In a Washington high school, a 17-year-old girl pretended to be pregnant for 6 ½ months while doing research on the statistics, rumors, and stereotypes that accompany teen pregnancy. The only people who knew the truth were her parents, the boyfriend, her best friend, and the school principal. The aspiring social worker had to lie to everyone else, including the boyfriend’s parents who were now expecting a grandson.
She only revealed this was a hoax at the end of the pregnancy by removing her faux belly during an assembly in front of her school. Of course, the real purpose behind this research was to widen the eyes of the students, adults, and peers on the discrimination of teen parents. Emotional messages were shared with the school as she endured months of judgment and discrimination from her peers. She reminded everyone that she had not changed, only others’ perceptions of her.
How do I feel about this? I find this girl extremely courageous to sacrifice her entire senior year for a research project whilst wearing a faux belly. I admire her commitment to the project. As a social worker that wants to help teen moms in the future, having that understanding of young parenthood will help her relate well with them.
As much as I would like to sit here and praise her decision, there are just certain things that do not sit well with me. Firstly, there are teen parents out there facing real and extreme stress because of their struggle through high school. Rarely are they recognized for their achievement in graduation and/or furthering their education. My admiration for someone pretending to be pregnant and graduating with an awesome grade on her research project is MUCH less than for the young parents who actually have to feel these emotions while they carry a real baby through the halls.
Teen mothers were being mocked so I wonder how she behaved as a pregnant teen. As we know through research, experience clashes with expectations to create cognitive dissonance. As she pretended to be a pregnant teen, she faced judgment and treatment for her “physical” changes. This causes an uncomfortable feeling within someone. Along with the self-confliction, the other people in these cases are affected too. During this process of emotional battle, did she help form new opinions – positive or negative – within her community on teen pregnancy?
Acquiring information about how teens experience discrimination during pregnancy is becoming easier. Off the top of my head, I can name 10 former teen mom’s experiences in school that are shared via web. You can literally google “teen moms in high school” and find a ton of quotable information from teen moms. This is a high school research project right? I do not see why live interviews and research that didn’t involve hundreds of human guinea pigs would not have sufficed.
As a former teen parent, I just find it wrong in so many ways to do what she did. I can’t say I support her for trying to understand how my shoes fit or what my life was like because those 6 ½ months were some of my easiest. Not having to undergo the realness of being kicked out of your home, needing to make it to doctor’s appointments, the physical changes, the emotional battle, and the financial struggles changes the way a teen pregnancy is portrayed. I’m assuming she had a supportive mother, boyfriend and principal through this process.
I would feel a bit offended as a teen mom in that school. There was a connection of trust and support within the group of young parents in my high school. Being betrayed through mockery would have offended me in so many ways. My life was being imitated for a senior research project.
I wouldn’t paint my skin, fake a handicap, claim to be a crack addict, pretend to be gay, or mislead people into thinking I’m someone I’m not for a research project.
Was it worth it though? What do you think?