Brad Pitt and Angelina Jolie got married. They married quietly in France. Knowing that it was a busy press weekend with the Emmys and VH1 award shows, they were able to maintain their privacy. Angelina's oldest son, Maddox, gave her away. When the headlines hit the news, it kind of made you feel like, "Ahhh, that's nice".
After all, it sounds like a fairy tale, albeit one with a pretty saucy start. Two beautiful people fall in love on the movie set of Mr. and Mrs. Smith. In the movie, they are playing two very sexy married people who are trying to kill one another within a spy mystery. Exciting stuff. At the time, Brad Pitt was married to Jennifer Aniston. Scandal. Hurt. Sadness. Pity for Jennifer. Hatred towards Angelina. That hussy! That whore! How could she do such a thing? The world was divided up between Team Jennifer and Team Angelina.
Time passed and Brad and Angelina adopted more children and had biological children. The family grew. Over time, the heated opinions have died down. I am willing to guess that you can still find members of the Team Jennifer tribe. After all, Angelina broke the sacred code of sleeping with another woman's man. There is little forgiveness for that one. Interestingly, you do not hear as much about Brad's cheating. There has been great sympathy for Jennifer who unknowingly married a scoundrel, but that label never stuck. In fact, Brad is generally looked upon as a great guy. He even adopted Angelina's children. In fact, he probably is a great guy. Even though she is looked upon with suspicion, Angelina is probably a great guy as well. So is Jennifer.
But, what if Brad had been a woman who had taken on the responsibility of her man's children? Uh oh! Now, that woman would be labeled a stepmother, and we all know what that means. She would be looked upon as a mistress for the rest of her life. There would be no forgiveness. There would be no respect for the responsibilities that she had chosen to take on. We would not hear about what a "great guy" she was. Or have a feeling of "Ahh! That's nice!" when you would see her walking through an airport with her brood. That image would be met with disdain and some kind of comment involving words like "appalling" or "dreadful" or "I feel sorry for their mothers."
Gender discrimination permeates our daily lives, and no one seems interested in changing it when it involves a non-biological mother figure. In the old Western days, life spans were shorter. It was not uncommon for men to marry another woman after his wife passed away. Those women were respected for taking on the raising of their new children. As storytelling became easier to convey through movies, TV and city high density living, that image of the evil stepmother has taken hold. It has become acceptable to think of hard working, loving women as gold diggers. The stepmother legacy is alive and well in Western civilization.
The real truth is that most people are all good guys just trying to do the right thing and do a good job. Even stepmothers. The next time you see an image of Brad, Angelina and their beautiful family in a magazine, we should all think, "Ahh, there's another set of parents trying to do a good job." When your friends introduce you to their stepmother or their new wife, give that woman a big smile and think to yourself, "That's a good guy".
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