May is National Teen Pregnancy Prevention Month. Groups could use this opportunity to educate our youth about sexual health by providing information about and promoting safer sex. Instead, the Candie’s Foundation has decided to release an ad campaign that shames teen mothers and devalues motherhood. These ads, which stigmatize mothers of all ages, are endorsed by various celebrities who seem to be clueless about the message they are sending to mothers across the globe.
One of the more appalling ads states: “You’re supposed to be changing the world…not changing diapers.” Since when did changing the world and changing diapers become mutually exclusive? Plenty of women of all ages have changed the world and changed diapers. Just take a look at some of the amazing young mothers that work with the National Latina Institute for Reproductive Health (NLIRH), such as Leydi and Gloria, who are powerful women and young mothers. The young mothers highlighted here will provide you with plenty of examples of young women standing up for their rights as young moms and working to make a collective change.
It’s important to think critically about the purpose of these ads. Are these ads really going to keep anyone, especially teenagers, from having sex? Likewise, are they teaching anyone how to have safer sex? It’s quite clear that these ads humiliate and stigmatize teen parents without offering the ideas, information, or resources needed to actually prevent teen pregnancies.
Shaming our youth into a state of fear and hate for teen parents is not an effective way to prevent unplanned teen pregnancies. Instead, we should focus on providing access to information and resources; we should ensure that all teenagers have access to comprehensive sex education programs. Radical idea, I know. Groups such as the Candie’s Foundation and the New York City government are so quick to use shaming tactics to attack young parents, and yet, emergency contraception and comprehensive sex education are still inaccessible for so many teenagers. We need to look at unplanned teen pregnancy as a societal issue. To prevent unplanned teen pregnancies, we need to address the broader educational, economic, and health disparities that contribute to these outcomes.
So, what can we do to prevent ads like this from popping up again while still addressing the issue of teen pregnancy in this country? First, sign this petition that requests a meeting with the founder of the Candie’s Foundation to discuss the harmful impact of their campaign and offer suggestions to improve their approach by increasing comprehensive sexual education, putting a halt on shaming tactics, and using messaging that supports and empowers all young people to make the best decisions for them. Then, educate yourself about these issues. The internet is full of great resources such as Sex Etc., Planned Parenthood, and Advocates for Youth that can help answer any sex-related questions. Lastly, join NLIRH’s counter-campaign and help us show the Candie’s Foundation that their ads are not the right way to prevent teen pregnancies. Use the hashtag #NoTeenShame on Twitter and Facebook to let the Candie’s Foundation hear what you have to say. Let’s break the cycle of shaming young parents and start supporting them.