Don’t Shut Up

26 May

We hear a lot from a few specific teen mothers: the cast of MTV’s docu-dramas “Sixteen and Pregnant” and “Teen Mom”; Bristol Palin; Jamie Lynn Spears. This is not a lot of representation. It is, in fact, very little representation. The cast of the MTV shows are the closest we get to hearing from teen moms who aren’t ridiculously privileged in every way, but even those mothers are only a small part of the spectrum of opinion, belief, and lifestyle in teen mothers. Yet some still think we hear from teen moms a little too much.

Take Jessica Shafer, who video blogs about her pregnancy on YouTube. Though she’s eighteen now and graduating from high school with straight As, people still want her to shut up. A writer of particularly modest intellect and impressive inability to Google basic facts, Mary Thatcher, has been especially insulting. In her article which I won’t link to for fear of giving her easy page views, she contributed such gems as:

“…girls who have sex with boys are not physically bonded to get married.”

I think she’s saying Jessica should switch teams? This sounds like a plea for more lesbianism. Unfortunately, I think it’s just slut-shaming. Once you give away your precious flower (I’m trying not to vomit, here), you’re no longer marriageable. I could write ten posts about this alone, but instead I’ll just ask — where is Mary’s problem with the boys? I guess “lady’s men” and “studs” are still fine for marriage.

“Neither do I think she should be commended for having sex at an unusually young age.”

Here’s where Mary’s poor skills in basic research come in. The average age of first intercourse in the United States is seventeen according to the Guttmacher Institute. I found that information in a total of two seconds by searching “first age intercourse united states”. In other words, it was so incredibly easy that Mary’s ignorance cannot possibly have any excuse that shouldn’t embarrass her horribly. Sadly, Mary doesn’t seem embarrassed about being lazy and bigoted.

“Secure females never look to males for self-esteem, and think that sex will make a woman ‘whole and perfect.'”

Does Mary believe that’s the only reason any unmarried female has sex? I think she needs to read The Multi-Orgasmic Woman.

“Her publicizing of her pregnancy will only encourage more girls to engage in high-risk behavior…”

Her publicizing of her pregnancy will show people that teen pregnancy does not need to be the end of a young woman’s life and accomplishments. Such a revelation can only be a good thing in a world where teen mothers struggle not just because teen motherhood is innately difficult, but because people like Mary don’t want them to have any visibility or community.

The only reason not to want a certain class of people — teen moms, in this case — silenced is because you find them unsavory. That is bigoted, and it’s a poor way to live. In the past, pregnant teens were sent away so as not to shame their family in a public manner. Now, they can share their stories and form meaningful narratives.

Jessica? Don’t shut up.

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12 Responses to “Don’t Shut Up”

  1. Crystal Jigsaw May 26, 2010 at 3:59 pm #

    It infuriates me that even today, people still have the view that should a man have sex, whatever his age, he can and will go on to father many, and be the great stud he is expected to me, go for it guys. Whereas the fairer sex are branded quite the opposite, having a reputation and not much future. Who wants a teen with a kid? These people should pull their heads out of their arses and open their eyes. Great post.

    CJ xx

    • teenmamainc May 26, 2010 at 4:22 pm #

      Thanks, Crystal. I agree. I bet Mary Thatcher would find her statement absurd if the genders were switched:

      “Secure boys never look to girls for self-esteem, and think that sex will make a man ‘whole and perfect.'”

      In Mary’s world, boys can be horny, but girls are insecure little sluts if they have sex, and never the twain shall meet.

  2. Kelly Davio May 26, 2010 at 8:08 pm #

    Great post!

    I definitely heard the “…girls who have sex with boys are not physically bonded to get married” line when I was a kid. It’s another trick up the religious abstainance-only sleeve, trying to scare girls into thinking no one will (or could!) want them if they’re “damaged goods.” It’s another way to make a commodity out of female sexuality. Let’s hope that one day people quit buying into it!

    • teenmamainc May 26, 2010 at 9:25 pm #

      I know… it’s hard to argue with it though since it’s essentially a religious (or mystical) position, and therefore logic doesn’t necessarily work against it.

      My grandfather has always let me know that nobody buys the cow if they can get the milk for free. I feel that the cow should be valued for more than her milk. ;)

      • Crisss May 27, 2010 at 5:29 pm #

        Ha! I had this exact same thought while talking with my coworkers last week about living together before marriage (as in, after the engagement). My boss kept giving the cow line. My thoughts?

        I am not a cow. And there is SO MUCH MORE to me than my “milk.”

        PS: we were talking about an adult woman living with her commited boyfriend/fiance, and this was still “not OK.” I feel my boss disapproved of my husband and I living together before marriage, even though I had been married before him… meaning I was already proven (so to speak) “damaged goods.” This sexist, your-virginity-is-your-only-worth metnality follows us well past teenagehood…

        • teenmamainc May 27, 2010 at 10:48 pm #

          I’ve always had multiple problems with the cow analogy, and now you’ve given me a chance to lay them out. Yay!

          1. The obvious “women are more than fucktoys to win”.

          2. When 90 percent of the cows are giving away free milk, it’s stupid to think even the shallowest of, uh, “farmers” will buy a cow just to get milk. In a society where most people DO have premarital sex, holding out just to get someone to give you a ring ain’t gonna work. Sex isn’t hard to find, and people don’t marry in order to finally get laid anymore.

          3. If you are no longer valuable once you’ve been penetrated, what does that say about how your marriage is going to be after the honeymoon?

          4. I wouldn’t buy a cow without having sampled its milk, to be honest. Don’t want to be caught by surprise when my cow brings out the pirate costume, whipped cream, and a harness.

          5. I’d rather die alone than live miserably with someone who mainly values me for what I can do for his penis.

          I told all this to my grandfather when, after I told him I was pregnant, he started in with the cow bullshit. After my monologue, he sat in silence for a moment before saying, “Well, cows aren’t the point.”

          No kidding.

          • J. Lea Lopez May 31, 2010 at 8:37 pm #

            Excellent post, and hilarious (and true!) comments here.

  3. Kathy May 27, 2010 at 8:12 am #

    I think times have changed for the most part. In general, teen motherhood is much more accepted now than it was when I was growing up. But there will always be people like Thatcher who feel that it is their moral obligation to speak their limited position. Unfortunately, I think those kinds of people will always exist in the world. What you are doing with this blog is the best way to counteract it and hopefully minimize it. You are an intelligent, thoughtful mother. Just keep getting your word out and don’t focus too much on the naysayers.

    • teenmamainc May 27, 2010 at 8:20 am #

      I try to ignore the naysayers, but sometimes I do argue — not because I think they’ll change their minds, but because witnesses to the argument might.

      I certainly don’t think it’s a fab idea to get knocked up as a teen, but becoming a teen parent doesn’t have to be a horrible thing either. And it shouldn’t be.

  4. Judy May 28, 2010 at 8:36 pm #

    Wow. People are just so ignorant. I think a teen mother and a babymama are one in the same thing in a lot of cases. With challenges, tt has little do with age, and more with class and brain.

    Great post.

  5. Claire May 29, 2010 at 1:49 am #

    Agreed!!! In the 1920s being a parent at 18 was normal, and hey old Margaret was probably starting her own family then!

    I am 23 had my first baby at 18 and Im not a screwed up waste on society!

    I have a loving fiance who is father to my now two boys, I managed to work hard an become a registered nurse.

    People need to calm down and stop being so bloody PC!

  6. Breania June 19, 2010 at 1:23 am #

    I have watched every one of Jessica’s videos and literally being 16 and pregnant I do believe that her videos are helping me to become less embarrased about being pregnant at 16. I know its not the best thing to do (getting pregnant at 16) but it is a total life changer. And I believe that it is just God’s way of showing other people how strong the teen is and how they can raise and care for a baby at such a young age.

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