It's hard to believe that in 2014, we still live in a world where many people believe that a woman's worth has something to do with whether or not she decides to marry or have children — and no one understands feeling that pressure quite like Jennifer Aniston. After an explosive career spanning over 20 years, Aniston still finds herself judged for remaining unmarried after her high-profile divorce from Brad Pitt in 2005 and because of the fact that, at 45, she still remains childless. Fortunately, though, the former Friends star isn't living life on anyone's terms but her own; in fact, in an interview on The Today Show Wednesday with Carson Daly, she admitted that she's pretty fed up that her choice not to enter motherhood is still a defining factor in the public's opinion of her. In the interview, she said:
I don't have this sort of checklist of things that have to be done, and if they're not checked, then I've failed some part of my feminism or my value as a woman because I haven't birthed a child. I've birthed a lot of things and feel like I've mothered many things, and I don't think it's fair to put that pressure on people.
Aniston couldn't have hit the nail more on the head. She might not be a mom in the traditional sense, but she's responsible for bringing so many things into the world that are important — especially where feminism is concerned.
Rachel Green on Friends
At first glance, Aniston's Rachel doesn't seem like a character who's pushing forward the feminist cause, but she couldn't be a more perfect example of a strong, independent woman who shirks the idea that she has to live up to what society says a woman should be. In the pilot episode alone, Rachel rejects her fiancée's money and her easy life to work as a waitress and make it on her own in New York City. Also, in the first season, when the guys insinuate that girls can't play poker, not only does Rachel totally kick their asses, but she also exposes a lot of truths about the ridiculous idea that women are the fairer sex.
And later on in the series, when Rachel deals with an unexpected pregnancy, she refuses to get married the way her father wants her to and becomes a damn good mom on her own — you know, even if we saw Emma, like, three times after that. But that's not Rachel's fault!
She founded Echo Films
Anytime a woman starts her own production company, the feminist cause celebrates another win. In 2008, Aniston started up Echo Films, which she uses to produce her own movies. First, it was the company behind The Switch — a film where Aniston plays the role of a woman who decides to have a baby without waiting for a husband (yet another victory). Next project? The upcoming independent movie Cake, which Aniston stars in alongside Anna Kendrick and The Mindy Project's Chris Messina.
She became the first ever GQ Woman of The Year
In 2005, Aniston broke down another boundary: She became the first Woman of the Year in GQ, pioneering the idea that women can pose topless and be represented as the smart, strong-minded people they are in the media at the same time, even in publications geared toward men. This shouldn't be a revolutionary concept, but in our world, sometimes it is. And if we need to get that kind of stuff done around here, Aniston is exactly the kind of representative I'd select.
The Good Girl
In The Good Girl, one of Aniston's most critically acclaimed films, she plays Justine, a woman who's tired of playing her role and always doing what's expected of her. It's a dark film, and it's certainly not the brand romantic comedy that Aniston's famous for — and that's why it's so perfect. Not only does this movie allow Aniston to show off her depth as an actress, but it also brings to life another powerful, compelling female character. Can we ever really have enough of those in Hollywood?
Her famous interview with Gloria Steinem
In the interview that sparked her Wednesday conversation with Daly, Aniston asks feminist icon Gloria Steinem what she thinks about the idea that, as women, "our value and our worth are basically associated with our marital status or whether or not we've procreated," and if that statement were to hold any truth, both Steinem and Aniston's value is in the negative. Steinem's response? "Guess we're in deep shit."
Which, if you think about it, is the best way to respond to any sort of ridiculous claim that makes it sound like women are purely baby-making machines. Spoiler alert: If that's the case, a lot of us are in deep shit.