November 8, 2010

Bumped: 16 and Pregnant, 20 and Infertile

Filed under: Book Spotlight — Tags: , , , , , — Rachel @ 11:22 pm

I’ve been a fan of Megan McCafferty‘s writing for nearly a decade.  I found her first book, Sloppy Firsts, in the fiction section of Borders; the lime green spine stood out amongst the shelves of hundreds of titles.  I immediately identified with the story of a pessimistic, unpopular high school girl whose best friend had just moved away.  The protaganist of what is now known as the “Jessica Darling Series” was progressive, strong, funny, and smart.  However, the series ended last year with “Perfect Fifths”.

Her latest book takes her writing a brand new direction, envisioning a world where the MTV show “16 and Pregnant” is a reality for every teenage girl on the planet.  “Bumped” centers around a fictional world where the only fertile women are teens.  This leads to high school girls renting out their uterus in exchange for fame and money.

It’s the perfect time for  a book like this.  Across the web, concerned journalists and bloggers fret about whether young girls will get pregnant just to be on MTV, achieve fame, or to make money.  “Does Teen Mom Glamorize Teen Pregnancy?!” is a frequently seen sentiment lately.  It wasn’t so long ago that the scandalous story of a “teen pregnancy pact” at a high school in Massachusetts was being reported on every site, newspaper, and 24-hour news channel in the country.  Abstinence only education is a frequent hot topic in the political sphere.  Just two years ago, we had a presidential candidate running on a “Women’s Health” platform of overturning Roe v. Wade.  To say “Bumped” is timely is an understatement.

McCafferty’s synopsis for “Bumped” summarizes the cross-section of pregnancy and celebrity in our current culture:

“The celebrity “bump watch,” has made obstetrics a spectator sport. Now any young starlet who has indulged at In-N-Out Burger can find her bloated midsection driving major pageviews on the gossip blogs.”

“Bumped” won’t arrive at retailers for another six months.  However, if the summary is any indication, it will be a great jumping off point for discussions of these “taboo” subjects.  Expect a full review of the book on Feminist Fatale, when it arrives, April 26, 2011.

May 7, 2009

Finally! Obama gets it…

Abstinence-only education does not work.

Despite an earlier claim that abstinence is “not realistic,” Bristol Palin is making the rounds promoting abstinence-only.

At least someone IS beuing realistic. While she continues her campaign in favor of abstinence,  Obama eliminates abstinence-only funding from the budget.


April 30, 2009

Sex and 17

Elizabeth Banks posted a great article on the Huffington Post yesterday.  She drools over Zac Efron while simultaneously acknowledging the awesome power of the mass media and teen icons to influence public consciousness and the construction of norms. Zac Efron is hugely popular with teens (and, apparently 3?-something women, according to Banks). In the same way that Rihanna and Chris Brown are role models, so is Zac Efron. 

I had a huge problem with Knocked Up! even though I had a few chuckles and, overall, I like Seth Rogen. That film basically presents the possibility of a pregnancy as the result of a one-night stand with a loser working out and the couple falling in love.  Yeah, right. 17 Again makes teen parenting seem Ok. It doesn’t take the opportunity to send a realistic message about teen parenting albeit a brief comment from Margaret Cho. Shit, I’m 36, I have a career and an incredible man that is committed to our relationship and our child and parenting is STILL hard for both of us. I can’t even imagine being a teenager in high school. Holy smokes.

I can ( and do, quite often, thanks) enjoy the (eye) candy that the popular culture churns out in the same way Banks can while acknowledging the fact that too much of it can make you sick.

Here’s the thing though — the message of the movie seemed to be (and again, I may just be reading too much into the twirling fingers thing): knocking up your high school sweetheart is A-OK! Especially if you give up that Syracuse scholarship to marry her! F College!

Now, I am all for taking responsibility. I am. Which is why I wish this flick had dealt more directly with this little situation that served as the jumping off point for a PG-13 movie (attended by lots of kids not yet in the double digits). It tries to make up for it with a scene in which Margaret Cho tells us that “abstinence is best but let’s get real: just use condoms when you’re screwing around with each other.” Now, that statement at least gets close to something: if you are going to have sex, be safe. (Question: Why didn’t Hunter Parrish also take his shirt off in this flick?)

Unfortunately, this scene would have had a lot more impact if Zac Efron’s character not only acknowledged that sex can lead to babies but also that having a kid when you’re 18 is hard, hard, hard. (Spoiler alert: he should know, see, ‘cuz that’s what got him into this crazy mess!) Also, he doesn’t want his daughter (again, born when he was 18) to have sex with her high-school sweetheart yet his most powerful argument against it — HAVING A KID WHEN YOU ARE JUST GRADUATING HIGH SCHOOL IS HARD — I KNOW, I’M REALLY YOUR DAD! — never comes up. He’s just like, “fingers crossed!” Now, of course, the daughter does not have sex (totally unrealistically) and ends up lusting after Mr. Efron (totally realistically, who wouldn’t) and it’s creepy and weird.

My point here (sorry, I was looking up “image Hunter Parrish” on Google and got off-track) is that this movie pretty much glamorizes teenage parenting. It basically says: Go for it! Have a kid when you’re 18. Throw another one in for good measure right after and you’ll get a nice house, deck and hammock included, your baby mama apparently won’t need to work, your kids will eventually have iPods and get into Georgetown and the person you picked (when you were 17) is actually your soulmate! Don’t worry if the condom breaks — it’s cool! It’s totally worked out for Bristol, ya’ll! (Is it me or is Levi cute?)

The problem with this message is that, according to unreliable online sources and my own anecdotal evidence collected over my 3?-something years: this is crap. It’s a great Hollywood story (I really enjoyed this movie, did I say that?) but in reality, teenage parents (mothers, especially) face increased levels of poverty, lower education rates, and higher chances that their daughters will also end up teenage moms and their sons will end up in jail. (I would like to see Zac Efron and Hunter Parrish fight Channing Tatum in a jail flick).

In many ways, popular culture is seen as superficial, silly, stupid, “just entertainment,” and, if you critique it, you’re “too serious” and you need “to lighten up.”  Well, considering the amount of romantic comedies I have ingested and ridiculous sitcoms I have thoroughly enjoyed, I’m not trying to be a stick in the mud or take away anyone’s viewing pleasure. I love romantic comedies.  I’m a freakin’ sucker for them.  But, I also know that these romantic comedies have had and continue to have an influence  my own expectations and desires. Shit, who wouldn’t want some hot guy like Ryan Gosling wait for you for 8 years, build you a house and then make love to you in the rain. No wonder I have complained about the men in my past.  That really set the bar high.  A house?!

But, considering the level of mediation we are exposed to, we are foolish to dismiss the content of popular culture as irrelevant.  The mass media does shape and actively construct culture.  With that said, it’s irresponsible to make teen parenting seem fun considering the adverse side effects of teen parenting in 2009.

March 12, 2009

SHOCK! Bristol and Levi split

Uh, not really.

Bristol Palin and her fiance, Levi Johnston, have split despite plans to work together and raise their child, Tripp.

As a new mom (I gave birth to my son 3 weeks ago), I can vouch for the stress and strain a newborn baby can put on individuals not to mention the changed dynamic created in the couple’s relationship.  Thankfully, my partner and I planned this baby for many years and the arrival of our son has allowed us to create a new bond and relish in this process.  But, on countless occasions, I imagine what it would be like to have an unexpected, unplanned pregnancy.  WHOA!  I can’t begin to imagine the challenges and strain an event like that would out on a couple, especially a teen couple.

I don’t think the public is too surpsied to hear about this split.  Upon announcing the obvious pregnancy, Sarah Palin proclaimed that the couple would get married and raise this child in a legitimate union, sanctioned by God and law.  Somehow, this statement was meant to justify a teen pregnancy by a daughter born to a woman that does not believe in sex education, access to birth control or safe and legal abortion.  Yet, Sarah Palin said the decision to have a child was a “choice” and that her daughter, Bristol, and the child’s father, Levi, would make the best of the situation.

I never believed that marriage was making the best decision for this couple.  But, it’s a clear example to all of those individuals that felt it was the appropriate solution and applauded it that life for these two teens is not what Sarah Palin predicted it would be.

From Bristol’s recent statement, it sounds like choice was not in the equation from start to finish.

Bristol also said that “everyone should be abstinent but it’s not realistic… [sex] is more and more accepted among kids my age.”

Bristol also warned about the dangers of teen pregnancy and said that she should have waited 10 years before having children.

October 12, 2008

The culture of fear continues…

Haven’t been to The Culture Wars: Abortion Edition recently?  Check out the latest tactic employed by those parties interested in voting passing Prop. 4. (see why Prop. 4 is dangerous for teens), the proposition that mandates parental notification in cases of pregnancy termination among teenagers. This advertisement is absolutely ridiculous, misleading and characteristic of the fear mongering and scare tactics that the conservative right has been waging in the months leading up to this election.

As always, Laura Frankel keeps us informed and provides excellent commentary.  Click here for the complete story.

It’s uncanny how they’ve turned an issue of abortion into an issue of fear by using the idea of a sexual predator taking advantage of California’s daughters and getting away with it because–there’s no parental notification in CA. Look at that. My favorite is the very beginning where in small print at the bottom of the ad it reads: “Dramatizaton Based on Actual Facts.” REALLY?! Show me the facts. I want to see where it says that older men in California are more likely to have sex with/take advantage of younger girls because they know that the girl’s parents won’t find out if they take her to get an abortion after.