Wednesday, September 24, 2008

Teen moms and the media: what's fair game?

By Chloe Angyal

I've never said this before, and I hope I never have to say it again, but Lynne Spears has a point. The mother of Britney and Jamie Lynn gave an interview to Newsweek in which she points out the differences in how Jamie Lynn's pregnancy was treated by the press, and how Bristol Palin's was treated. At 17, Palin was only a year Jamie Lynn's senior when she got pregnant, and neither was married. Both cases were made very public indeed, but the media treatment of Palin and her mother has, for the most part, been supportive. So in some respects (and again, I hope I never have to type these words again), Lynne Spears is right: Jamie Lynn and her mother were dragged through the mud, while Bristol and Sarah Palin were treated far more respectfully. Furthermore, Sarah Palin's attempt to turn her daughter into a role model for young women has a lot of people very worried indeed.
Here's an excerpt from the interview:

"Newsweek: You and Jamie Lynn got some negative press when she got pregnant so young. But more recently, 17-year-old Bristol Palin, and her mother, Sarah Palin, the Republican vice presidential candidate, found themselves in a similar situation. And the public reaction has been different.
Lynne Spears: It's a totally different reaction. It's as if [Sarah Palin] became celebrated. I mean, the mother, Palin, was celebrated for this. Every woman in the world has applauded her strength and her convictions and poor little old Jamie Lynn—you saw how she was crucified. Everybody did, firsthand ... I just feel like it's been a very hypocritical situation."

I guess the question is - should we be talking about celebrities and their teen pregnancy at all? Is the daughter of a VP candidate fair game? Are these girls role models for young women and therefore something to be discussed, or is it a private matter we have no right to discuss?

One reason I think talking about Bristol Palin's pregnancy is productive, and fair game, is because her mother's policies on sex education and reproductive rights come into play. Obviously, this is a family that lives their beliefs - to wit, their belief in the sanctity of all life and the decision to carry Palin's most recent pregnancy to term despite the baby's disability - and obviously, Palin's policies on sex education and reproductive rights have failed the family in this instance.
And with Palin running on a platform that includes abstinence-only sex education and curtailed reproductive rights, these kinds of events become very relevant indeed, and as such, I think they're fair game.

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