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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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Maci of MTV’s “16 and Pregnant” and “Teen Mom” Opens Up to Teen Mama

21 Feb

If you’ve ever watched MTV’s “16 and Pregnant” or “Teen Mom” — and if you’re reading this, you probably have — then you know Maci. You’ve seen her struggle to keep her relationship with her baby’s father, Ryan, afloat; you’ve seen her exhausted, finishing schoolwork late at night; you’ve seen her in labor. When she cries in front of the camera, you cry too. (It’s not just me, right? Right?)

So when I got an offer to interview Maci for Teen Mama, I jumped at the chance.

Alexandra: What sort of sex education do you think teens should get?

Maci: I guess it just depends on what you believe in and, to me, abstinence really doesn’t do any good because people are gonna have sex when they want to have sex and when they feel like they’re ready to, and so if you go the abstinence route you completely block off the whole safe sex route so that kids just never even learn about that, but if you go with safe sex, you can tap into abstinence and how it’s better to wait to have sex, but at the same time, you can tell them about safe sex and different options that they have so you’re kind of getting both at one time. But that’s just how I would do it.

Alexandra: Yes, I agree. And what sort of sex education did you get, and do you feel like there’s anything you should have been told differently or, looking back, that you wish could be changed?

Maci: I kind of realized that when I was in high school, my high school didn’t offer very much sex education at all. I can only remember talking about sex and safe sex and stuff like that in high school once — only one time — and I mean, just for a person like me, I feel like the more sex education I can get, the better off I hope I would have been. And then, besides that, I feel like… after the show, and when I got the feedback from it, and after I watched the show, I honestly would’ve — I think, if “16 and Pregnant” would have been on while I was in high school, I honestly think it would have made such a big impact on me that I would have changed my mind, and so “16 and Pregnant” was a big deal for me because, like I said, I felt like if I had seen “16 and Pregnant”, it would’ve made a huge difference in my decision to have sex, and so I hope that the show does its job in a way that can inform people about sex and teen pregnancy and stuff like that.

Alexandra: A lot of people say that shows like “16 and Pregnant” glamorize teen pregnancy. How do you feel about that claim?

Maci: You know, I definitely think that that is false. I think “16 and Pregnant” — the producers and editors did a really good job of putting our stories out there like they really are, and all the girls on “16 and Pregnant” have really done a good job about stepping up and taking care of their responsibilities, so the only reason I think that they would feel it was being glamorized is because the girls that are on the show have just stepped up and been responsible and that they make it look good because we’re all doing a good job. So I don’t think it glamorizes it at all.

Alexandra: Yeah, I know what you mean. Teen moms aren’t allowed to be happy or do a good job.

Maci: Exactly. We’re not allowed to do schoolwork or take care of our babies or anything like that, and since we all are trying to do our best, I think people are seeing a different side of the stereotype of a teen mom, and so then they’re thinking that the show is being glamorizing, and it’s not.

Alexandra: Yeah, before interviewing you I asked a few people what I should ask you, and they were mostly like, “Oh, I don’t know, but she’s so responsible,” — that’s what they kept saying, so, I mean the show really does show the reality of it, but some people are angry when teen moms don’t do a bad job.

Anyway, did you ever consider abortion or adoption?

Maci: No. Everyone asks me that, and when I was pregnant, neither one of those options crossed my mind. I just felt like — I mean adoption’s just not for me. I felt like I was strong enough and I had a good support system to keep my baby, and abortion just really isn’t for me. Yeah, that’s something that I never even thought about. No, I didn’t, not at all.

Alexandra: What are your plans for the future? Where do you see yourself in five or ten years?

Maci: I don’t really know. I say this all the time, but I don’t like to have a plan — I just like to see how things happen and I just try my best at everything and, you know, whatever comes my way will come my way, and I’ll just make the decisions then. Hopefully, I mean I’m majoring in journalism, so hopefully I’ll be able to write a book, and I want to write it about being sixteen and pregnant and…

Alexandra: I’ll buy it.

Maci: Yeah — and that’s really it. I want to have a career that I enjoy and be a good mom.

Alexandra: How are you doing in school? Is it difficult to keep up with your schoolwork?

Maci: It’s very difficult. You’ll see that more throughout the season of “Teen Mom” cause it follows me in college and stuff, and, you know, in high school I made all As and Bs — I was always on top of my school work, and in college it’s so hard to make time to study and go to school full time and have a job. It’s definitely difficult, but as long as I stay in school and I’m passing my classes and stuff, I think I’ll be fine, and that’s just what I want to do. I mean I have other things to worry about and so as long as I’m keeping up with my schoolwork and passing my classes, then I think it’s fine. But it is definitely way harder for me to do my schoolwork than someone that doesn’t have a baby.

Alexandra: How have “16 and Pregnant” and “Teen Mom” affected your life? Do you feel like it’s been a good opportunity?

Maci:
I definitely think it’s been a good opportunity. Whenever I was thinking about doing “16 and Pregnant”, I honestly just wanted to get my message across about how hard it is to be a teen mom and how you can protect yourself from becoming a parent when you’re a teenager. And I also wanted people to see that there are girls out there that take the responsibility on, and we don’t put our kids on our parents, and we do go to college, and we do finish high school, and we do take care of our babies. And I wanted girls to see that there are options and that it is possible because I saw so many girls in high school that dropped out when they had their baby and stuff, and I wanted them to know that there are options out there. There are tons of options for daycare and, you know, at my college there are tons of things for teen moms, or just moms period, to help you out, and I want people that do get pregnant to see that there are options out there for you to finish school and go to college and get a job and stuff.

Alexandra: I think it was awesome how you finished high school early instead of dropping out. You did the opposite of what a lot of teen moms do.

Maci:
Yeah, I mean that was really awesome because if I hadn’t graduated early, it would’ve been really hard for me to figure out how I was gonna graduate, so I had to take some of my senior courses over the summer while I was pregnant, and then I finished my senior year when I got to deliver, so that was hard too, but it was much better than graduating on time. Graduating early was my only option to graduate, so I did it that way.

Alexandra:
What would you tell other teen girls about how to handle their relationship with the baby’s father, from your experience with Ryan?

Maci: You know, every relationship is different, so it’s hard to give people advice if you don’t know the relationship, but the only thing I can say is that you have to be patient and you just have to be happy. The baby needs to be around a healthy environment and if it’s not healthy and you’re not happy, then your baby’s not gonna be happy. You have to do whatever you can do for yourself to be happy so that you can be a good mom, and if your relationship gets in the way of that then I think they need to move on, but if they can work it out, then they need to try their hardest to work it out also.

Alexandra: My last question — how’s Bentley doing?

Maci:
We’re doing great.

Alexandra: Well, he’s a lucky baby.

With that, I’d exhausted my supply of questions; Maci wished me happy holidays and went off to continue being the supermom she is.

Being Treated Badly, Teen Mom? Oh well.

21 Feb

In a recent article for The Dallas Morning News, writer Jacquielynn Floyd covers a decision by the Forth Worth school board to bench a pregnant high school volleyball player. While there are a lot of issues at play here — legal liability, medical concern, and on and on — Ms. Floyd wasn’t really concerned with those. Instead, she just wants to tell the volleyball player to shut up and sit down:

This unmarried high school girl is about to become the parent of an utterly dependent human baby, a responsibility that challenges women twice her age – and we’re all fighting about how much playing time she got on the volleyball court?”

Yes, Jacquielynn. Teen mothers, and people with major issues of every stripe, are still allowed and encouraged to assert their rights.

Ms. Floyd then goes on to explain to us all — because we’ve never heard any of this before — that teen mothers have a hard road ahead of them. We shouldn’t be celebrating them — though I’m still not sure how wanting a teen mother to be allowed to participate in an extracurricular constitutes a celebration of teen motherhood.

“Thank God, I’m not alone out here on this raft of consternation.

In an October editorial titled “Let’s Stop the New Teenage Mom Craze,” Glamour magazine said it’s time to stop celebrating teen mommies like Bristol Palin and Jamie Lynn Spears, to quit acting like a live baby is a cute, trendy accessory.”

Why does Ms. Floyd think her views are unusual? She is preaching to the choir — the only choir. Saying you don’t want to support teen moms or hear their voices is the status quo, and nobody should pretend otherwise.