Jessica Grose has a great piece up on Slate today about the MTV show 16 and Pregnant, asking whether it actually deters teenagers from pregnancy or whether it’s simply exploitative (or both). I’ll admit to watching (and enjoying, at least partly) the first season of the show, but after watching the Janelle episode that Grose mentions, I’m increasingly disturbed. No doubt teen pregnancy — and hey, any pregnancy — is tough, and that shouldn’t be whitewashed. But 16 and Pregnant seems to be falling to the trap of adapting itself to cliches and stereotypes about teen pregnancy. And while it’s a good thing to encourage girls who aren’t ready for a baby to avoid pregnancy, it gets a little trickier when you’re making an example of other girls. And as Jessica says, despite the fact that the babies’ fathers are largely total jerks (if they’re around at all), it’s the girls who are on the receiving end of the abuse and finger-wagging from the viewing audience.
In addition to all of that, 16 and Pregnant really only looks at one side of teen pregnancy — the part where the pregnant girl decides to give birth (in one episode the couple places the baby for adoption). Jessica Valenti points out that abortion is almost entirely absent from the conversation, despite the fact that a third of all teen pregnancies in the United States are terminated. I would imagine that, understandably, not a lot of 16-year-old girls want to discuss their abortions on MTV, since there is such intense stigma and shame surrounding the procedure — but surely there’s a way for MTV to incorporate the full reality of pregnancy-related decision-making into the show.
Thoughts? Do any of you watch it?
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