Teen Vogue features pregnant covergirl, moral panic ensues

Seems that some people are upset that one of the models on Teen Vogue‘s November cover is pregnant.
19 year-old Jourdan Dunn isn’t visibly pregnant, but talks about her pregnancy in the magazine.

The cover has raised eyebrows among some parents, teens and advocates against teen pregnancy.
“There’s no message to send to them that that’s not OK. Maybe if she’s on the cover to tell them ‘Be careful,’ that’s one thing,” said Catherine Essig, a 19-year-old sophomore at Dallas’ Southern Methodist University, who was concerned about 15- and 16-year-old readers.
Many advocates said parents should use the cover as a way to talk to their kids about sex and the importance of planning pregnancies for the right moment in their lives.
“Teen parenting isn’t glamorous, even if you are a teen model,” said Valerie Huber, executive director of the National Abstinence Education Association.

First of all, I’m not sure why this magazine cover is scandalous and this one isn’t. Teen pregnancy is talked about and featured everywhere – from glamorized pics of Bristol Palin to MTV”s 16 and Pregnant. And the fact is, the teen pregnancy is a reality – the teen pregnancy rate in the U.S. went up for the second year in a row for the first time in a decade (thanks, abstinence-only education!). Is it really better to hide the issue?
I understand concerns about making teen pregnancy seem “cool,” but I don’t think that shaming young women who are pregnant or ignoring their existence is an answer. As Teen Vogue Editor-in-Chief Amy Astley said, “Teen pregnancy is a difficult, real-life issue that Teen Vogue readers (with an average age of 18) are mature enough to be exposed to…[we] felt it was important to support, not punish, Jourdan.” Agreed.

and tagged , , , . Bookmark the permalink. Both comments and trackbacks are currently closed.

26 Comments

  1. alixana
    Posted November 4, 2009 at 3:47 pm | Permalink

    I guess it’s because we love binaries, but I’m not sure why the option has to be either “shaming” or “glamorizing.” Although I’ve noticed in the media that simple familial support is portrayed as “glamorizing” (I’m mostly thinking of Britney’s little sister here, and the shit her mom received for being excited when the baby was born – I guess it would be better for her to just glare a lot instead so that people understand Teen Pregnancy Is Bad).

  2. cattrack2
    Posted November 4, 2009 at 3:53 pm | Permalink

    Thanks for posting the Bristol pic, Jessica. There are some people and groups out there with a continuously grinding ax. If anything, depicting Bristol in graduation gear suggests you can have it all, which oftentimes is not reality. There are any number of pregnant girls who drop out of high school.

  3. birch
    Posted November 4, 2009 at 3:56 pm | Permalink

    it seems that a lot of the people condemning the discussion of jourdan’s pregnancy in teen vogue wouldn’t have said anything if she were married. i grew up in a family and religious community where girls regularly get married and become pregnant when they are eighteen or nineteen…and no one makes a fuss about these teen pregnancies. it bothers me that people think a legal relationship with a man automatically validates something so personal and specific to women.

  4. lovelyliz
    Posted November 4, 2009 at 4:00 pm | Permalink

    I hate how parents are so against this – if a woman believed this is the equivalent of “support” from the media and goes out to get pregnant because it’s glamorized, shouldn’t we be blaming it on the education or the parents rather than one or two images of celebrity/model pregnant teens?
    I don’t think it’s great, but at the same time, I think this puts blame on the wrong source.

  5. lovelyliz
    Posted November 4, 2009 at 4:01 pm | Permalink

    I hate how parents are so against this – if a woman believed this is the equivalent of “support” from the media and goes out to get pregnant because it’s glamorized, shouldn’t we be blaming it on the education or the parents rather than one or two images of celebrity/model pregnant teens?
    I don’t think it’s great, but at the same time, I think this puts blame on the wrong source

  6. birch
    Posted November 4, 2009 at 4:02 pm | Permalink

    it was incorrect of me to assume that jourdan isn’t married — i don’t know whether she is or not. either way, there is a double standard for young mothers who are married versus young mothers who are not married.

  7. lovelyliz
    Posted November 4, 2009 at 4:04 pm | Permalink

    [Sorry for the double post, it originally said my comment wasn't on the board]

  8. Phenicks
    Posted November 4, 2009 at 4:23 pm | Permalink

    Soooo if you are an adult who is not yet 21 and you are pregnant we should fire you?
    I don’t get it.
    To those angry parents, from another angry parent:
    1) As “horrible” as teen pregnancy is (pregnancy is only horrible if its unwanted or unhealthy in some cases) this young woman is a friggin adult! She is GROWN, over 18, can legally vote, buy cigareetes hell at 18 you can be a porn star!
    2) If your 15-16 year old daughter truly has to look outside the home for guidance then YOU are the problem- not those on the “outside” that you don’t approve of!
    3) Why can’t we give teens mroe credit than to be these sex crazed people who can’t control their urges and do WHATEVER the media tells them to? Seriously?
    4) Like someone else said why does it have to be either shame or glorify?

  9. uberhausfrau
    Posted November 4, 2009 at 5:15 pm | Permalink

    As “horrible” as teen pregnancy is (pregnancy is only horrible if its unwanted or unhealthy in some cases) this young woman is a friggin adult! She is GROWN, over 18, can legally vote, buy cigareetes hell at 18 you can be a porn star!
    my stats might be a few years off, but the majority of “teen” pregnancies occur in 18 and 19yos, when they are legally considered adults. ffs, she’s a college student.

  10. Comrade Kevin
    Posted November 4, 2009 at 6:02 pm | Permalink

    I somehow fail to understand how talking about teen pregnancy in a forthright fashion is scandalous. Without moralizing or resorting to the same scare tactics that only backfire when applied to other issues, I think young woman ought to have the ability to make decisions for themselves and their own bodies, shocking though that might be.

  11. Phenicks
    Posted November 4, 2009 at 6:05 pm | Permalink

    Yeah thus why horrible was in quotations. I think if a person who is pregnant decides to keep their pregnancy or their baby then we should support thier decision to do so just as we would if they had gotten an abortion because its just science. Sex is a great way to get pregnant- it just is. We can try to prevent it but even with contraceptives you could still get pregnant so you may just have to be faced with either adoption, abortion or parenthood.
    I wouldn’t force abortion or parenthood on anyone and certainly wouldn’t shame someone from choosing either one. Why do it to teens?

  12. Katie93
    Posted November 4, 2009 at 6:41 pm | Permalink

    Agreed, but maybe the picture is just too small, but if someone hadn’t told me she was pregnant, I wouldn’t have known she was pregnant.
    Just throwing that out there.

  13. MLEmac28
    Posted November 4, 2009 at 7:18 pm | Permalink

    Is anyone else confused by the Bristol Palin cover where she say’s “if people knew the consequences of sex, nobody would have it” while holding her “consequence” with a smile?

  14. uberhausfrau
    Posted November 4, 2009 at 7:44 pm | Permalink

    my comment was in agreement with yours, in case it wasnt clear. (i was inbetween childcare tasks.)
    and yes, it’s total bullshit that teen mothers (of all stripes) and other marginalised mothers have to constantly apoligise for their and their children’s existance. gourd forbid they take pride in themselves and their children and dare to carry themselves with a bit of dignity and self-assurance.

  15. Brianna G
    Posted November 4, 2009 at 9:17 pm | Permalink

    Jourdan Dunn is an adult and was so at the time of her conception. She should not be expected to turn her pregnancy into a soapbox against teen pregnancy, as she is an adult and what’s more she’s even well-established enough that she can afford to care for a child– she isn’t exactly the average college student without two pennies to rub together, or who needs to rely on parents to get by with a baby. If parents are concerned, they can simply say, “Well, she’s young, but she is an adult and can support a child, and you are not and cannot.”
    Also, one of the reasons I like 16 and Pregnant is it is a very unglamorous depiction of teen pregnancy. They accurately describe the issues teens care about– social isolation, breakups and unreliable dads, judgmental peers, pain and fear, sleepless nights, financial constraints… Whitney was a good example, since she never socialized in pregnancy, dealt with complications and health problems, an unsympathetic boyfriend, and potential homelessness. The only couple that I felt were presented as remotely competent, intelligent, put-together, and admirable were Catelynn and Tyler (who placed their child up for adoption). I cannot imagine any teen watching that show and thinking teen pregnancy was a positive thing.

  16. BackOfBusEleven
    Posted November 4, 2009 at 10:02 pm | Permalink

    You know, they don’t want teens to get pregnant, but when they do get pregnant, they don’t want her to get an abortion, but they also don’t want her to be happy about being pregnant either. So they want pregnant teens to be miserable forced parents, which is really great from a pro-child standpoint *eye roll*

  17. Brandi
    Posted November 4, 2009 at 10:17 pm | Permalink

    This seems to be one of the catch-22s of dealing with teen pregnancy. In Samhita’s post yesterday on debunking race/class myths, she was arguing via a linked article that our assumptions that teen moms live in poverty & have crummy lives is a myth. Here Bristol is being slammed for representing the idea that one can get pregnant as a high schooler and still graduate. In many ways, no one can win on this issue.
    As much as I dislike Sarah Palin and the way the entire Palin & Johnston families have handled the pregnancy & birth, I think Bristol represents something that it is nice to see. She is moving forward with her life. Of course that comes in large measure because of her position in life, but it is possible. I don’t think it’s wrong to show teen girls that, and in many ways both magazine covers represent the same idea – that your life’s not over when you get pregnant.

  18. kungfulola
    Posted November 5, 2009 at 1:53 am | Permalink

    “If parents are concerned, they can simply say, “Well, she’s young, but she is an adult and can support a child, and you are not and cannot.”
    I don’t think it works that way – this statement is analogous to “You shouldn’t compare yourselves to magazine images, those women are photoshopped.” It’s not a logical process; the aspirational and glamourous nature of a magazine cover
    isn’t vulnerable to being debunked with logic and rationality. Especially when the intended audience is teenagers, and not adults.

  19. jekkiwils
    Posted November 5, 2009 at 3:02 am | Permalink

    Hi! Its one of the informative blog which nice pregnancy news so I like the way you presented this post ,Keep up blogging
    Muscle Force Max

  20. supremepizza
    Posted November 5, 2009 at 11:14 am | Permalink

    You’re absolutely right.

  21. Toongrrl
    Posted November 5, 2009 at 12:34 pm | Permalink

    What do they expect? For her to be sent to some building for 9 months? Scratch that, that would encourage them. Maybe, start minding their own beeswax, focus on actual problems, and start lighting the fire in their own sex live. Bitchy yes, but honestly it’s gotta be true. Miserable people hate to see anybody be happy and they pick on certain people, in order to make them miserable. Jourdan could be a role model for teenage girls, that just because of a huge predicament doesn’t mean their lives will go to hell.

  22. Hara
    Posted November 5, 2009 at 12:46 pm | Permalink

    WTF? She is 19. She is an adult. She has a high paying job and is in school.
    What’s the problem?
    why do we care that much about what “Catherine Essig, a 19-year-old sophomore at Dallas’ Southern Methodist University,” said?
    and hey, “”Teen parenting isn’t glamorous, even if you are a teen model,” said Valerie Huber,”
    Parenting at ANY age is NOT glamourous. Unless you think cleaning diaper explosions in a public setting is glamorous…or sleep deprivation, or the radical new level of worry that comes with parenting…glamorous- are she high?
    WHy that 19yr old chose to keep it is her business, that she is happy is a good thing.
    Do they prefer she abort and speak of it?
    Do they prefer she be miserable with her choice to continue the pregnancy?
    Is she supposed to hate the process?
    19 or actually 20, was too young for me, I’m grateful with the choice I made.
    At 22 (almost 23) I made a different choice.
    I’m glad I was a young mom, and I know a lot of older moms who are glad they waited. My son is an adult now and I am young enough to go a whole different direction with my career, life style, etc, if I so choose.

  23. Hara
    Posted November 5, 2009 at 12:46 pm | Permalink

    WTF? She is 19. She is an adult. She has a high paying job and is in school.
    What’s the problem?
    why do we care that much about what “Catherine Essig, a 19-year-old sophomore at Dallas’ Southern Methodist University,” said?
    and hey, “”Teen parenting isn’t glamorous, even if you are a teen model,” said Valerie Huber,”
    Parenting at ANY age is NOT glamourous. Unless you think cleaning diaper explosions in a public setting is glamorous…or sleep deprivation, or the radical new level of worry that comes with parenting…glamorous? are they high?
    WHy that 19yr old chose to keep it is her business, that she is happy is a good thing.
    Do they prefer she abort and speak of it?
    Do they prefer she be miserable with her choice to continue the pregnancy?
    Is she supposed to hate the process?
    19 or actually 20, was too young for me, I’m grateful with the choice I made.
    At 22 (almost 23) I made a different choice.
    I’m glad I was a young mom, and I know a lot of older moms who are glad they waited. My son is an adult now and I am young enough to go a whole different direction with my career, life style, etc, if I so choose.

  24. Patti.
    Posted November 5, 2009 at 3:55 pm | Permalink

    Giving people (especially young women) hope and confidence is never a bad thing. You can say that sometimes it’s false hope, but the more confident the women feel when they see other women/girls succeed, the more likely it is that they too will succeed.

  25. Patti.
    Posted November 5, 2009 at 3:57 pm | Permalink

    Not really. She’s saying that pregnancy/parenthood is difficult, not that it makes her unhappy.

  26. Afrekete
    Posted November 7, 2009 at 11:43 am | Permalink

    Why am I not surprised that no one is stating the obvious? Bristol Palin’s pregnancy is not an issue because she’s white. Jourdan Dunn’s pregnancy is an issue because she’s black. The thing is, even though Jourdan is 19, she’s an adult, and a working adult who is in a 3-year committed relationship with the father of her baby. Bristol is a teenager who is supported by her parents, and we all know what happened to the relationship between Bristol and her baby’s daddy.

Feministing In Your Inbox

Sign up for our Newsletter to stay in touch with Feministing
and receive regular updates and exclusive content.

221 queries. 0.802 seconds