Tuesday, August 30, 2011

Beyonce Pregnancy Commentary Missed the Mark

A response Tony Anderson’s (BET.com) commentary on Beyonce’s pregnancy, 'Will Beyoncé’s Pregnancy Cause a Spike in Black Teen Pregnancy?"

As provocative and engaging as I know the author of this commentary is trying to be, I still wish the title reflected the possibility, even if slight, that this could be the foundation for a POSITIVE response among black youth.  Even if young black girls want to emulate Beyonce and fail to see the details of her very strong ability to parent, we as mentors, parents, teachers, and guardians CAN use this as a TEACHABLE MOMENT instead of worrying that young black girls are going to automatically start pushing out babies because of Beyonce! 

We know that there are high pregnancy rates in the U.S. and among girls of color, so why start hyperventilating over what else COULD happen?   Let's try to be proactive and point out the encouraging details of Beyonce’s life circumstances to our youth BEFORE they start making bad decisions. 
The author, who is a black male, may have intended only to spark discussion and reflection, but instead I think the author mistakenly allows his need for hype to overshadow just how fragile the dynamics of race, class, gender, and social status can be.  Even though the article content is somewhat valid and nuanced, the headline’s tired and weak correlation between Beyonce and pregnancy rates among an entire race of young women is completely ridiculous and insensitive (plus, the last time I checked, many young women of all backgrounds look up to Beyonce!).

We all too often complain about the negative images coming out of music and movies, yet when a young entertainer avoids the pitfalls of early stardom, what do we do?  Yes, we allow her name to be associated (even if not purposefully) with one of the biggest societal challenges in the country! 

We are going to have to be more careful, especially as professionals, not to allow commentators like this to trivialize such an important issue.  We know so many young women of all races who struggle everyday to handle the consequences of unplanned pregnancy.  We see parents of teens literally overwhelmed by the pressures of parenting in a world where information moves at lightning speed. 
We work with social workers, prevention specialists, and counselors who KNOW what environmental factors surround unplanned pregnancy.  This list of factors like poverty, access to health care, parental involvement, low self-esteem, abuse, among other determinants, are the issues that these professionals grapple with daily, NOT Beyonce’s pregnancy announcement. 

Of course, I would never discount the validity of any entertainer’s influence on impressionable young people.  Media influence and peer pressure are very real issues for young people.  BUT anytime someone insinuates that one particular group of girls would automatically have sex just because a grown up entertainer decided to have a baby with her husband, we need to ask if the same “brainstorm” would be put out there about other girls or even about young men.

-Kimberly Wicker, MSW, is the Outreach and Development Specialist for the SC Campaign. Contact Kim at kwicker@teenpregnancysc.org.

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