lifestyle

Dear celebrity mothers: Fame doesn't make you a doctor.

Alicia Silverstone’s new book.

Alicia Silverstone has written a guide. A guide to fertility, pregnancy and birth. A guide to conceiving, birthing and raising a baby.

Her new book “The Kind Mama” makes some enormous promises in its sub-title:  “A Simple Guide to Supercharged Fertility, a Radiant Pregnancy, A Sweeter Birth, and a Healthier, More Beautiful Beginning”

Respectfully Alicia, I’d like to call bollocks on your claims that your ‘guide’ can boost fertility, make birth “sweeter” and babies “healthier”.

Because the word ‘guide’ implies advice and advice implies a level of credibility on the subjects about which you are speaking.

This book is not being marketed as a memoir nor as opinion. It is being sold as practical, factual advice.

Which it is most certainly not.

So I’d also like to call bollocks on your publisher for giving you money and a platform to spruik your opinions – and in some cases outright lies – as credible advice for vulnerable, gullible or ignorant new mothers.

For the rest of us, I have a question: when did we began to confuse fame with knowledge?

It started out harmlessly enough. Famous people are often interesting. Special. Sparkly. At least they used to be.

In the olden days, celebrities had a skill. That’s why they were famous. They acted in movies and TV shows. They played music or sang songs. They were really, really good at something.

When they appeared in the media, it was to talk about their latest project. “Tell us about the character you play in this movie, Julia.” “What inspired you to create this album, Bob?”

But around the 90s, as our collective gaze focussed on fame, we became interested in celebrities’ lives, not just their work. First it was just fluffy stuff; beauty routines, diets tips, where they went on holidays, how their relationships worked, where they shopped, what their homes looked like.

But then, as our appetite for celebrity increased, the media began probing famous people for their opinions on other things, often, with wildly amusing consequences.

Britney spears appears confused about geography.

Justin Bieber was asked by Rolling Stone about his thoughts on the 2010 Presidential election: “I’m not sure about the parties,” Bieber told Rolling Stone, “But whatever they have in Korea, that’s bad.”

For reasons that shall forever remain unclear, they also asked him for his thoughts on abortion, to which he replied: “I really don’t believe in abortion. It’s like killing a baby.” And on rape: “Um. Well, I think that’s really sad, but everything happens for a reason. I don’t know how that would be a reason. I guess I haven’t been in that position, so I wouldn’t be able to judge that.” 

When Britney Spears was asked about politics on CNN in 2003, she replied: “Honestly, I think we should just trust our president in every decision he makes and should just support that, you know, and be faithful in what happens.”

Britney was also confused about geography, telling another journalist, “I’ve never really wanted to go to Japan, simply because I don’t like eating fish and I know that’s very popular out there in Africa.”

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Elle Macpherson famously answered a question about books by insisting, “I don’t read anything I haven’t written.” 

controversial celebrity books
Elle McPherson, pictured here with her kids, has famously announced “I don’t read anything I haven’t written.” (Photo: Twitter.)

Things stepped up a notch when the word “celebrity” began to include reality TV stars who had no discernible skill or even job beyond maintaining their own fame.

Jessica Simpson famously revealed that she thought tuna was the same thing as chicken.

And Kim Kardashian compared having a TV wedding to being diagnosed with cancer.

All of this was harmless, of course, and doesn’t serve as proof that any of these celebrities are necessarily stupid. We all say dumb stuff. And it’s easy to be taken out of context.

But what it does show is that it’s dangerous to think that fame and knowledge are in any way related. Celebrity amplifies your audience but it doesn’t make you any smarter or your opinion any more valuable or credible than any other human. 

And so to the rise of the celebrity author.

The celebrity ‘Momoir’ (or Mumoir in Australian) has become a popular new genre; famous mothers who write about their experiences. More power to them. I love that motherhood is now seen as worthy of blogs and books and segments on TV shows. Damn straight it is. This parenting caper is perplexing and exhilarating and hilarious and heart-breaking and mystifying and bloody confusing. The more voices we have – famous and non-famous – discussing it and writing about it, the better.

But because as a culture we elevate famous people to a level above all others in our society in terms of the media space they occupy, celebrity mothers command a wildly disproportionate amount of attention and influence.

Alicia Silverstone in Clueless.

Here’s where it gets alarming. Because when celebrity mothers become activists and authors, it can be detrimental to all of us, even if you don’t have kids. Alicia Silverstone just released her second book. In case the name is not familiar to you, this actress once starred in a 90s cult comedy called Clueless about a rich teenager.

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Since making that movie, Alicia grew up, kept acting and became an outspoken animal rights and environmental campaigner. Her first book, The Kind Diet, advocates a vegan diet and instantly topped The New York Times Bestseller list.

I’m sure there have been many books written about veganism. I bet none of them were a fraction as successful as Silverstone’s.

Whatever. Eat what you want. Or don’t. Choosing not to eat chicken or dairy isn’t going to hurt anyone.

But her new book, The Kind Mama is very different. It’s dangerous. Besides the arrogant presumption that the extreme parenting style she follows is “kind’ (thus implying all others are unkind or even cruel), Silverstone gives readers false and wildly irresponsible medical advice in what’s starting to look like a genre: Celebrity Parenting Tips That Could Kill.

As journalist Jessica Grose writes on Slate:

 

Silverstone’s book is just the latest in a plague of risible, crunchy parenting books written by celebrities without medical degrees. Fellow attachment parent and non-vaccinator Mayim Bialik published a book called Beyond the Sling in 2012. Jenny McCarthy, who won’t let go of the repeatedly disproven notion that vaccines cause autism, has written several books on pregnancy and baby-rearing. Why do these things keep getting published?

Mayim Bialik’s parenting book.

Exactly.

Why do they?

Shame on the publishers who pay these celebrities six figure advances and who bank the lucrative profits from the millions of gullible readers who follow this dangerous advice about medical issues like vaccination.

Scientists, doctors and health authorities (who have actual degrees as opposed to agents and publicists) say this type of celebrity misinformation is directly to blame for the deadly outbreaks of whooping cough, mumps, measles and even polio in places like the US, the UK, Australia and Europe where these diseases were thought to have been virtually eradicated before vaccination rates began to fall in the past decade.

The publishers of these books and the anti-vax celebrities like Alicia Silverstone and Mayim Bialik and Jenny McCarthy who write them are all banking blood money.

Jenny McCarthy took on Catholicism in her book Bad Habits.

Would these same publishing houses publish a book by a celebrity who insisted the Holocaust was a hoax? Would booksellers sell them? Would everyone be happy to pocket the proceeds?

Anti-vax rhetoric is comparable. Possibly worse. Because vaccine deniers like Alicia Silvertone and Mayim Bialik and Jenny McCarthy and Kristin Cavallari aren’t just sprouting lies, they’re putting lives at risk. Today and in the future.

And not just the lives of newborn babies who are too young to be vaccinated. Every cancer sufferer and every other immuno-compromised person in the world is at risk with these new outbreaks of preventable and incurable diseases like whooping cough, measles and mumps.

Kristin Cavallari says she believes there’s a link between vaccines and autism. (Photo: Instagram.)

So publishers, by all means, commission and publish books by celebrities who want to tell an interested public about their thoughts on parenting. Make a fortune. Knock yourselves out. But leave science out of it. Edit those bits out. Do not give these women a powerful platform to spread their bullshit about health issues as critical as vaccination.

Because as long as you keep making money from dangerous medical lies, you have blood on your hands.

 

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