Thank You Thursday: Teen Mom Counters Cliches with Badassery

Check out this amazing profile of 20-year-old Charlie Rose, a teen mom and Smith student who is doing amazing work countering old, tired stereotypes about teen moms. An excerpt:

When she decided to have a child at 15 years old, Rose says that her biggest obstacle was not the physical pregnancy itself, which she describes as “easy,” “wonderful” and “delightful,” nor was it the financial burden – all of Cae’s clothes and cloth diapers were handed down, and Rose made her own baby food. Instead, the hardships came from the labels and stigma attached to her decision.
“For some reason,” she says, “people have very visceral responses to teen pregnancy. It’s sort of the unifying issue, because everyone thinks that teen moms are awful. It challenges the idea of adulthood that we’ve established, the idea that teenagers are always irresponsible… From a patriarchal state, teen mothers are threatening because women are supposed to belong to their fathers until they belong to their husbands.”

Thanks to J. Courtney Sullivan for the heads up.

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163 Comments

  1. UnHingedHips
    Posted April 11, 2009 at 1:45 am | Permalink

    “adolescents are not adults in physiology, experience, temperament, and judgment”
    To be fair, this is very culture-specific and certainly not universal.

  2. Penny Dreadful
    Posted April 11, 2009 at 1:48 am | Permalink

    Wow, I’m very taken aback by a lot of the “poor shaming” going on in this thread, and the accusatory stings aimed at this young woman.
    How did she pay for college? Probably the exact same way that I, a childless young adult, did. Through Pell Grants, scholarships, and a lot of hard work. My parents did help me out a bit, and it sounds like hers didn’t. Does this mean I should be ashamed that I have resources that other young women do not? Or does it mean that I should take advantage of it to help better the lives of other women?
    I get very riled up at comments like “people shouldn’t have children if they know they can’t afford them.” I highly doubt her pregnancy was planned, and while abortion should be legal, for many women it is an option that they do not choose for a multitude of reasons, none of which should be vilified any more than the reasons that women choose to go through with abortion.
    I guess I’m getting riled up because I am the daughter of a teen mom and I have seen this conversation come up so many times when a young teen mom is successful. Lots of accusatory statements and disgusted sounding posts. It’s upsetting.

  3. baddesignhurts
    Posted April 11, 2009 at 1:48 am | Permalink

    no, i think if she’s going to hold herself up as a role model, she ***is obliged*** to make it known what strategies she uses to do what she does because she is advocating a lifestyle that has the potential to destroy the futures of girls/women who aren’t prepared for motherhood. if she’s going to go out on a limb like that, she needs to talk about how she deals with the situation.
    my point is that she ***has*** to have a lot of help, and she didn’t make any mention of it. none. no “my friends watch him while i’m in class, my sister fills in when i’m sick,” nothing.
    as i said, i feel it is irresponsible to encourage teen motherhood without being honest about what one might need to succeed.

  4. Meredith
    Posted April 11, 2009 at 5:09 am | Permalink

    I guess she’s a great mom and really pulled herself up by her bootstraps and apparently could make life changing decisions at 15. But she personally labeled a smug picture of herself with the words “role model.” NO THANKS. God, could anyone be more self-promoting?
    This is why I get so sick of college students. They always over-estimate their own importance. If anything all the testimonies about successful young mothers on here prove that she’s nothing special. So why is she getting lauded for being so revolutionary? Because she’s real-life Juno? cause she’s cute? Cause she’s just super-duper great at self promotion?

  5. dandelionfield
    Posted April 11, 2009 at 7:07 am | Permalink

    She’s getting the attention because she’s smart and savvy. Had she done any other adult-like thing successfully at 15 that framed her life as she continued into college and gone on to talk about it in a campus newspaper, she would have been lauded in this forum…
    But having a baby is different, it seems. And talking back to efforts to frame her as cheap are different it seems. Because she had a baby before our culture thinks she is ready to have a baby (forget whether she thinks she is ready… and hell, many people aren’t ready to have babies at 30, or 40, but we do, because that is what we do…) Also the crux is that teenage mothers = poverty.
    Our culture hates those people that feed off the system, don’t we. Everybody should be self sufficient, and if you have babies in a situation where you can’t be then that is selfish. Which begs the question I brought up earlier – a woman leaves her husband, a woman’s husband dies, a woman loses her job and falls into poverty, should she be condemned for being selfish enough to still want to raise her own children and not give them up to someone with enough money… It’s not much farther along the continuum of ‘if she’s doesn’t have the money she selfish and irresponsible to have a child.
    Seems to me it isn’t pregnant teens who are a drain on the system: it’s POOR pregnant teens who need help, teens from dysfunctional families, teens whose families aren’t there for them. Teens who have babies from well off families usually get the support they need from their parents, the same way teens from richer families get the support they need to go to college, to travel to Europe, to start a business to buy a house, all the things that make it easier for them to get the higher paying jobs, live a comfortable life…
    Teens without that support weren’t necessarily headed for college (and not all people dream of college education), weren’t necessarily able to find their way out of poverty, out of difficult situations. This girl did and should be applauded. But most of these girls would end up in similar situations even if they waited to have babies, stuck in minimum wage jobs that would offer nothing for mat leave, struggling to pay off student loans if they got themselves to college.
    There’s the assumption that, given a few years and a little hard work, these women could turn themselves into monied, middle class, college educated women who would be so valuable to the market place they would immediately land great jobs which they could then leave to have their babies… And that’s just not true.
    As I said before, sure many teens aren’t great parents. Many monied, stable people aren’t great parents. Many people from many classes of society aren’t great parents, but they still have babies, and aren’t reviled for doing so. What we have to decide as a society is how much are we willing to support child-rearing in our society. Not just for teenage moms, but for all parents who need daycares, who need days off to be with a sick child, maternity leave and breastfeeding rooms. Yes, it’s tough being a teenage mother, but it doesn’t have to be that tough: it’s easy to adjust scholarships and schedules and our prejudices to accommodate and respect mothers whatever their situation.
    Most women who have children in their 20′s and 30′s juggle all those things as they work, get more education etc. It’s tough for them too. But life goes on after kids, and it could be easier if we all had supports. When we blame teenage moms for the ‘reality’ that raising kids is tough, we forget that we should instead attack the ‘reality’ that refuses to support parenting and measures which would provide all mothers easier access to education, the workforce and a better standard of living.

  6. FLT
    Posted April 11, 2009 at 7:31 am | Permalink

    She states many times that the pregnancy was planned.
    My problem isn’t so much with her personal choice. It’s hers. I’m allowed to have an opinion on it, but it’s her choice. My problem is with deifying someone who makes an ill-informed, irresponsible choice. She’s still arguing that late teens is the best time to give birth, yeesh.
    There is a difference between dealing with a situation and glorifying it. Can there be great teen mothers? Yes. But stop the glory.

  7. jjgirl23
    Posted April 11, 2009 at 8:50 am | Permalink

    Agreed. Labelling yourself as a role model is pretty tacky.

  8. adcaela
    Posted April 11, 2009 at 9:04 am | Permalink

    Thanks for the response. I’m not sure how to repost it… I’ve never really used this site.

  9. adcaela
    Posted April 11, 2009 at 9:52 am | Permalink

    and labeling someone else as trash or cheap is cool? I was imitating/combating a very specific ad campaign. I made lots of different posters and the role model one happened to be the one chosen for the article.

  10. WriterGirl
    Posted April 11, 2009 at 9:09 pm | Permalink

    Thanks for your reply, Charlie. I checked out your comment below (as you instructed) but I still stand by my statement that I was initially rather shocked to see that a fellow feminist would imply that childbearing is a biological necessity and that all women experience “innate maternal [urges].” Obviously you care deeply about defending the reproductive rights of women in all socioeconomic classes, but phrases like “innate maternal instinct” (again, the reporter’s words) tend to put my guard up.
    Re: the anarchist bookstore… I’m still confused. I hope you know I’m not trying to be argumentative here, but I really am wondering about why someone who has taken advantage of government benefits would donate her time to a bookstore promoting anarchy. I’m just trying to wrap my brain around that dichotomy and, obviously, you would be the best person to explain it to me.

  11. WriterGirl
    Posted April 11, 2009 at 9:29 pm | Permalink

    Obviously the “Role Model” poster was the most attention-grabbing–and for good reason! Most people wouldn’t paste that label on their photo because of the public scrutiny it would most likely cause.
    I’m curious about the campaign in question (with the derogatory implications about teen moms) and also interested in seeing Charlie’s other posters. I think that the “Role Model” poster (while I think it can stand on its own as a definite statement) was taken somewhat out of context in the linked article.
    It would be cool to see the derogatory posters and the “Role Model” poster together. Then I think it would be more apparent that Rose is probably not saying, “Hey, teens, have babies! Yay!” but instead trying to prove that young moms are anything but trashy or cheap.

  12. laughingrat
    Posted April 13, 2009 at 12:07 am | Permalink

    Make up your mind. Either she “made it on her own,” as you said earlier, or she has a support network that helps her handle childcare and, I’m sure, a great deal of other things.
    In fact, nobody ever “makes it on their own” (and nor should they have to). But to idealize somebody by claiming they’ve magically supported themselves with no outside help, somebody who made a dangerous decision that just happened to turn out okay for her, is intellectually and politically dishonest. The fact that you yourself had to turn around only a few comments later and admit that she gets a hefty heap of help from her buddies gives the lie to your idealized image of your friend’s decision.

  13. angelamarie
    Posted April 24, 2009 at 4:10 am | Permalink

    While having a child when you are older is a valid choice I do believe having a child when you are younger (but not so young it is physically dangerous for you to be pregnant / give birth) has some advantages. I write as someone who’s mother died when I was 11, and she was 35, and also as someone in my mid twenties who has problems with my joints that are getting gradually worse and affecting my mobility. The fact is the younger you have your child (after an age where you can bear children safely) the longer you get to spend with them, the longer they get to have you in their life. If my mother had waited till 30 to have me, I possibly wouldn’t have any memories of her. If I wait too long to have children I will not be able to run and play with them. I will not be able to race them, piggyback them or skip with them.
    I have not had children yet, but as soon as I find someone I want to have children with, I will not be mucking around, whether my finances are perfect or not. Lets face it there is no perfect time to have children. There are benifits to having your children younger, and to having them at an older age (more financially sound, more mature etc). At the end of the day it is an individual CHOICE, which for me is what feminism is all about – the right to make that choice based on my wants and needs without being condemned for it.

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