The Real Reasons America Hates “Octomom” by Tricia Pethic

Tricia PethicMany of us participate in dehumanizing Nadya Suleman, depriving her even of her own name by virtue of using the term ‘Octomom.’ Suleman has few people on her side of the ring, partly because she embodies what both conservatives and liberals hate most. Suleman recently made news again on charges of welfare fraud; she may spend up to eight years in prison. If Suleman does go to prison, I hope she ends up where I work so I could tell her what I really think: that America’s hatred of her has more to do with them than it does with her. And I’d remind her of God’s mercy and compassion: something I think has been absent from this discussion.

We recognize the name Nadya Suleman, yet how many people recognize the name Michael Kamrava? Kamrava was the doctor who injected Ms. Suleman with twelve embryos which earned him a suspension of his medical practice. Why is Ms. Suleman not known primarily as a victim of medical malpractice?

Because the only thing that angers America more than medical malpractice is ‘welfare queens’:

“Initial offers to help quickly dried up as outrage spread about the births and knowledge that Suleman was unemployed and had been collecting welfare before the children were born.” (“‘Octomom’ charged with welfare fraud.” Will Rogers. Associated Press. January 13 2014)

Suleman, perhaps the ultimate right-to-life advocate, forfeits conservative sympathy by virtue of her ‘welfare queen’ status.

Yet Suleman finds no sympathy from the self-righteous left either. Her blatant celebration of life and the act of giving life earns her the ire of a political faction that reduces feminism to the successful regulation of the reproductive act. This explains the routine condescension found in Internet comments such as, “She should have thought about it before she had all those kids.” As the left’s glamorization of teen motherhood would have it, one is rewarded for holding it together despite all odds. By not controlling birth, Suleman forfeits their sympathy too.

Contempt for her is possibly the only thing that unites our political factions, but our debt to Suleman does not end there. Her attempts to support her children have revealed the true moneymaking ventures in twenty first century America. What types of choices are rewarded with the most money?

Porn and circus.

Our society has exploited this woman and reduced her to a groveling dog; a slave to its sexual perversities. Every time Ms. Suleman signs up for another dehumanizing yet lucrative stunt, we know very well that the only motivating factor was her support of her children. Yet our scorn is reserved for her, not the exploitative porn mogul.

Suleman needs two things: a lot of money and a lot of counseling. There are plenty of shady businessmen willing to “help” if she’ll pose topless against a backdrop of baby clothes on a laundry line. My concern is the counseling; the compassionate ear. It is not necessarily the number of children she has that is problematic, but rather my strong suspicion that she craved being loved and needed.

Tricia Pethic is a Muslim prison chaplain in New York state. She blogs at and has started a mosque consulting service, 

16 thoughts on “The Real Reasons America Hates “Octomom” by Tricia Pethic”

  1. This is such an “odd” blog for feminism and religion. Let me see, because NONE of us have any capacity for nuanced reading of any media sensation, we NEED some one to come along and TELL us what we really really really think.

    I take issue with wording that feigns to report “THE Real..” ..of anything, let alone a complex issue like this one. But that’s just me, I am bias that way.

    Here is why I reply though.

    I am VERY curious in all your compassionate generosity and superior counsel what have you done for Ms. Suleman lately.. or ever? I mean did you actually provide her with any counselling? or at least with funds?

    Or is this just a place to taunt your self-righteousness against OTHERS in a guise of being “compassionate” towards one woman, her children or even the larger issue of the feminisation of poverty in America (or the globe, but ONLY in America could you have the combination of welfare and IVF in such proportion)

    So please, do not take this as any sort of statement about Ms. Suleman. It is just my curiosity about what you have actually DONE in this matter? Or is this just an opportune way to castigate EVERY One else in America because we ALL have only one opinion?


    1. Dr Wadud, Thank you for your question, although it really sounds more like an accusation and I am not sure why. I am not as well-known as you; through publishing this blog on the world wide web I will probably have a much better chance at getting to Suleman than attempting to wade through the many people that most likely surround her in this media circus.

      Sure, the title could be more nuanced, but then a nuanced title like the ones I see in academic journals are not a good fit for a blog. If you can address the meat and potatoes of what I am saying, perhaps we can have a fruitful exchange. And what I am saying is that this woman is caught in the crossfire of our polarized political spectrum. She made unfortunate decisions but society has been not only unforgiving, but exploitative.


      1. Many of us feel called to respond passionately on various matters. I have my areas of intense interest. I may also have blind spots on some of those matters or in all matters. I would like to think in the blog or academic forum, that I would raise issues about which I have also made a concerted effort to ACT and not just speak. It did not seem to me that all the passion expressed in your blog was wedded to specific action. So I asked about that, directly.

        As for nuances, it is probably not a good idea to presume the conclusion of a diverse audience, like for a blog, until you have gathered sufficient evidence to support those conclusions. It is demeaning to be told what I think and why I think it in such grand terms as you did here, without at least some evidence in support of those conclusions. I do take issue with the tone of these accusations.

        In any case, I look forward to further conversations about matters where we might agree or disagree but where neither of us has to be so polarized in our tone. I especially look forward to learn more about the work you are doing and the way you have acted in behalf of your passions.


  2. Tricia, because I know you well enough to know your politics well (anti-choice among other things), I cannot help but feel there is something more going on here than a media analysis and a breakdown of the situation of one woman who is not a “good victim.” I mean, why not just come out and say what you really mean? This is the site for it.


    1. Labels (like “anti-choice”) get in the way of understanding: I believe that we cannot pinpoint exactly when life becomes a life and therefore are better off preserving it. I also believe it is permissible in the situation where a mother’s life is in danger. This is more nuanced than the label would suggest

      But this article is about Ms. Suleman, so I don’t want to derail the discussion. What did you mean by the phrase ‘good victim’?


      1. I mean a victim that doesn’t play well for political agendas, which I believe is what you were trying to say in part.

        But really, there is more going on here than you are sharing….and it is about your politics. There is a movement among North American Muslim women who do not share some basic feminist values (such as total equality for women and lgbtq folks) to take on the moniker of feminism and rebrand it. There is the global feminisms context. I’m not talking about that here. You and I are North American white female converts to Islam. We share some values and fight some of the same fights, but part ways otherwise. You do this rebranding in that particular white North American Muslim context and that’s what I am reading behind this piece…a dissatisfaction with both conservatism (some expressions of which I know you have no patience with) and what you call liberal feminism (but you’d not accept many of the positions of progressive feminists or anyone further left as well). There have been some interesting debates here on this site about the validity of working within the patriarchal tradition, how to challenge it effectively, or whether to give up and leave it entirely. I had hoped you would come out from behind this story you’ve shared here and speak your piece. That is what I meant by “this is the place for it.”


  3. It seems to me, Tricia, that you are offering a critique of the ways in which people from different political perspectives act similarly when they use a person (scapegoat a person?) for their own political purposes. I can appreciate that point. And although I couldn’t say what Ms. Suleman does or does not need, I do agree that it’s too easy to lay societal blame on a single person who makes an easy target (the media does enjoy spectacle) instead of looking at the complexity of issues that go into creating any given situation…


    1. I think you understood me very well, Xochitl, and I think anytime we try to break apart these polarized left versus right perspectives by bringing to light the judgmental behaviors on both sides, we can expect to not find many friends. My willingness to diagnose Suleman as regards what I think she needs perhaps comes from my different perspective than the other contributors to this forum. An academic is used to being descriptive and rarely proscriptive. A chaplain is more willing to go out on a limb to hazard a guess as to what a person’s underlying emotional needs might be.



  4. Feminism and religion should neither interfere with, nor obstruct the truth. Truth is based upon fact, not personal opinion or bias. I would expect that a writer would conduct methodical research prior to, and in order to formulate such a dogmatic opinion…
    This writer has apparently failed to do so, as the factual evidence is freely available via legal documentation.. video, photographic and other social media. Consequently her opinion is not only flawed, but not credible.
    I thank God that this poster is not in a position of power… in particular a position that would cause a life to be held in the balance…. A balance based upon fact and truth.


  5. Try again. Nadya Suleman chose to continue having kids she couldn’t afford, and then squandered the millions she was given for their care. She has chosen to exploit, then neglect, FOURTEEN children. This is why America hates her and people like her. While we’ve got veterans and old people on the streets, people struggling through no fault of their own, we’ve got to swoop in and clean up the mess she CHOSE to cause. Yes, Dr. K. is guilty of malpractice. He should have said no. However Octo should not have been trying for even one more when her means of support was a combination of welfare, student loans, and her parents.

    Did you realize that, in the first year alone, she was gifted over $2 MILLION in cash, not counting other gifts? That she could have paid the balance on that house of about $450,000, and still have a mil and a half left with no housing payment? But what she chose to spend it on plastic surgery and shopping trips? How can you say that what she needs is more money when she blew $500 on a hair stylist while the house had no working plumbing, forcing the children to go outside? That is verified FACT. Why should she be given more money when she has shows time and time again that she will not spend it on the children unless she must?

    And pray tell, my dear, just how the public is exploiting a woman who was only too happy to leave behind her newborns to jump into the talk show circuit and start peddling her story for money, and who tried very hard to get a reality show based on her family. It’s difficult to exploit someone who’s already chosen to exploit herself and her children. In fact, part of the contempt for her is how she’s chosen to treat them as trophies to parade around in public while neglecting them at home. Nothing we say or do could have prevented her from blowing that millions on herself while her children’s needs weren’t always met without her manager or a nanny buying their clothes.

    In case it went over your head, part of feminism is being responsible for one’s choices. She has repeatedly shunned responsibility. Are you really advocating for removing from her shoulders the consequences of what she chose?


  6. I don’t hate Nadya Suleman. I followed her story briefly when she first had the 8 babies. I felt horrified that a doctor would agree to such a request. I felt sorry that Nadya had such a need for media attention that she would put herself and all of her children at risk. My interest in the story one way or another soon waned. I hope she and her children will get the help they need now. I am both pro-choice and pro-“welfare” but those issues had nothing to do with this story. I suppose if I thought about it, I would be against the “choice” to try to have 8 children at the same time through medical intervention. This choice should not be offered by the medical establishment as it puts the woman and children at risk during the pregnancy and the children at the risk–even in the best of situations– of neglect afterwards.


  7. You do realize that as Ms. Suleman pursued each successive pregnancy, together with Dr . Kamrava she created all fresh embryo cycles? That by the time they created the fresh embryos from which octuples resulted, Suleman still had 29 ‘old’ embryos remaining in indefinite frozen storage from previous cycles? Does she meet the ‘celebration of life’ threshold because of or despite such reproductive collateral damage?

    I normally wouldn’t care since I’m what you’d call “pro-choice.” Yet it’s still relevant since Suleman has wrapped her ‘choices’ in the mantle of pro-life values for media marketing. I’d defend it as her business alone, except that she keeps spinning that business into a such public spectacles of self-promotion, it’s hard telling who’s exploiting what.

    You also claim to eschew ideological polarization while throwing around the terms ‘Left’ & ‘Right’ with convenient facile. Deviation from ideological convention is academic sport; it’s inchoate concepts & logic that have alienated readers. I agree with others that more nuanced consideration of all your blog stew’s ingredients would ripen its flavor.


  8. Im sorry but you are truly giving her to much credit, for being an attention thirst trap for a lack of a better word. Shes a porn star that thrives on media attention not for need but for want. She wants to be famous, and im fairly sure she was well aware of the amount of embryos she was injected with. None of us know her well enough to say why she truly does it this is everyone’s opinion on the matter, but one day shesMuslim the next shes Christian and a week later shes posing half naked with a man grabbing her breast while a cross hangs from her neck. It seems no religion holds any value to her, and there is nothing wrong with being atheist or agnostic but be honest with what you are. Have you seen her YouTube video asking for money as she bashes Muslims and cry’s with her lipo injected lips and her silicon filled breasts?


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