The Candie's Foundation recently launched an anti-teen-pregnancy campaign in which a who's sho of Millennial celebrities — Hayden Panettiere, Carly Rae Jepson, Hillary Duff, Lea Michelle, Fergie, Vanessa Minillo, Ciara, Teddy Geiger and the band Fall Out Boy — tell teens how much parenthood sucks.
According to Feministing, the campaign has really offended the Strong Families Movement for its shaming approach towards teen pregnancy. Allied blogger Natasha Vianna puts it plainly:
At the age of 17, I gave birth to a little girl. When the Candie's Foundation launched a teen pregnancy prevention campaign with the tagline "You're supposed to be changing the world... not diapers," I was outraged by their attempts to shame young parents. Although I was changing diapers at age 17, I am changing the world – and so are Lisette, Consuela, Jasmin, Gloria, Marylouise, Christina, and so many other young parents like us across the country. Our activism has been shaped by our experiences as young moms; we are working to change the world because we are young parents.
The organization has launched a petition to Candie's and encourages the use of a hashtag, #NoTeenShame, to draw eyes to the cause.
This controversy is similar to what happened when NYC's Human Resources Administration put up ads in which young children shamed their teen parents about getting pregnant.
The problem lies in the strategy of shame. This is an organization that previously used wealthy teen mom (and born-again abstinence advocate) Bristol Palin as a spokesperson for what a burden young parenthood is. They describe themselves as " a non-profit organization that works to shape the way youth in America think about teen pregnancy and parenthood."
Research has shown that teen girls who have been exposed to the foundation and its messages are more likely to view teen pregnancy and parenthood as stressful and negative, and they are more likely to be skeptical of the media's portrayal of teen pregnancy and parenting. They also think teens should wait longer to have sex than girls who are not aware of the foundation and its messages.
But where does that leave the teens (especially girls) who have become pregnant? Ashamed, if the campaign has its way with them. But even if their own feelings of self-worth are not important to you, do you actually think that teens are unaware of the fact that unplanned pregnancy is a big deal?
It would be really refreshing to see someone pony up for a pleasure-positive, choice-positive teen sexuality campaign that helped young people get and use contraception without vilifying those who do not, and who decide to have a baby. The Candie's Foundation's pro-abstinence stance reflects a conservative culture of sexual shaming, in which people who consensually give in to their natural curiosities and pleasures are seen as morally weak. (And the shaming can affect victims of rape as well.)
As much as I don't want to be a grandparent too soon, neither would I want to raise my young son to believe that teen parents are lesser people than him. Not only for their sake, but possibly for his own.