Yesterday, I broke the news here on Crushable that 16 and Pregnant season 1 cast member Ebony Jackson had miscarried her second child. Though I expressed sympathy to Ebony during what must be a physically and emotionally challenging time, not everyone on our official Crushable Facebook page agreed. Commenter Betsy wrote, “I’ve heard one way for teens to prevent miscarriages is to not have sex and/or use birth control. It’s pathetic that these girls are “famous” for being stupid enough to get pregnant the first time. The fact that they’re in the spotlight because they’re expecting again is beyond ridiculous.”
Though some agreed with Betsy, commenter Cathryn didn’t feel the same way. She responded, “I don’t think these girls are necessarily “stupid” for getting pregnant. These girls made mistakes by getting pregnant way too early, granted, but that doesn’t make them bad or stupid. Also, I don’t think that their additional pregnancies are looked at in a positive way in “the spotlight” as we all know they are probably going to struggle even more. This girl just lost a child. Whether you agree with her pregnancy or not, that must be rough.”
I often get asked why I watch 16 and Pregnant and Teen Mom. The easy answer is “for work,” but the truth isn’t so simple. I grew up in the South and watched many friends and classmates deal with the realities of teen pregnancy and motherhood. I thought that the first two seasons of 16 and Pregnant were realistic and provided a variety of perspectives on teen pregnancy. While I didn’t want to trade places with any of the young women on the show, I feel like I gained some insight into who they were and why they made the choices they did. I also think that if I had a teenage child, I’d make him or her watch this show in order to help them understand the importance of contraception and safe sex. Seriously, some of the birth scenes on this show have found their way into my nightmares. But teen pregnancy doesn’t go away if we stop depicting it on television, and simply admitting that something happens isn’t the same thing as glorifying or condoning it. A documentary about war isn’t an advertisement for the awesomeness of war, and episodes about 16 year olds whose boyfriends leave them as soon as the baby is born is anything but an advertisement for the awesomeness of teen parenthood.
Yes, it does kind of bug me that some of the women from Teen Mom have become tabloid fixtures, but someone being famous doesn’t automatically validate their life choices. Paris Hilton is famous, but acknowledging her existence and taking pictures of her at events doesn’t equal “Be exactly like her.” It’s totally your prerogative to like some celebrities and public figures better than others. But I have watched people I love cope with miscarriages, and I wouldn’t wish that on anyone – not Ebony Jackson, not Paris Hilton, not anybody. And you’re certainly entitled to disagree with Ebony’s choices, particularly since she’s a public figure and her miscarriage is a news story, but I don’t think lecturing someone who just went through a very painful process is the way to go.
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