Bristol Palin: Don’t get pregnant unless you’re privileged

Bristol Palin has shot a new PSA for the abstinence pushing and just generally creepy Candie’s Foundation. And it is so not OK:

Transcript after the jump.
Even entertainment website E! Online recognizes that this add is messed up, saying the message is:

“I’m privileged, so it’s OK that I got pregnant, but you’re not, so don’t.” (We paraphrase…but just barely.)

Apparently you should keep your legs crossed (Candie’s Foundation’s preferred method of birth control) if you’re poor, don’t have family support, or are not a celebrity. What a despicable, classist approach.

Transcript: What if I didn’t come from a famous family? What if I didn’t have all their support? What if I didn’t have all these opportunities? Believe me, it wouldn’t be pretty. Pause before you play.

Boston, MA

Jos Truitt is Executive Director of Development at Feministing. She joined the team in July 2009, became an Editor in August 2011, and Executive Director in September 2013. She writes about a range of topics including transgender issues, abortion access, and media representation. Jos first got involved with organizing when she led a walk out against the Iraq war at her high school, the Boston Arts Academy. She was introduced to the reproductive justice movement while at Hampshire College, where she organized the Civil Liberties and Public Policy Program’s annual reproductive justice conference. She has worked on the National Abortion Federation’s hotline, was a Field Organizer at Choice USA, and has volunteered as a Pro-Choice Clinic Escort. Jos has written for publications including The Guardian, Bilerico, RH Reality Check, Metro Weekly, and the Columbia Journalism Review. She has spoken and trained at numerous national conferences and college campuses about trans issues, reproductive justice, blogging, feminism, and grassroots organizing. Jos completed her MFA in Printmaking at the San Francisco Art Institute in Spring 2013. In her "spare time" she likes to bake and work on projects about mermaids.

Jos Truitt is an Executive Director of Feministing in charge of Development.

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Join the Conversation

  • Comrade Kevin

    So, um, it’s okay to get pregnant out of wedlock if you have a means of support and, by the way, everyone else should have it too?
    Oh, if only it was that easy, Ms. Palin.

  • ShyFoxie

    I’ll give them props for at least pointing out that having a baby isn’t a realistic option for a good-sized chunk of teens. That’s kind of a given, though. Doubt too many people would think the best plan 100% of the time is to become a parent just because you got pregnant.
    Too bad it came out more as saying that it’s okay for Bristol because she’s got support, but everyone else better keep their jeans zipped.

  • Athenia

    After watching “16 & Pregnant”, parental support is a freakin’ HUGE factor in whether you’re gonna keep the baby or not.

  • liz

    “Hello, I’m a walking morality play.”
    Don’t worry, Bristol, even with all of your money, opportunities, and hairstylists, I would still rather not be you.

  • dustxandxlight

    Aside from the obvious privilege thing which is ridiculous, WHY “Pause before you play” instead of “Wrap it up before you play”???
    It’s this assumed abstinence-is-the-answer thing that really pisses me off.

  • Toongrrl

    1. Bristol, not everyone from a privliged family has their support. Alan Keyes kicked out his daughter for being a lesbian.
    2. Abstinence isn’t enjoyable, BELIEVE ME.
    3. Someone save the Palin children!! While they are still young!!!!
    4. Plus those shots of the Palin news is creepy

  • paperispatient

    Yeah, perhaps the only positive thing about this ad is that she’s acknowledging the role her class and family privilege played in her being able to keep and raise her baby. I feel like many people (anti-choicers but others too) still believe in the “if you just try hard enough and work hard enough, everything will be okay, so you should keep your baby” idea. But like you and Jos said, the message the ad communicates is one of classism and abstinence as the only “solution”.

  • MishaKitty

    I’m not really getting her message here…so she didn’t have to think about anything before “playing?” Since she had a famous family and support and all? She could just do whatever she wanted and not worry about any consequences? So if I have lots of money and nice parents I can just “play” around too then right? Just all carefree like right? Who cares! I’ll worry about everything later.
    Either way you read this message it blows.

  • CTD

    I don’t understand what the problem is. She’s stating a plain truth, that everyone knows: that unplanned teen pregnancies will screw up the lives of the poor or working class far more than they will the lives of the well-off. What is controversial about this? Is somebody actually argue that this isn’t true?
    It’s a sad reality, but it’s reality none the less. I have no idea why her telling people the truth is so upsetting.

  • Mighty Ponygirl

    Or, you know Bristol, you could have had an abortion.
    Or hell, you could have used contraception to avoid getting pregnant in the first place.
    Either one of those choices would have prevented sad-no-makeup-face Bristol in a bare whitewashed room.
    “Pause before you play” could be “Pause to put a fucking condom on before you play.”

  • puckalish

    nothing’s “controversial” about it, i don’t think…
    it’s pretty par-for-the-course, really… a person with an incredible amount of privilege can even talk explicitly about that privilege without understand the significance of it.
    Bristol is pretty much saying that people who aren’t from her social class have to be more responsible than she was/is. which, while it may be true, coming from her, like this, is a slap in the face.
    among other things, she should know, as much as anyone, that youth don’t always think about consequences and, rather than working to build a more supportive structure for people less fortunate than she (ie, comprehensive sex education, child care for lower-income parents who want to pursue education or work, safe and legal abortions and birth control, etc.), she pretty much says, “poor people have to be more responsible than me, not because it’s good, right or moral, but because i’m luckier than them.”
    not so much controversial as just kind of mean and oblivious.

  • Sloppy Sandwich

    I think this is quite bold on her part. Her mother basically tries to portray Bristol’s pregnancy and teen motherhood as hunky dory because she didn’t get an abortion. Bristol is trying to bring a little more reality to that fantasy picture by admitting her own privilege.

  • cattrack2

    I don’t think the ad meant to say at all that its ok to be a single mother if you have the same support Bristol did. Its meant to point out the difficulties most single mothers face. Twisting the ads words, as the OP did, merely makes us out to be as left field as Fox News likes to already portray us.

  • dustxandxlight

    The point is that, first of all, she is implying that abstinence is the answer, not contraception.
    And secondly, she’s basically acknowledging that the only reason that she can stand behind an abstinence-only, pro-life view is that she is rich.

  • Sloppy Sandwich

    “Pause before you play” could be “Pause to put a fucking condom on before you play.”
    Sorry to interrupt the Palin hatefest, but that’s actually one of the intended meanings.
    Pause before you play is a slogan the Candies Foundation came up with, not Bristol Palin. Bristol Palin has personally espoused abstinence, but the Candies Foundation does not advocate abstinence only. Hayden Panettiere is in ads for the Pause campaign, and she has been outspoken about safe sex as an option to avoid pregnancy.
    Pause before you play is really a good campaign, I think. It doesn’t try to mislead teens or make decisions for them. They are just trying to point out the realities of teen motherhood and letting them use their own agency to make the best choice for themselves after that.

  • cand86

    Probably because the implication (intended or otherwise) is “Poor people, you don’t get to have sex.”
    What exactly is Bristol Palin against? Is it teen pregnancy? Because if so, she’d be espousing birth control, and would drop the whole support aspect altogether, because you don’t require support if your BC stopped you from getting pregnant.
    And if she wants to stop premarital/teen sex, then why is this targeted only at those who don’t have support to raise a baby?
    However you try to interpret it, it doesn’t make sense.

  • Sloppy Sandwich

    I think you are really misrepresenting a good organization. Here is a quote from the Candies Foundation’s founder:
    “When the question is asked, what does The Candie’s Foundation believe in — abstinence or safe sex? We believe the answer is both. Whether we, as Americans can agree on safe sex vs. abstinence is not the issue here; the issue is educating teens about pregnancy prevention.”
    This sounds like nothing but a good thing to me. I think your knee jerked when you saw Bristol Palin.

  • MLEmac28

    My main issue is the fact that it doesn’t talk about using contraception. Yes, it is true that having a baby in her family would be a lot easier than having a baby in a less privileged one, but saying “don’t do it” is a disservice to teens.

  • jolie-laide

    To be fair to Bristol, she seems to have backpedalled on her strict abstinence-only message (something she’s always waffled about, really–she called it an “unrealistic” method in an early interview). In an interview on GMA, which I found in the Huffington Post article about this PSA, she DOES say that the message could mean “pause to put on a condom.”
    When asked to clarify the message, she says, “‘Pause before you play’ hits, like, a wider range of different messages…It could be pause and go get a condom, or it could be pause and think about your life, or it could even be pause and wait until marriage.”
    You can watch the interview here:
    I’m not exactly thrilled that Bristol Palin has become the spokesperson for this issue, but I interpreted this PSA differently…I think she’s trying to deglamorize her situation in order to prevent other people from using her as a role model. I think it’s admirable that she’s taking this stance–revealing her privilege as the reason why she’s able to make things work–rather than saying bullshit things about how any “strong woman” should be able to care for an unplanned baby (something her mother says all the time).

  • Justabitoff

    I agree with the other commenters that parental support and financial options is a huge part in being able to raise a child as a teen, and also that just because you’re not rich doesn’t mean you shouldn’t have sex, just that you should use contraception (condoms are remarkably cheap and easy to get!).
    But her opening line totally threw me. What the fuck does her being from a “famous family” have anything to do with her ability to raise a child? Seems like Sarah Palin is once again blatantly exploiting her children for her own misguided game plan. Blech.

  • Backpacking Dad

    “Do you see how awesome my life is? It’s really awesome. I’ve basically suffered no consequences for having sex with a guy who was as convinced as I was that carrying a condom around would be as bad as murdering white babies in their sleep. But, now, what if my life weren’t this awesome? It would be impossible for me and this baby to survive without a couch or tv or toys. No one has ever done it. No one. I don’t know much about history, but I can see the Middle Ages from my house, and even in the Middle Ages kids had iPods as teething toys. So pause before you play.”

  • Lilith Luffles

    Okay, so, I understand the message of “teens who can’t support kids shouldn’t have kids.” If you are in a situation where you can’t feed your child everyday, obviously having a child is not a good idea. But don’t have sex?
    There are ways that people can have sex and not get pregnant, and even ways that people can not have a child if they become pregnant. Had she said “children are a big responsibility and deserve 24-hour-care, use protection, and it’s okay to get an abortion” there would not be much to complain about.

  • _Maeowin_

    “i got away with it, but you can’t”
    this message brags more about her “charmed” life than inform anyone. Even the information is too ambiguous to be helpful. Pause forrrrr condom? If they’re shooting for abstinence only they faaaillled with this rhetoric, the duration of “pause” in my mind is not at all “til marriage.” Im thinkin like 5 min…
    Is this regularly on tv?? I hope not.

  • Martine Votvik

    Well she does put the finger on an important subject, namely how the US anmong other countries suck at taking care of their young mothers.
    The countries suck and the parents suck, I don’t think Sarah Palin used a lot of time explaining to her daughter about sexual health or sexual responcibilities. An neither did the schools.
    Somebody should make a parody about this one where a young girl tells the camera “what if my parents handn’t told me about condoms” or something down that line. Or “what if my parents wheren’t educated and/or enlightened enough to suport me through my abortion.”
    and by the way just to look at it from the other side. In what specific way did she really benefit from the “fame” of her parents? Didn’t that just screw with her privacy and freedom?

  • Brianna G

    Palin’s been called out repeatedly for presenting an idealized, beautiful image of teen motherhood– healthy baby, no money problems, help from her family– that paints teen motherhood as something positive for a young girl.
    I think this is her way to make up for the potentially damaging positive image of a teen mother that she is presenting. I actually don’t think it’s classist to admit that you have privilege and that’s why something worked out for you. And “pause before you play” is pretty vague; knowing Candie’s it must mean abstinence, but I could also interpret it as “think about the consequences of your actions before you have sex, and take precautions.” Without a specific reference to abstinence I don’t think it’s damaging.
    Basically YES, it was “ok” that she got pregnant because she was privileged, and if you aren’t privileged, you may not have the beautiful healthy baby and loving family and not have to put your plans on hold at all.

  • Mighty Ponygirl

    Bully for her, but 99.9% of Americans know her as Sarah Palin’s daughter who’s all about the Abstinence even though she couldn’t stick to it herself.
    If she really meant that people should use contraception, she should have SAID SO and not made vague “pause before you play” remarks.

  • The Flash

    whywhywhy have so many feminists decided that, because it’s easier for teen moms with money and supportive families, that the solution is to try to push teen pregnancy for less privileged teens? Bristol’s 100% right, here, and being a teen mom is a bad thing, whether you’re privileged or not. Why are so many feminists unwilling to say that?
    Do we need to start listing the reasons it’s bad for any teen, and particularly for a poor teen with an unsupportive family, to have a kid?
    What’s with the pretending teen pregnancy is good? Or that we shouldn’t worry about the opportunities lost to underprivileged teen moms?

  • Nancy Shrew

    Wait….didn’t Bristol herself say that she didn’t think her mother was realistic about teen sex?

  • paperispatient

    whywhywhy have so many feminists decided that, because it’s easier for teen moms with money and supportive families, that the solution is to try to push teen pregnancy for less privileged teens?
    Which feminists have decided this? I’d have described abstinence-only sex educators and anti-choice activists as having a perspective closer to what you’re describing, not most feminists.

  • B. Atoureta

    Excuse me.
    But she is absolutely right.
    It is classist NOT to see her point.
    Women in this country – when having children as single women – have virtually NO support. NO maternity leave that’s meaningful, no real healthcare for those who can’t afford it, virtually bankrupt daycare centers – especially in poor neighborhoods.
    The real problem isn’t Bristol Palin pointing out that it is, indeed, 1000% easier for her to be a single mom because she’s wealthy.
    The problem is that more privileged white women don’t say it outloud.

  • allegra

    The Palins’ dumbass hypocrisy “isn’t pretty.”
    Also, this appears to be a foundation associated with the Candie’s shoe brand, so they can kiss my business goodbye. The website doesn’t say explicitly that the foundation promotes an abstinence-only approach, though there are a few hints that they prefer it, such as a front-page story that “health care reform has restored abstinence-only funding.” It does explicitly state that the foundation wants to make teens view pregnancy as “negative.” Because, as we all know, scare tactics have always been super-effective at mitigating social problems. :/

  • allegra

    That’s nice. Except abstinence-only education doesn’t really work, at least not in its current ideological, religious-wingnut form, so why the fuck would you put it on some kind of equal footing with comprehensive sex ed (which also, incidentally, teaches about abstinence)? It’s based on so much moralizing bullshit and lies that it shouldn’t be getting even a *fraction* of the funding it’s getting in the health-care bill.

  • Erikasf

    Why do ads like this always target GIRLS? What about the boys? Levi poses for Playgirl, and Bristol pledges abstinence. Huh? How about Levi doing a PSA talking about how he has been taken to court for child support. How about teen dads talking about how their wages will be garnished for the next 18 years? This ad looks like slut-shaming to me. How about some condom talk, and some gender neutrality?

  • April

    Before you get ten snarky responses that clearly show that no one actually read what you wrote, I’d like to say that I agree with you. The only thing that was wrong with that message was that it seemed to give the impression that the only option is to not have sex, rather than to avoid pregnancy, which can still be done while being sexually active.

  • rhowan

    Wait, what? Who exactly is trying to “push teen pregnancy for less privileged teens”? Because while I’ve seen a lot of talk about comprehensive sex ed to help prevent unplanned pregnancies, and support for teens who do become pregnant (whether they choose to continue the pregnancy or have an abortion), I’ve not seen any of this pushing pregnancy on poor kids that you speak of.

  • rhowan

    Unfortunately Bristol Palin is pretty firmly associated in the public consciousness with abstinence-only ideas. She’s a less than ideal spokesperson for a pregnancy prevention ad that doesn’t explicitly mention contraception if that isn’t the agenda they’re pushing.

  • Athenia

    I finally got around to watching the ad. ZOMG! LOVES IT! She’s like better than her mom….

  • TabloidScully

    Then, I would say that they made a serious mistake in selecting Bristol Palin to be a spokesperson. Because even if the company is renowned for promoting safe sex, Palin’s stance as a no-sex advocate naturally steals the spotlight.
    That’s why a lot of commenters are up in arms–Palin is basically saying, “It was fine for me to make a “mistake,” because I had privilege most teen mothers didn’t. But you shouldn’t make the same mistake because you likely don’t.”
    Essentially, whatever good intentions Candie’s might have had are ultimately lost in their choice of message-bearer, who comes across as rather hypocritical and arrogant.

  • TabloidScully

    I don’t think the argument is that because it’s easier for teen moms with money and supportive families, then the solution is try and push teen pregnancy for the lesser-privileged. Not even close–most Feminists advocate for fewer unplanned and unnecessary pregnancies to reach term because of the long-term consequences raising a child has.
    The issue with Palin is yes, we’re all aware that she was fortunate enough to come from a wealthy family that is so staunchly pro-life, they were willing to assist her through the pregnancy she wasn’t allowed to terminate. And she may “be glad she chose life” because she, through such financial means, most certainly had the power to choose.
    Furthermore, Palin’s approach in this ad is undeniable access. “I played around, but it’s okay because I had people around me willing to help me. You probably won’t, so don’t.” It’s incredibly hypocritical, never mind Palin has already made a small profit from touring, talking about being a teen mom while telling other teens not to do the same thing. It’s a little like Phyllis Schlafly traveling the country, telling women that if they pursue jobs and careers, they’re setting their marriages up for failure and harming their children–while she, herself, has both, and makes a damn good living telling other woman that they shouldn’t.
    More to the point, the ad’s implication is that abstinence is the ONLY solution to teen pregnancy, rather than a possible method of prevention. It’s one that she, herself, has called unrealistic. It would be like Michael Vick coming on television to discouraging animal abuse. Sorry, but a lack of credibility from the subject undermines the effectiveness of a message, so even if Palin’s intentions were of the very best caliber, she will never be the right advocate for ending the teen pregnancy rate with positive, healthy messages.

  • LalaReina

    I agree.

  • Opheelia

    Condoms are often neither cheap or remarkably easy to get. I think I paid $20 for the last “large” box I bought. That might not seem like a lot of money to an adult with a fair wage job, but to a teen without a job or parents who give allowances? (Or to adults who aren’t even making a living wage?)
    Furthermore, teens in rural or small communities run the risk of being seen by a classmate, relative, or family friend while purchasing condoms. If they’re in a physically, emotionally, and sexually safe relationship with their parents and community, that still might be enough to keep them from buying condoms. If they’re in an unsafe situation, it probably will.

  • puckalish

    Having just read these other comments, it’s interesting that the Candies Foundation is not abstinence only and, in that interview, she specifically cites condoms as one alternative to waiting for marriage.
    And, to be fair, she didn’t write the script (or I highly, highly doubt she did) and probably didn’t have much say in it. It’s a quick PSA…
    Now, it would be dope if she turned things around and actually pointed out how her situation is not only a cautionary tale for teens, but an indictment of the “abstinence-only” approach.

  • puckalish

    I really don’t want to like this comment… but I do… oh, am I a bad person?

  • puckalish

    I don’t think that statement actually puts abstinence-only education on equal footing with comprehensive sex-ed, though… It states that both abstinence and safe sex are paths to fewer teen pregnancies, which, to me, sounds a like like [part of] comprehensive sex ed, though their focus is entirely on pregnancy (hence the “part of”).

  • Dawn.

    Personally I appreciate that she acknowledges her class and family privilege. It is the only good thing about this PSA. Everything else, FAIL. Candie’s Foundation is an uber-creepy, abstinence-pushing organization and “Pause before you play” should be “Protect before you play.” That is an actually helpful message, douche-bags.

  • The Flash

    I dunno. A lot of those comments above seem to say that privilege shouldn’t be a determinant of whether or not you have a kid as a teenager.
    And that’s dumb. of course it should be a factor determining whether or not you have a kid. If you’re deciding whether or not to have a kid, your capacity to take care of the kid should be a huge factor in deciding whether or not to go through with it. Why are feminists defending the notion that underprivileged teens shouldn’t be warned off from having kids?

  • Mighty Ponygirl

    But there’s absolutely no indication that she’s *happy* she had Tripp.
    Which I think is an important distinction. More important than class is desire to parent. I’d much rather have a poor young mother who wants her child than a rich young mother who’s only having the kid out of obligation.
    This kid is going to have *issues* growing up. To be the real face of “don’t fuck up like I did, look at this little shit I’m saddled with!”

  • materialtruth415

    Okay, I agree that it’s a problem that the ad targets girls. I also agree that it’s a problem that it doesn’t address HOW you prevent teen pregnancy. I thirdly agree that the ad can come off as a bit full of it or condescending – “Trust me, it wouldn’t be pretty.”
    HOWEVER, what would you have her do? When she says how glad she is she chose life, everyone complains that it wouldn’t have worked if she wasn’t so privileged and she should know that. Now she ACKNOWLEDGES her privilege and everyone hates on her again? Maybe Bristol doesn’t follow through on her own logic – i.e. abortion may be the ONLY option for the less privileged – but let’s give her the benefit of the doubt and assume she is genuine about acknowledging her advantages, which is a good thing. What is a bad thing is she then tells others what to do without giving concrete alternatives, but that is partly related to the catchy-but-vague slogan.
    Also, I would like to point out that she’s only what, 19? How many of you are older than that? How many of you remember some fairly dumb things you did at that age?

  • Nikoel

    Yeah, but you’re missing the point where she says the only alternative if you don’t have her privilege is to not have sex. Within that full context, “twisting it around” is actually just interpreting the full message.

  • Nikoel

    That would be true if this were just an interview. Instead it’s a Public Service Announcement telling other teens what they should do to avoid being in her situation, which is just don’t have sex unless you come from privilege too. How can you completely miss the bullshit here?