May is National Teen Pregnancy Month and the Candie’s Foundation has several public service announcements and campaigns “educating” youth about teen pregnancy. As the child of teen parents, I feel very strongly about sex education and teen pregnancy awareness, but I completely disagree with the approach the foundation — and many American schools — have taken recently.
The U.S. has the highest teen pregnancy rate in developed nations, despite today’s 50th anniversary of the birth control pill. “In 2006, 750,000 women younger than 20 became pregnant,” reports the Guttmacher Institute. With all the access to birth control methods and freedom of speech we have, it’s absurd that we do not provide better sex ed resources to tweens and teens.
To top it off, young celebrity moms like Jamie Lynne Spears and Bristol Palin glamorize the problem. Bristol Palin is not a valid spokesperson… for anything. She needs to focus on taking care of her child and getting an education, not doing public service announcements for the Candie’s Foundation (then going clubbing after the premiere). She shouldn’t be exploiting her son Tripp on People covers repeatedly, while talking about abstinence and then making appearances on the Today Show and The View as a role model for young women.
As you may have seen, she tells teens to “Pause before you play,” in the Candie’s PSA. “Play” what? Play house in a condo paid for by parents, like you? Play sex games? Foreplay? What exactly is she talking about? She never even says, “sex.”
My other problem with the PSA (please see below) — aside from its vague message — is the organization’s choice of Bristol Palin as the face of their advocacy. She makes it look fun and easy to be a teen mother, yet she has more help than the average mom — at any age — let alone teens in poverty who need education about sex, STDs and pregnancy.
Candie’s plays off the fact that she DOES have things easier and it sounds like she’s bragging about being better off than other young moms. She might as well said: “Hi, I’m Bristol Palin and if you aren’t rich and famous like me, being a teen mom would really suck. Thankfully, it doesn’t for me, but it could for you.”
Plus, there are behind the scenes videos that make Palin look like a movie star at a photo shoot as she smiles happily for the camera and her cute baby coos.
In my experience, people, especially young adults, do not like being treated like they are less than anyone else, or like they are stupid. Bristol Palin is as far from the average teen as they could imagine in the first place. The white T-shirt and pared down room at the end of the PSA aren’t believable.
Plus, what’s the message? They don’t even say the word “sex,” let alone useful terms for preventing pregnancy like “condoms,” or “birth control pills.” You know what’s really scary? STDs. Or giving birth. Or a crying baby that won’t stop screaming because he or she is hungry, tired or cranky. That’s a real message.
Also, Palin advocates abstinence — she’s the biggest hyprocrite. Especially since studies have shown (Palin included) abstinence is not an effective method of preventing teen pregnancy. You know what does work? Condoms!
When I was in school celebrities proudly talked about safe sex, displayed condoms in music videos and increased awareness about HIV/AIDS. In fact, the topic of intercourse wasn’t taboo and in school — we learned about reproduction, STDs and all the methods of birth control. Putting a condom on a banana was a rite of passage for freshman!
Sex makes a baby, Bristol! We know you know that — so why can’t you just be honest to teens and make an educated statement your situation, instead of exploiting it for media attention.
Here’s what Candie’s should be saying:
“If you’re going to have sex, wear a condom because you could get pregnant, or contract a highly contagious or incurable STD. Go to the Candie’s Foundation website, or your local clinic to get some free condoms or to receive a birth control pill consultation. Please see our list of resources on sex education. Think before you have sex and be responsible.”
That’s a public service announcement.