Wednesday, February 23, 2011

Double Standard

“But we only did it a couple of times.”
This was the response from Lonnie, a main character in the new Internet series 9INE, to his girlfriend when she unveils that her period is late. He adds, “I’m supposed to be graduating this year.” As she begins to cry, he asks her, “What am I supposed to say. Tell me what you want me to do.”
This scene, along with the powerful scenes that follow showing their parents’ reactions, has hooked me as a viewer. According to the show’s website:
The show examines teen pregnancy from the young father-to-be's point of view, and is a realistic and empathetic portrayal of issues facing expectant teen parents, including firsthand accounts from real teens woven into the end of each episode.  9INE provides a powerful spotlight on the decisions teens face when confronted with pregnancy.  Viewers are directed to resources and information that take into account many diverse perspectives.
I applaud the effort of the director's to tackle this tough topic and to focus on the male perspective.  Too often males are left out of the conversation altogether.  People like to focus on young women and their actions, but fail to remember this is not a one-sided issue.
For example, just this past week, a young lady in Chapin, SC has been told she cannot compete in the Miss Teen USA beauty pageant because she is a teen mom.  Yes, she is a teen mom, but one who has taken responsibility for her actions, is continuing her education, will graduate from high school, and is taking good care of her child.  Yet, we are keeping her from competing in a beauty pageant because she would not be a good "role model" for others.  But when was the last time you saw the star of the football team get kicked off the team for getting his girlfriend pregnant?  My assumption would be that you have never seen this happen because we live in a world full of double standards.
So thank you 9INE for showing us that males should be just as involved in this conversation as females.  I look forward to watching your series and to also meeting Brian White, one of the producers/actors of the show, who will speak at our 12th Annual Summer Institute in Myrtle Beach in June!
By: Cayci Banks, Director of Communications for the SC Campaign to Prevent Teen Pregnancy

Tuesday, February 8, 2011

MTV's Latest Teen Pregnancy-Based Reality Show 'Teen Mom 2' Showcases New Stories, Struggles

MTV’s latest installment in teen pregnancy-based reality programming, “Teen Mom 2”  follows four new teen moms that you might remember from the latest season of “16 & Pregnant.” This time around, all the moms have chosen to raise their children, and three of the teens are attempting to maintain a relationship with the babies’ fathers.

In this episode, Kailyn is able to start college – something the other moms are still working toward. She and Jo, her ex, live with his family, but struggle with their relationship and the family dynamic. After a fight with his dad, Jo and Kailyn get kicked out of the house and have to figure out a new living arrangement. In a moment of clarity, Kailyn realizes that living with Jo just because it is “convenient” maybe isn’t the best choice for her and her son, Isaac. 

Leah, who you might remember as the mom who had twins, has reunited with her daughters’ dad, Corey. The pair quickly move in together, but without her friends or family close by, Leah’s scenes mostly revolve around how bored and exhausted she is. She wants to start school but isn’t sure Corey is reliable enough to watch the girls while she studies. He acts offended, but after an afternoon alone with the two crying infants, he calls her and tells her to hurry home.

The most dramatic storyline this season is Jenelle. Like the original “Teen Mom” tabloid star Amber, her storyline revolves around a deeply dysfunctional relationship. Rather than an abusive romance, Jenelle struggles with her mom. There is a lot of screaming, a lot of door slamming, and it's hard not to wonder what effect this might have on Jenelle’s toddler son, Jace. 

In Tuesday’s episode, her mom kicks her out and calls her the “worst piece of ****” mother. Whoooa, MTV. I hope Dr. Drew is around the corner to offer these two some counseling, ASAP. It is easy to see both sides at times, but it is impossible to watch this without hoping the two of them seek professional help.

Another teen, Chelsea and her roommate start the episode by making check list before her daughter’s father, Adam, is allowed to move into their home. On their list: he has to have a job and he has to treat her and her baby well. Shouldn’t those things be worked out before inviting someone to move in? No job? Doesn’t treat mom well? Or the baby? That’s three strikes! But, in the teen reality world, those red flags don’t mean much.

“Don’t make me regret this,” she tells Adam. For a quick reminder, this was the same boyfriend, who on “16 & Pregnant,” sent her text messages calling their daughter a “mistake” and making fun of her stretch marks just after she had given birth.  I’m just a viewer, and I’m already regretting this decision!

After the success of the first “Teen Mom,” it is easy to see why these moms were picked for the second round. I just hope that the lessons of teen parenthood don’t get lost in the reality show drama.

- Elizabeth Benfield is a graduate assistant at the SC Campaign to Prevent Teen Pregnancy