You’ve likely seen or heard about the story of a young lady who faked her pregnancy for a school project to study the stereotypes, rumors & statistics that accompany teen pregnancy. I’ve read varying comments posted on different websites, from folks commending her bravery to expressing disdain for the lying she “had” to do in order to pull off her project.
There are millions of cases of teen pregnancy each year…certainly we could have taken merely a handful of the “real” teen moms who are either currently going through their pregnancy or who have already had their children and studied or reported on their “real” experiences. All this project did was highlight (read regurgitate) things we already know; most teen moms, regardless of their contributions and dreams prior to pregnancy, are lumped into a box, dismissed and cast away…forever relegated to the term ‘teen mom,’ nothing less and certainly, nothing more.
To me, this project was intrinsically flawed from the start. To experience teen motherhood and all that goes along with it (the stereotypes, the rumors & the statistics) is, well, to actually be a teen mom…no ifs, ands or buts about it. If this young lady, in her own mind, knew that she was, in fact, not a teen mom all along…then she couldn’t really understand the mental anguish and physical loneliness that a teen mom feels when her friends turn their backs on her…when a mother expresses her disgust and disappointment with her…when a boyfriend tells you he no longer wants you…or “that” baby.
And what about the real teen moms at her school, how did they feel when she removed her faux belly (conveniently, just before prom)? As Natasha Vianna writes in her post on The Pushback, “there is [typically] a connection of trust and support within a group of young parents.” I can’t begin to imagine the feeling I would’ve gotten sitting in the assembly room watching another “young mom” with whom I’d confided and connected, reveal to me that what I thought we shared or had in common, was merely a project. Teen moms can’t just remove their bellies, not even for prom!
The real life aspect is a necessary component for gaining a true understanding of many situations…i.e. death of a child, divorce, fame and teen pregnancy. To say that she understands what teen moms go through is to say that a millionaire posing as homeless understands what it means to be poor. Simply knowing that at any given moment he could pull the plug on the project, jump into his Rolls Royce and ride off into the sunset…or to any one of his residences where a professionally prepared 5-course meal would be waiting – a luxury not even one homeless person is afforded – doesn’t allow for “true understanding” of what it really means to be poor and homeless. In reality, it makes you more knowledgeable, sympathetic even and unfortunately, that is the very sentiment I believe many people will take from this project. Teen moms don’t need and aren’t looking for sympathy…rather; we need respect, encouragement and inclusion.
In the end, this really comes down to one question; did the means justify the end? If her intentions were truly limited to studying the stereotypes, rumors & statistics that accompany teen pregnancy…then I’d have to say no. This experiment was completely unnecessary and unless this experiment will incite respect, encouragement and inclusion for teen moms in her community, her means and methods may have done more harm than good. However, if her intentions had been more centered on the implications of being judgmental and stereotyping…then, I would be more inclined to say yes. Whether we’re talking race, religion, sexuality, gender, weight, class or teen pregnancy…judging and stereotyping is wrong and completely unjust.
When she removed her belly and revealed to her classmates the findings of her experiment, everyone’s perceptions of her may have changed. Though, I wonder if the same is true for the real teen moms who, although prom is drawing near, cannot remove their bellies.