare system, there are bigger reasons:

    What’s interesting is that you look at Ms. Suleman and see a brown person. What I thought when I saw her was the inverse – that HAD she been a brown person, the vitriol would’ve been even more intense as she reinforced the image of the welfare queen. And that, in fact, it was only because she was fair-skinned – i.e. white privilege – that she’s even survived the ordeal so far.

    Funny how we can look at the same issue and see something two completely different things. Not that that kind of thing is uncommon in general, of course, but…just in this case.

  29. Godheval says:

    Oh yeah, and…linking will ensue. Great site.

  30. Faith says:

    Well this is a situation where a single woman is enacting her worship of motherhood and is ill-equipped to care for her brood. It’s also about the fact that she’s actively seeking media attention. If she was some obscure person in seclusion who’d never released any info to the media we wouldn’t even be discussing this. And it is especially troubling when she’s doing so with aging parents, living in an apartment and as a current disability receiver and also food stamps. It is irresponsible. Yes people are being harsh and judgmental even, but if there wasn’t a reason for it then it wouldn’t be happening. Also last time I checked the Census considered Arabs white AND we don’t know what relationship this woman has with “communities of color” so let’s not go trying to claim someone as part of a “rainbow tribe” if they are only sponging off resources and taking advantage of opportunities fought for by others. It’s also my understanding these other white families that are breeding litters – yeah I said it – are engaged in some sort of religious practice or are seriously just trying to keep the white population going whether they want to publicly admit it or not. Having 4, 6, 8 kids one after the other or through IVF is expensive and time consuming. This isn’t something the average poor person can do, not when it costs upwards of $50K. So I don’t have much sympathy for anyone who’s trying to make themselves famous and get rich based on their blatant choices. If they’re going to accept the celebrity then they have to accept the criticism. Of course she doesn’t deserve death threats but there’s plenty of idiots out there. If I never hear about this woman again I’d consider it too soon. I haven’t even had ONE child because I’m overly concerned about lack of resources. I guess I should just go ahead and do it and hire a publicist.

  31. Godheval says:

    You are spot on, Faith. I said much of the same in my post, except that I sidestepped around the issue of privilege, because I wasn’t sure if/how it applied here. But you are right in saying that many Arabs/Northern Africans are for census purposes considered white. As for how that applies to the demographics of privilege – it’d be more about appearance, and I think she “passes”.

  32. DaisyDeadhead says:

    I think the anti-abortion movement will hold up Suleman not as a heroine, but as a cautionary tale: men, control your womenfolk, or they’ll have babies as they see fit, and see what happens then?

    Good call. So far, you seem to be right–in the comments I heard after Mass recently. The over-riding idea was: that poor girl, if she’d had a husband, he could have “reigned her in” and she would only have, say, a respectable Brady-Bunch sized family.

  33. thepoetryman says:

    From what I am able to find on the nationality of Nadya is just one blurb- It may or may not be true- “The grandfather of the (original) infants is Iraqi.”

  34. Asada says:

    Why is this a big deal?

    can I say I don’t give a damn.? Don’t let the media take you off of whats important here. Suleman is not the last, nor the first to have an “army” she cant fund or possibly maintain ( actually, I can think of a country that fits this description). It doesn’t matter to me, to you or to anyone you know. It is only a late symptom of what has been going on for ages in the USA.

    We have a FAILED economy.
    But I guess it doesn’t matter much. American Idol is still on, the postal service works, the super markets are still stocked nationwide….its not time to care about important issues.

    this and the Koala mess are just another set of distractions for a very dire situation.

  35. Skye says:

    Good post, thank you for writing it. I’d be interested to see a source for the claim that most people on welfare are rural. White, yes, victims of the shift from industrial production to service economy, yes.

  36. Adam says:

    Hi Cathy,

    Thank you for responding. I see your point entirely. A part of me agrees with you.

    Let me approach this from another angle – do you know of anyone in your family or circle of friends who had to “spend down” all their assets to qualify for state assistance for things like nursing home care or food stamps. Why did they have to do that?

    Though there are many exceptions, individuals who have had many children usually do not have to turn to the state for assistance in their later years.

    My wife is one of five. Between her and her four syblings, they, collectively, are wealthy enough to take care of Mom. Mom is never in need of anything – medical care, a place to live, or otherwise.

    My father is 1 of 10. Once again, Grandma and Grandpa were well-taken care of. No need for nursing homes, medicaid, etc.

    Do you anyone who runs a farm? Farmers with large families have extra sets of hands who can accelerate the production of things at little cost.

    Do you see where I am going with these points?



  37. Adam says:


    A few more comments I will stop for today:

    I work an industry that charts (and markets to) population demographics. The largest group of people in the U.S. are moving into retirement within 10-15 years. In the U.S., there is going to be an incredible shortage of skilled labor in every sector of society. Even with the current infux of immigrants, we still will not have enough people to fill the skilled labor shortages coming. (Yes, economic downturn is slapping us around right now, but that will change.)

    I say this to point out the fact overpopulation (as far as the U.S. and other western countries are concerned) will hardly be a problem. If you are in the 20-40 age bracket (like me), you may very well have your pick of jobs in the not so distant future. Can you imagine: “Dear Prospective Employer, I regret to inform you that your offer does not best suit my needs, abilities, and skills at this time. However, I welcome all future inquiries….”

    One more point: People who were born in the same time eras in this country are also dying at the same rate. My father is in the funeral home business after retiring as a cop for 30 years – he is busier than ever…..

  38. J. Andrews says:

    I didn’t think doctors were implanting more than about 4 fertilized eggs at a time anymore. Precisely to prevent risky multiple-baby pregnancies.

    Is this still up to the doctors and their best judgment? Or are there standards in place?

    Granted you could still implant 4, have them all take, and then all split, but the odds of that without a family history of twins.. And this doesn’t seem to be the case in this case.

    Then there’s this story that leads off with the headline “Nadya Suleman to stay celibate”. Like.. so what? Sex and pregnancy are no longer indelibly linked.

  39. Kym says:

    I’m happy that someone brought up the Duggars and their 18 children. Very few people know that they are a part of the Quiverfull movement, which basically exhorts women (white women) to have as many children as possible–referring to a passage in the bible about being quiverfull. However, this movement has definite ties to racialist groups concerned about the “browning” of America and that caucasians are being “outbred”. No one talks about this because it would open the Duggars to the kind of scrutiny they’ve escaped thus far.

    Having said that, I think it was selfish for Nadia Suleman to have had these children when she already had six. If she loved children so much, there’s a lot of children in foster homes who want and need to be part of a family. Why didn’t she seek them out?

    Part of what I believe about being a feminist is making sensible and responsible choices about one’s body. This is neither sensible nor responsible and worse, plays right into the hands of the far-right wack jobs who are forever screaming about irresponsible welfare moms. I’m sorry, this is NOT choice. This is about her 15-plus minutes of fame at the expense of eight preemies who are probably going to have a difficult life under the best of circumstances. Also, why aren’t we talking about what this is going to do to her parents–already raising the first six? Grandparents are being forced to do the job that their irresponsible children will not do and I find that selfish.

    Racism? Partly, but then again racists will look for any excuse–no matter how tenuous–to continue to be racists. Yes, Suleman is a woman of color, but she’s also the hate target du jour, which is Arabic. Still, that does not negate her irresponsibilty and her selfishness (the woman hired a PR person for goddess sake).

  40. Cathy says:

    Hi again Adam,

    That perspective made me think of things pretty differently. It’s easy to realise that people really do see these children as just burdening the system, not really realising that they can be a huge asset. My mom is one of 11 and I’m one of 5 so I understand it from that point of view. I also understand what you’re saying about overpopulation in terms of the US. I had a science teacher who had us watch a film about that, how India and China are having incredible amounts of children, whereas in Japan there was an elementary school with only one child in it and that would end up being a burden on the elderly as there wouldn’t be enough children growing up and entering the workforce to support them. I suppose the reason why it makes me cringe here in the US is because of the amount we consume- I wish I could find this article I read a while back but it said something like American children consuming as much as 30 children or some ridiculous number like that from another country. That really stuck with me.

    That all being said though, it just still seems like really bad decision-making to to me to have all these children, even though I come from a pretty large family. I know my opinion should count for nothing in terms of Nadya’s decision-making, I really try to just apply to me, as it should do. It also has nothing to do with money, I would feel the same if I had all the money in the world. It could be that I am being a bit paranoid (I wouldn’t put it past myself lol) about the environmental situation but something still makes it hard for me to change my mind.

  41. Adam says:


    On the irresponsibility of Suleman, however, I am with you. It is clear that this was not well thought through.

    Take Care,


  42. C says:

    I am of Persian, Native American and French-Cajun descent, and for me the Suleman case has nothing to do with race. It has to do with misusing disability student grant/loan money to have 8 more kids when the 6 kids you already have are receiving government assistance, then have the nerve to turn around and ask for MORE money. She spent $100,000 or so on IVF procedures alone. me and my husband both work and can’t manage the $8-12,000 price tag of ONE cycle – yet this woman with no job somehow manages. It plain pisses me off.

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  45. Ottawa Guy says:

    While I agree with ABW’s first point, I think she missed on the second. Nothing in the Suleman case (apart from her visual appearance) has anything to do with race. Personally, I think folks only get riled up about Muslim women when they see the headscarf.

    In this time of trouble she’s riding the system (with much publicity) and that tends to piss just about everyone off. With all the attention and talk shows that obsess about her how can we forget?

  46. Jen says:

    Love you blog, but have to disagree on this one. At least from MY perspective as a tax-paying citizen who (barely) manages to continue paying for our health insurance.

    Yep, I’m white, too.

    But I’m not frustrated by this issue because of RACE or marital status. I’m frustrated that we live in a time when women are forced to choose between the moral lessons of society and the opportunity to bear children of their own. I’m frustrated that, while so many struggle to pay for their own medical care, others take advantage of a system intended to help those in NEED. I’m frustrated that a woman, regardless of nationality, creed or color, who has virtually no support for her existing SIX children (wasn’t that enough….really?!) would choose to go ahead and have another broods. I’m frustrated that a woman already overburdened by the monumental task of raising six children, some with the added challenges posed by autism, chose to implant not one, but all of her embryos.

    Then again, we set her up, didn’t we, with all our medical prowess, playing God under the microscope. She does have a point, does she not, when she points out the babies were already embryos, and in this country some argue every embryo has a right to life. If she had NOT implanted them, where would that put her where “right to life” is concerned? She saw them as CHILDREN, not globules of molecular matter that might SOMEDAY become children. She saw this as her last ditch. She claims she didn’t think they’d all take, let alone split (despite her previous twins).

  47. anonymous bw says:

    To be the devil’s advocate, it “is” hard for her situation to be above criticism since she had no degree,no job,no house, no spouse just welfare. In other words, she had little to no visible means of supporting the six kids she had let alone eight other ones she brought in the world. Which means not only has she put strain on her mother, other taxpayers and her children, she has put this on herself. I see where half the criticism is coming from. But I take issue with the “overcriticism” because even if she had none of the obstacles stated, her situation would not have been viewed in the most positive light the way the Duggars have. To be fair, I have seen shows on the family and the lady seems to be a good mother. But take away the husband, the Duggar lady would be in similar straights. I also got tired of the excessive press about the lady because I too could see her narrative as being used as the new poster for the typical delinquent welfare queen. I feel you on this article. I just wanted to interject or whatever than much as I could not stand the fact that she is of Arab/Asian ancestry, I am glad that she was not African North America-thank “goodness”!

  48. Michele Lee says:

    I can’t comment of the race aspect, because I hadn’t considered it before today. But my largest concern is the skewed role “mother” has taken.

    It bothers me that there’s this idea on the world that motherhood solves all problems. I know several women who have gone to great lengths to have children and the point was never to have the stereotypical man-woman parenting family (in fact two of these women had no desires at all to be with a man) but to have this creature of unconditional love at their beck and call.

    Children shouldn’t be born with a job, not to save a relationship and certainly not to make a woman feel loved.

    If this is an issue with Ms. Suleman then the events/cultural ideas that made her feel that being a mother of 14 children is the only thing that would bring her love is most alarming. Obviously people of this mentality are ill prepared to raise typical children, much less special needs children, and tend to raise them in such a selfish way that the children have far more challenges than poverty to overcome.

    I think it’s easy to find some reason to be furious at the events that allowed her to be so irresponsible. But what does wishing harm and suffering to Suleman and her children accomplish?

    Likewise, I’m not sure what would help the children the most, but I suspect an out pouring of money, media attention or venom won’t help at all.

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