Teen pregnancy and stigma (cont.)

03.07.2013, 7:20 PM

Earlier today I wrote about the NYC teen pregnancy ads.  Now I’m learing more.  Here is the ad campaign website.

Responding to my earlier post, several commenters said that the campaign’s messaging seems to single out girls.  But I’ve learned that some of the posters are clearly aimed at boys.  One features a cute baby who says:  “Dad, you’ll be paying to support me for the next 20 years.”  Another says:  “Think being a teen parent won’t cost you? NY state law requires a  parent to pay child support until a child is 21.”  So the overall message is clearly to both boys and girls.

Here’s another one of the ads (and this one blew me away):

NYC Teen Pregnancy Poster

First, it’s factually true.  Surely that ought to count for something!

Second, other than church-sponsored communications, this may be the first time I have EVER seen a public service message to young people about sexuality and childbearing that specifically suggests, “don’t have children before you are married.”  I can’t recall a single other instance in which the “m” word has been used in this way.

Almost all messaging on this issue has always said, “don’t have a baby while you are a teenager!”  To me, this new message is much stronger, much better.  Bravo, Mayor Bloomberg!  I mean, what are we as a society actually trying to say?  Don’t have a baby when you are 17 or 19, but when you are 20 or 22, no problem? How lame is that?  Meanwhile, most of the unwed child bearing in the U.S. today that is causing so much human suffering is not to teens at all, but to persons in their 20s.  So the whole idea of society being up in arms solely against “teen pregnancy” has always been something of a mystery to me, given the actual demographics in the country, and the actual living conditions of America’s poor and at-risk children.


50 Responses to “Teen pregnancy and stigma (cont.)”

  1. Terbreugghen says:

    David:

    Conservatives, religious or secular, have been saying exactly this kind of thing for decades. Look up Dr. Walter Williams’ “How Not to be Poor” for example, this poster is a verbatim restatement of something Dr. Williams noted a number of years ago. . . all to the boos and approbation of social progressives.

    Like you, I’m glad someone in NYC is at least attempting to lead the culture in this direction.

  2. Diane M says:

    The website for the campaign has some great message delivered by young parents.

    I like the fact that it’s aimed at young men as well as young women and I really don’t think it’s stigmatizing people.

    What I do wonder about is if there are other things that might help in addition to PSAs.

    My own experience makes me think that there is probably a large gap in terms of how much supervision teenagers get after school, depending on both family structure and income. So is there any data on this and teen pregnancy?

  3. Teresa says:

    I’ve also looked at the website, and I think it has some great info. Also, Diane, there is a link for after-school activities.

    The ad you posted here, David, seems to incentivize rather than shame teens. I agree with you and Diane this seems to be a good reaching-out to teens. Whoever crafted this appears to be quite aware of what and how to be invitational to young persons.

  4. zztstenglish says:

    Terbreugghen is 100% right.

    Conservatives (both religious and secular) have been saying this for years all to the jeers of social liberals. In fact, it became such a problem that the Feds passed legislation called TANF to combat the problem.

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Tanf

    A quote: (“legislation included reducing out-of-wedlock births and increasing rates and stability of marriages.”)

    Not to mention the state further incentivized marriage to encourage couples to stay together and raise their offspring. And the fact social liberals are now trying to delink marriage and procreation further demonstrates their infantile understanding of marriage and family.

  5. La Lubu says:

    It isn’t true that “social liberals” don’t send the message about waiting to get pregnant. Geez, every Planned Parenthood is filled with social liberals who are not only sending that message but providing actual, helpful tools to prevent pregnancy! Feminists especially encourage the importance of an education (and folks, high school is not “an education”—if that’s all you’ve got, it’s practically a guarantee of marginal employment, low pay, and no benefits) and how much easier it is to get that education if you aren’t trying to raise a child.

    Meanwhile, let’s get down to the brass tacks: this is a class issue, not a pregnancy issue. From the wikipedia on teen pregnancy:

    Teenage motherhood may actually make economic sense for young women with less money, some research suggests. For instance, long-term studies by Duke economist V. Joseph Hotz and colleagues, published in 2005, found that by age 35, former teen moms had earned more in income, paid more in taxes, were substantially less likely to live in poverty and collected less in public assistance than similarly poor women who waited until their 20s to have babies. Women who became mothers in their teens — freed from child-raising duties by their late 20s and early 30s to pursue employment while poorer women who waited to become moms were still stuck at home watching their young children — wound up paying more in taxes than they had collected in welfare

    Go re-read “Promises I Can Keep”. It says the same thing.

    Marriage does not get a person out of poverty. Low wages and marginal employment aren’t magically different for the married than they are for singles. I was married and poor. Marriage decreased my standard of living, because I had to be the “breadwinner” on decidedly non-breadwinning wages (prior to getting in to the apprenticeship). In fact, there was a near-daily argument about my refusal to get pregnant prior to reaching financial and employment stability. To be blunt, he thought having a child would make a man out of him—give him the “encouragement (he) needed to get off his (duff) and Do Something.” I thought if he or anyone else didn’t have enough oomph to get off their duffs and Do Something, they certainly weren’t in any position to raise a child. Anyway, I wasn’t going down on that Titanic.

    I going to keep saying it until I lose my voice: want more marriage? Then commit to structural supports for young families. Living wages for both parents. A variety of options (flextime, paid parental leave, daycare, etc.) to allow a realistic work/family balance (hint: work/family balance isn’t just for women). Full employment over the long term—not just hit-or-miss, on-again, off-again, only to completely drop out of the bottom in middle age due to age discrimination.

    And for crying out loud, can we quit talking about “market solutions”?! The “market” is why we have these problems to begin with—the “market” is the source of the problems. Large swathes of the population have been deemed throwaway people; surplus labor. And you’re going to clutch pearls about the fact that despite the economic devastation the majority of the nation lives with, that people still find joy in children? Still find joy in parenthood?

  6. Diane M says:

    @zztstenglish – TANF was passed under Clinton. It was not just a Republican program.

    TANF was essentially a program aimed at reforming welfare by making mothers get paid jobs. It cut the number of families on welfare, but there is still controversy over whether or not it was good for the families. It is definite that the children did not go into quality child care.

    What TANF did NOT do was to decrease the number of children born outside of marriage. That is on the increase.

  7. Diane M says:

    @LaLubu – I think Promises I Can Keep is slightly different from the study cited on Wikipedia. They suggest that teen moms are no worse off, not that they are better off. But your point remains.

    I still don’t see things the way you do, though.

    First because we are now seeing an increase in pregnancy outside of marriage for women who are a good step or two up from the women in Promises I Can Keep financially. They have jobs and some education and would as far as I can see be better off financially if they waited.

    Second because it seems to me that unless your partner is unemployed and not looking for work, having two parents really does make a difference financially. $35,000/year is barely squeaking by, but two $35,000 incomes are $70,000/year and over the median income. Even with stresses like periodic unemployment, no benefits, and rigid schedules, financially, you’re better off together – by a lot.

    I get that living in a difficult situation for a long time will make it harder to get along and increase your chance of splitting up. I just don’t see that as being rational most of the time.

    I think economics matters and contributes to people breaking up, I just don’t think it’s typically a choice that makes sense financially.

    I also think that there are probably things you can do to help the couple get through hard time even if you don’t have the power to give them really good jobs.

  8. Diane M says:

    @LaLubu – So I just want to put in a word again for the idea that a variety of options for work/family balance must include mothers and fathers who want to take time out of the paid workforce and/or work part-time.

    “A variety of options (flextime, paid parental leave, daycare, etc.) to allow a realistic work/family balance (hint: work/family balance isn’t just for women).”

    I see this over and over again. A list of the ways to make work better for women/mothers that leaves out what the majority of moms want – to be at home or work part-time.

    Women don’t all want the same thing. We can’t push one set of solutions that only works for the mothers who want full-time work.

    Until we get that and push for real work-family balance that includes everyone, feminism is going to be stalled.

  9. La Lubu says:

    First because we are now seeing an increase in pregnancy outside of marriage for women who are a good step or two up from the women in Promises I Can Keep financially. They have jobs and some education and would as far as I can see be better off financially if they waited.

    Women without college educations are generally seen as unmarriageable by men who—with-or-without a college education, are marriageable (“marriageable”: financially stable, emotionally mature, egalitarian-minded). So…wait for what? The longer they (we) wait, the fewer marriageable men are available for partnership—they’ve already been married off (remember, I live in the midwest. people marry earlier here). Also: “wait” as in how? No sexual activity? Because “older” (mid-twenties to early thirties) single mothers, including myself, have “waited”—waited for a marriageable man to come along. And then we wised up and realized we had to make do with what was left; say, a man who was pleasant to get along with but with a poor work ethic. Or who we didn’t have a whole lot in common with. Or who was divorced with three children from a previous marriage. Or with a previous history of substance abuse that one hopes doesn’t regenerate. Or, or, or. That’s what’s left after “waiting”.

    It doesn’t often work out. There’s a gap in expectations on several levels: the gap between men and women on the desirable age for marriage. The gap between men and women on egalitarian vs. head-of-household relationships. The gap between how many children to have and when. (and Hector? I’m going to beat you to the punch: dating older men doesn’t work. Too much of a generation gap, communication gap, and older men have outdated views on women). One of the reasons college-educated people have more success at marriage is because thee are fewer “gaps” in expectations.

    Even with stresses like periodic unemployment, no benefits, and rigid schedules, financially, you’re better off together – by a lot.

    But the reality is that two people without college educations cannot count on steady employment, ever. And then there’s the inevitable need to travel in search of employment, on resources that don’t allow for any form of family togetherness. And if things get bad enough, it’s a lot easier for a single person with a child to be welcomed into a relative’s home than a married couple with children—fighting with in-laws during “doubling-up”, lack of space (because contrary to popular myth, most USians don’t live in huge houses)…that doesn’t bode well for the future.

    In short: staying unmarried is a way of hedging one’s bets about the future. Staying in the same shape vs. taking a chance on a long-shot…a shot that is more likely to not work than it is to work. If you’re going to break up anyway, isn’t is better to do so without a hefty divorce bill?

    Women don’t all want the same thing. We can’t push one set of solutions that only works for the mothers who want full-time work.

    I agree. But the fact remains that most women do not want to spend extended periods out of the workforce. That’s where “paid parental leave” comes in. Flextime would mean the option to work full time on a schedule that works for the family—right now, families are working under constrained choices; since flextime isn’t an option, part-time might be all the works. But in my world, twenty-hours a week or so doesn’t cut it, and the jobs that offer that type of schedule are rock-bottom wages, no benefits, and no regular hours.

    I think it’s also worth noting that in my demographic, women do not want to rely on a man’s income. Women do not want to be that dependent—-it’s a losing proposition, with a very high divorce rate. I know it isn’t necessarily that way for highly-compensated, college-educated professionals, but it is for middle-income people. If you spend an extended period out of the workforce you might as well start planning for your divorce. Men have a strong preference for women who are bringing in an income where I’m from, and that isn’t likely to change. And if you’ve worked hard enough to get some schooling and training to get a career that’s worth something….people don’t want to leave that. It’s satisfying, and people need sources of satisfaction outside of just money, and outside of one’s parental status. Children grow up—then what? Returning to the workforce after an extended period out is difficult—employers see that as “deadbeat”. Then you’re left with marginal jobs. In my demographic, staying employed is the best option, even if it isn’t the option people would choose in a perfect world. We don’t live in the perfect world. We have to make do with realistic choices in the best ways open to us. That’s “open to us”, in our own demographic situation, not the demographic situation of the people with more realistic choices.

  10. JayJay says:

    I always learn so much from La Lubu.

  11. zztstenglish says:

    @Diane – Psst….guess what? Not everyone is a Republican or Democrat. And in case you didn’t know, a social liberal can be in any political spectrum.

    Next, whether it works or not is debatable but that’s a different topic. The point was the intent of the program by the State

  12. La Lubu says:

    Thanks, JayJay. I just…..you know, you can have an impact on reducing teen pregnancy. We already have—there’s less teen pregnancy now than there was a generation ago. I predict that efforts that increase accessibility (real accessibility, in terms of cost and being able to affordably access physicians and have BC covered under insurance) to birth control will even further decrease teen pregnancy.

    But extrapolating that to remaining childless until marriage is a non-starter under current structural economic conditions: meaning entire geographic areas economically abandoned to what amounts to permanent depression conditions, non-college-educated people economically marginalized, an increasing number of college-educated people unable to find employment (or employment that is compensated at family wages) along with being saddled by permanent usurious debt, the withdrawal of pensions of any other protective safety net, the destruction of community ties in the wake of all this, family ties being limited to Facebook since everyone is scattered to the four winds….

    And that’s without getting in to the cultural changes that opened up with the Civil Rights Act. Working class men have been abandoned by our economy, but working class women have more opportunities than we’ve had before. I’m an electrician—that’s not something that even *could* have happened in my mother’s generation. It is my perception (and was my mother’s perception, and that of both my grandmothers) that women are more respected now than in the past. That has changed the whole ball game.

    Because….people are generally pro-marriage. And along with that, people have certain expectations that should be met before one gets married, and certain other expectations that need to be met *within* marriage. That’s a good thing. I really don’t see many people with unrealistic expectations about marriage. What I do see is that in the absence of being able to find pride in being able to meet adult responsibilities, men who have been economically abandoned are seeking pride through toxic conceptions of masculinity.

    When I hear, “why don’t you wait?”, what I hear is “you didn’t wait long enough.” I also hear “why don’t you lower your standards? Why can’t it be enough that a man doesn’t hit you and works occasionally?”…and that makes me angry, because colege-educated women aren’t criticized for having the same standards I do. And finally, I also hear, “why not abandon your expectations of family life? If you aren’t willing to lower your standards for a partner, just accept being single and childless as a life path?”….which is demoralizing. It seems more hopeful to me to at least try to make something work and then fail.

    I’ll let you in on a little secret: even for single mothers, parenting is satisfying. Being a mother is a joyful experience. My daughter is a joyful person. Smartest decision I ever made was continuing my pregnancy. My life is much better with her in it, and I am a better person for her presence. Why do we accept such sentiments from married women, but not from unmarried women?

  13. Mont D. Law says:

    (I’ll let you in on a little secret: even for single mothers, parenting is satisfying. Being a mother is a joyful experience. My daughter is a joyful person)

    People forget this somehow. This first time I looked into my son’s eyes I understood what the meaning of life. He was my 42. I was marginally employed living in an unsafe partitioned Victorian house that smelled. Sometimes the food bank fed us. His mother was fragile and mentally ill. But the joy and the purpose is beyond what adjectives I have to describe. He’s 24 now. Kind and thoughtful and intelligent and talented and gainfully employed. He will be an stellar husband and excellent father. His priorities are sound and his heart is good. No Bach or DaVinci or Marlow created anything remotely equivalent. None of them are as satisfied with their creation as I am with mine.

    But, and I can”t stress this enough, I was raised white and upper middle class. I have a degree. I understand how the system works. The bureaucracy didn’t scare me. The paperwork was easy. Traveling between agencies wasn’t a problem. If I had to I knew how to appeal and I did have to. I had a support system with social and economic capital who had my back. I know how hard it was for me and I am not so lacking in compassion that I judge people who fail. I don’t confuse privilege with character or luck with moral probity.

  14. mythago says:

    Geez, every Planned Parenthood is filled with social liberals who are not only sending that message but providing actual, helpful tools to prevent pregnancy!

    But that doesn’t count, because those social liberals aren’t trying to prevent sex. Social conservatives are not all that interested in preventing teen pregnancy except as a byproduct of abstinence. Think I’m being unfair? Note how quickly David conflates teen pregnancy and teen motherhood. They’re not the same thing.

    I don’t think these posters are shame-y so much as pointless. Is any teenage girl with decent financial prospects going to be swayed by one of these posters? I find it hard to believe that if she had a choice about having sex, a choice about getting pregnant and a choice of carrying to term, that she is intelligent and foresighted enough to read these posters and think twice but not so intelligent and foresighted that any of this stuff would have otherwise occurred to her.

    And, surprise, there are no campaigns aimed at teenage boys suggesting they avoid impregnating a teenage girl.

  15. diane m says:

    @Mont D Law – none of what you say surprises me. I believe in maternal love /parental love. I believe that wonderful children can be raised despite poverty.

    I also believe that avoiding teen pregnancy and unmarried pregnancy is generally a good thing. It is a social goal worth working for. I don’t think that is a contradiction.

    @mythago – this campaign is also aimed at young men.

    The question of whether or not this campaign would work keeps coming up, but is there evidence on this? Do we really believe that telling people not to litter, set forest fires, drink and drive, text and drive, smoke, or jaywalk is just useless?

  16. La Lubu says:

    Do we really believe that telling people not to litter, set forest fires, drink and drive, text and drive, smoke, or jaywalk is just useless?

    People do not have a biological drive to litter, set forest fires, drink and drive, smoke, or jaywalk. People do have a biological drive to have sex.

    The average age that USians start to have sex is 17, but they aren’t getting married until their mid-20s. Birth control has to be an essential part of preventing pregnancy, since nowhere in the world, at no time in history, have people abstained from sex until their mid-20s. Europe has lower rates of teen pregnancy because of birth control. College-educated women rarely have children before marriage because of birth control (and not abortion—that’s a myth. College-educated women have far fewer abortions because they have far fewer unplanned pregnancies to begin with).

  17. Diane M says:

    @LaLubu – So many things to talk about.

    The first question I have is just about college educations. What exactly are you using the term to mean? The study on the increase of pregnancy outside of marriage is assuming a four-year degree.

    What’s confusing to me is that they have 60% of the population being people without (four-year) college degrees. Which to me would not leave all that many extra college-educated women to compete for the college-educated men. How bad is the imbalance between men and women in graduating from college?

    I’d like to hear from the people who did some to the studies on some of these questions.

    I’m still not convinced, though, about the economics of it all:

    “But the reality is that two people without college educations cannot count on steady employment, ever. And then there’s the inevitable need to travel in search of employment, on resources that don’t allow for any form of family togetherness. And if things get bad enough, it’s a lot easier for a single person with a child to be welcomed into a relative’s home than a married couple with children—fighting with in-laws during “doubling-up”, lack of space (because contrary to popular myth, most USians don’t live in huge houses)…that doesn’t bode well for the future.”

    All of that is true, but on the other hand, while there is employment, there is more money. And travel makes life hard, but there’s still a little more money. And two parents means two sets of in-laws who might give you some help.

    I’m not saying that economics have nothing to do with what’s going on. I’m just looking at it and saying, I don’t think they’re the whole story. People make decisions based on other factors like arguing or being apart and how they feel. That is not crazy, it’s just not deciding based on what makes the most sense economically.

    I think everyone who talks about the issue believes that economics play a role in the rate of divorce and never marrying. So far as I can see, there is agreement that economics are the most important factor.

    What I also believe, however, is that there are some factors besides economics. I think it’s worth trying to deal with those factors, too.

    That doesn’t mean that jobs don’t matter. Pushing for jobs as a way to support families and marriage makes sense.

    But on the other hand, if a young couple can survive living with in-laws, being separated, and times of unemployment and somehow stay together, they will probably end up better off financially than if they split up. It would be good for their children.

    I’m assuming they are people who love each other. Most children born outside of marriage are being born to couples who live together and are planning to stay together. It’s not mean to want to help them do this.

    So when I hear “strengthening marriage,” I hear, teach couples some conflict resolution skills. Give them a community that supports them and helps them to stay together when times are hard. Talk about marriage publicly in a way that promotes it instead of insulting it.

    I would also like to create the conditions that make marriage easier like jobs and education and strong communities. I don’t think that it has to be an either-or choice.

  18. Diane M says:

    @LaLubu – “People do not have a biological drive to litter, set forest fires, drink and drive, smoke, or jaywalk. People do have a biological drive to have sex.”

    Some people are addicted to cigarettes or alcohol. And while we do not have a drive to litter, most of us are inclined to be lazy.

    “Birth control has to be an essential part of preventing pregnancy, since nowhere in the world, at no time in history, have people abstained from sex until their mid-20s.”

    Well, I think people in the past abstained more than we think. Not everyone, but more people and more of the time. Certainly we have decreased the age at which women start having sex, the percentage of young women who have sex before marriage, the number of partners in a lifetime, and the range of what people do.

    In any case, what I think is more important is that NYC does provide sex education and birth control, etc. So why not advertise as well?

  19. Diane M says:

    @LaLubu – back to moms

    “I agree. But the fact remains that most women do not want to spend extended periods out of the workforce. That’s where “paid parental leave” comes in. Flextime would mean the option to work full time on a schedule that works for the family—right now, families are working under constrained choices; since flextime isn’t an option, part-time might be all the works. But in my world, twenty-hours a week or so doesn’t cut it, and the jobs that offer that type of schedule are rock-bottom wages, no benefits, and no regular hours.”

    The Pew poll found that most mothers would rather not work full-time. A chunk of them preferred being at home, a chunk of them preferred part-time work. (They were not all doing what they wanted, though.)

    Flextime would not be enough. It might be all that employers are willing to give, but I think we should be working for more.

    As far as part-time work having no benefits, etc., I think that’s one of the things that should change. That would make life much easier for parents and children.

    “women do not want to rely on a man’s income. Women do not want to be that dependent—-it’s a losing proposition, with a very high divorce rate.”

    I agree. But I also think that this is one of the casualties of a divorce culture. Women can not afford to be financially dependent if the man is going to be gone eventually. That means many mothers can’t have the lives they want to.

  20. Diane M says:

    @LaLubu – I do not mean to be telling you that you should wait or lower your standards.

    “When I hear, “why don’t you wait?”, what I hear is “you didn’t wait long enough.” I also hear “why don’t you lower your standards? Why can’t it be enough that a man doesn’t hit you and works occasionally?””

    What I am thinking is, here are all these women having children with men they live with and love and are planning to stay with. That doesn’t work out for them. Having the relationships end isn’t what they want, it isn’t good for their children, and it probably isn’t good for them. Couldn’t we do something about it?

  21. La Lubu says:

    All of that is true, but on the other hand, while there is employment, there is more money. And travel makes life hard, but there’s still a little more money. And two parents means two sets of in-laws who might give you some help.

    Please understand, I’m speaking from the perspective of a construction worker. Travel doesn’t mean “a little more money”; it merely means slowing the rate at which one is losing money. Working “at home” (in one’s jurisdiction) means making money. Travel is always a losing proposition (and don’t get me wrong—I’ve done it, plenty of it. But the cost of gasoline and such is at best a “wash” with unemployment. Mostly, it just slows the rate at which you have to dig in to savings to make ends meet). In-laws don’t provide cash assistance where I’m from—they’re in the same boat. The best they can do is provide a couch or air mattress to sleep on in the living room after their relatives lose their home (one of my ‘brothers’ moved his family in to his parent’s garage after they lost their home. In the winter. Space heaters and mattresses on the floor).

    There’s a popular expression: “whatever doesn’t kill you makes you stronger.” Except when it doesn’t. Sometimes, multiple stressors over time just break a person. Repeated instances of having the rug pulled out from under; people ask themselves, how can I keep on doing this? Why even bother? It isn’t irrational for someone to think that divorce is potentially going to reduce their stress.

    Marriage doesn’t bring the same resources to all couples. I know that there are people who receive a lot of help from in-laws, even if they aren’t in any sort of financial trouble (great illustration of that in “The Hidden Cost of Being African-American” by Thomas Shapiro). But that isn’t a feature where I come from. I know that some married couples have a real community of people. But again, that isn’t a feature where I come from, where people typically don’t know their neighbors and live far from extended family.

    I think in order for problems to be addressed meaningfully, we have to “drill down” to specific conditions experienced by people. In this scenario, a 12-year-old who is having sex (and not really consensually) needs a different intervention than a 17-year old having consensual sex, who just needs birth control. But teenagers need to be spoken to as if they aren’t stupid. They already know that if they graduate from high school, get a job at Burger King, and remain childless, they’re still going to be poor because the Burger King job isn’t going to get them out of poverty. And with a high school diploma, a poverty-wage job is all they’re going to get.

  22. La Lubu says:

    I agree. But I also think that this is one of the casualties of a divorce culture. Women can not afford to be financially dependent if the man is going to be gone eventually. That means many mothers can’t have the lives they want to.

    But it isn’t just related to divorce. It’s deeply entwined with the power dynamics of a marriage. Earning power means more negotiating power within the relationship. Power imbalances always result in problems and/or abuse of power, and paychecks are power. A sole-earner can always wield that power, and there’s no getting around that.

    Couldn’t we do something about it?

    Probably. But those solutions are not individual; they are societal and require financial and social commitments at the structural level. My daughter’s father was a good man before he got hooked on drugs (first prescription drugs for a workplace injury, then meth, then who knows what else, and definitely alcohol to wash it all down with after we broke up). That is a situation that could have had a potential solution. But it wasn’t a solution I could provide, and it wasn’t a solution he could have provided, because his kind of problem required professional help that he didn’t have access to. Drug treatment centers could help a lot of situations like that—but right now, what treatment centers are available aren’t accessible to the average person.

    We need to get down to the brass tacks and get over this Calvinist, puritanical, “tough love”, stoic, whatever-you-want-to-call-it toxic attitude of acting as if these problems are merely a lack of “will power” or are some kind of moral failing. Besides being wrong and unhelpful, that attitude contributes significantly to the problem as denial becomes the name of the game.

  23. Mont D. Law says:

    (We need to get down to the brass tacks and get over this Calvinist, puritanical, “tough love”, stoic, whatever-you-want-to-call-it toxic attitude of acting as if these problems are merely a lack of “will power” or are some kind of moral failing. Besides being wrong and unhelpful, that attitude contributes significantly to the problem as denial becomes the name of the game.)

    This times a billion. The denial part in particular. It just a way for the privileged to assure themselves it will never happen to them. If poverty is a failure of character then you’re not vulnerable and the poor don’t need help but punishment and shaming.

  24. mythago says:

    Women can not afford to be financially dependent if the man is going to be gone eventually.

    That was always true. If a woman is financially dependent and her husband dies or simply walks away from the marriage without bothering to divorce her, she’s in just as much trouble as if he filed for no-fault divorce. It is a myth that there was once a magical time where a woman could safely abandon her job and rely on her husband’s income and goodwill.

    And there are campaigns telling people not to smoke, litter, etc. that fall flat. I don’t understand your need to confuse ‘this campaign is ineffective’ with ‘it is impossible to encourage young people to delay parenthood.’

    Feminism is also going to stall as long as the question is always about women and what we do and don’t need to give up.

  25. Teresa says:

    La Lubu wrote:

    We need to get down to the brass tacks and get over this Calvinist, puritanical, “tough love”, stoic, whatever-you-want-to-call-it toxic attitude of acting as if these problems are merely a lack of “will power” or are some kind of moral failing. Besides being wrong and unhelpful, that attitude contributes significantly to the problem as denial becomes the name of the game.

    JayJay and Mont are right, La Lubu. I learn so much from your comments, and the above quote …. this times a billion.

    All the Posters in the world do not make up for job loss in America. Job loss that appears to be willful and permanent on the part of Corporate America. The collateral damage is the poor or the soon-to-be poor. And, we all know that collateral damage is considered an unintended but necessary consequence to a greater goal. I am somehow clueless as to what the greater goal is.

    @Diane, a decent education (which might be vocational school) leading to good jobs are most of the answer to poverty, e.g., poor, ill-educated, unwed mothers. The rest is fluff, in my opinion.

  26. ki sarita says:

    Women who marry older men are at especial risk, as fewer and fewer people have sufficient retirement funds- she will end up having to support both of them.

  27. diane m says:

    @LaLubu – I don’t buy the idea that if the guy is the breadwinner, you are stuck in a power imbalance and abuse of power. It’s what I thought when I was young, but what I have found is that it does not have to work that way.

    I am really frustrated by the suggestion that I am saying this is an individual problem with individual solutions or a matter of will power. It is not, even when you are talking about social solutions beyond fixing the economy.

    Granted that fixing the economy would be the best solution, is it bad for people to do anything else in the meantime?

    I am also – sorry – still not convinced that splitting up is helpful financially. More importantly it does seem to me that it would be a good thing for community groups to try to offer support (possibly including some financial help) to couples going through sleeping on sofas etc.)

  28. diane m says:

    @Mythago – I was not particularly thinking about the past, although I can see that my comment sounded that way.

    What I was thinking was that if you have a 75% chance of getting divorced as some communities do, it is simply foolish to cut back on your labor force participation. But if your chance of getting divorced is 25% or less, you can take the risk and even try to avoid it. This frees you to do things like work part time or be a minister or take a few years off.

    Death or desertion were always a risk, but never anywhere near as high as the modern divorce rate of 40% and certainly not near 75%.

    @ki sarita – You’re right, but I think a young woman who marries a much older man will probably chose one with plenty of savings.

    If you look at the past, this was a better risk for women to take. Now it’s duskier for some women.

  29. diane m says:

    Riskier for some women. (Thank you autocorrect.)

    And it was supposed to refer to working part time etc.

  30. Diane M says:

    @Teresa – I hope you don’t mind, I’m bringing this over to this thread because it seems related.

    “We probably all know middle class teen girls who got pregnant, didn’t abort, and certainly did not end up poor. Why is that do you suppose? What were the factors that allowed these teen girls to continue with life relatively unscathed?”

    Okay, surprisingly, I actually don’t. But I do know young women who got pregnant in college or soon afterwards and had the babies. Two of the three got married. I don’t know what happened to all three, but I think you’re right – they probably didn’t end up poor. The one I do know of got divorced about ten years later and eventually remarried. She is far from poor. I would guess that she is much richer than I am.

    In her case, it helped to have an education and a husband with an education, even though they eventually got divorced.

    I can also imagine a teen girl from a more middle class background with parents who helped her get through school and get a job so that she didn’t end up poor, although I think she would probably end up poorer than she would otherwise. For middle class girls, teen pregnancy can be costly because they have something to lose.

    But here’s the other story I know of – a young woman from a non-middle class background gets a full scholarship. She is on the road to success and a well-paid job. She gets pregnant, has the baby, leaves school, and loses the scholarship.

    For her, pregnancy was a disaster.

    So to me the lesson is, yes, money makes a huge difference, but getting pregnant can make it impossible to get ahead, particularly if you are not rich.

  31. Diane M says:

    @mythago – “And there are campaigns telling people not to smoke, litter, etc. that fall flat. I don’t understand your need to confuse ‘this campaign is ineffective’ with ‘it is impossible to encourage young people to delay parenthood.’”

    I’m asking why are we sure that this campaign won’t work? Do we have evidence that it won’t? That all campaigns don’t work? If we think it can’t possibly work, why do we have other similar campaigns for other causes?

    I don’t think it’s particular civil to suggest that my argument is a “need to confuse” anything. I don’t think I did anything in my argument that confused anything, but, if you think there is another way to encourage young people to delay parenthood, what is it? And why not try signs about the costs of teen parenthood?

  32. Diane M says:

    @mythago – I don’t think this is about women needing to give something up. I think this is about women being able to get what they want, which will be different things for different women.

    “Feminism is also going to stall as long as the question is always about women and what we do and don’t need to give up.”

    Most mothers don’t want to work full-time, at least not their whole lives. They would like to be able to work part-time or stay at home.

    I think the reason feminism is stalled right now is that we haven’t recognized this. Women vote with their feet. It doesn’t work to keep telling them that they shouldn’t do it, they need to work in case their husband dies or that they should make their husband do more chores (not you, but the recent debate), or that everyone needs to split everything 50-50 (generally after hiring someone to a large chunk of the work).

    We need to recognize that there are different ways to balance work and family. Then respect them, support them, provide different paths for this to happen.

    I actually think if we can do this, it will be much easier to get men to “lean out” too.

    I mean try turning some of the arguments around – men, if you are dependent on your wife, she might die or leave you, you can’t afford to not work or to work part-time. Men, the person who is the breadwinner has more power and may abuse it, so don’t stay home. Men, the divorce rate is so high, you better not risk it. (Not to mention some of the nastier arguments like Linda Hirshman – Men, the tasks of housekeeping and child rearing are not worthy of the full time and talents of intelligent and educated human beings.)

    Arguments like that don’t make it more likely that a man is going to be willing to work part-time or take a paternity leave or even do more around the house.

  33. Teresa says:

    Diane asked:

    Granted that fixing the economy would be the best solution, is it bad for people to do anything else in the meantime?

    Diane, it’s never bad for people to help those in trying circumstances. How that’s done is the problem. I think we’re looking at levels of assistance. Job creation is more an economic policy driven by government. Small business owners in depressed areas have a rough time keeping their doors open.

    You mention Community as an avenue for assistance. Diane, in economically depressed areas, such as Detroit, there is little Community to reach out to. The few volunteer groups available are suffering from lack of funds or regulations that stifle their outreach. The best that can be managed is some soup kitchens that remain available. Senior/Disabled programs, such as Meals-on-Wheels, are undergoing cutbacks, at least in the Detroit area. Finally, most large faith groups have fled Detroit for the suburbs … and, not the cheek-by-jowl suburbs, I might add.

    So, yes, Diane, I think you have a valid point. If we don’t seem able to fix the economy, and community is apt not to have the resources … perhaps, the Posters will help someone(s). And, helping even a few is far better than helping none. Plus, those few may help others as some already are, at least by their testimony on the website.

    It’s wrong, as you say, Diane, to do nothing. Skepticism should not drive the bus on helping people.

  34. Teresa says:

    Diane wrote:

    But here’s the other story I know of – a young woman from a non-middle class background gets a full scholarship. She is on the road to success and a well-paid job. She gets pregnant, has the baby, leaves school, and loses the scholarship.

    For her, pregnancy was a disaster.

    So to me the lesson is, yes, money makes a huge difference, but getting pregnant can make it impossible to get ahead, particularly if you are not rich.

    Great example, Diane. One that I have not encountered nor thought of, but certainly can’t be an infrequent one. Perhaps, if this young woman had seen a Poster such as these, she might have actually done what David talked about, and what you’ve been trying to get us all to see … engaged some critical thinking and chosen a different path and not gotten pregnant … and, thus not stayed poor. She could have walked away from her poverty.

    Nicely done, Diane. This one example … game, set, match.

  35. Mont D. Law says:

    (Granted that fixing the economy would be the best solution, is it bad for people to do anything else in the meantime?)

    Um, I think that is what we are trying to debate here. Many of us are arguing that this campaign is ineffective and saying why. We are arguing that previous campaigns based on similar principles, shame and predictions of doom have failed. I would suspect all of us making these arguments could offer opinions on how the money could be better spent on meantime solution. No one is arguing nothing should be done, we’re arguing that things like this campaign are worst than nothing. They are not neutral they make things worse.

  36. Teresa says:

    Diane, you’ve just converted me from my prior position of being very cynical and skeptical about these Posters. And, you’ve also helped bolster David’s position on poverty/pregnancy … pregnancy/poverty as a 2-way street, which I didn’t see nor understand … and, quite frankly, I wasn’t buying into it.

    First, a question, Diane … are you being paid by David or Jonathan *smile*

    Second, an observation: you did it in exactly the way Jonathan talked about. You weren’t threatening, at all. And, you reached into my “care … concern” values. Your sentence: “… is it bad for people to do anything else in the meantime?” So, now I’m really listening to you, Diane. You’ve got a point I can buy into.

    Now, you follow that simple sentence up in a further comment with your splendid example of the poor, young lady with a scholarship.

    @David, would you like Diane to instruct you in the fine art of persuasion?

  37. mythago says:

    This one example … game, set, match.

    Theresa, I am not sure what you mean by this. Diane presented one anecdote of a situation where having a baby impeded a young woman’s financial progress; you speculate from this to the possibility that IF the young woman had seen these posters she MIGHT not have gotten pregnant and had the baby and raised it herself; therefore Diane wins the Internet, QED. I’m….not actually following this logic, can you elaborate?

    Diane, I don’t think it’s particularly civil to present a false dilemma (applaud these posters or do nothing) and accuse those who decline the former of supporting the latter.

    And yes, let’s turn the arguments around. Men are not exhorted to stay home after paternity leave, or told that they really don’t make much money once child care and commuting costs and so on are deducted from their salary, that they should look at different work-life balance….all of this is something women are supposed to think about and manage. That doesn’t strike me as progress.

    I understand what you were saying about the high risk of divorce in some communities. But you’re forgetting that in the past, financial dependence wasn’t simply a “risk to take”. It was enforced by law and custom.

  38. Teresa says:

    Mythago asked:
    Diane presented one anecdote of a situation where having a baby impeded a young woman’s financial progress; you speculate from this to the possibility that IF the young woman had seen these posters she MIGHT not have gotten pregnant and had the baby and raised it herself; therefore Diane wins the Internet, QED. I’m….not actually following this logic, can you elaborate?

    My prior position regarding the Posters was that they were a waste of money, and would accomplish nothing. I never, particularly, thought they would make matters worse. And, still, don’t understand that last piece of logic. Also, I never saw them as particularly shaming.

    Also, I didn’t believe there was a B to A feedback. A, you’re poor … B, you’re unmarried, pregnant … back to A. I was much of the opinion that La Lubu explained excellently, and still see that as most likely. Since the loss of jobs appears permanent, I don’t particularly see much upward class mobility, only downward. So being poor, unmarried and pregnant, in my mind, wasn’t any different than being poor, unmarried and not pregnant.

    Diane asked isn’t doing something better than doing nothing. Posters are certainly better than nothing. I never saw them as harmful.

    Then the example of a poor, young woman with a full-ride scholarship to college with good job possibilities. She can leave poverty behind. She’s certainly got ‘smart ability’ to have gotten a scholarship. The world’s her oyster … but now she’s unmarried and pregnant. Back to A.

    So, I think, what if that poor, young woman saw a Poster that made her think twice. What if she saw that Poster, and asked for help from someone to talk things over: a counselor at college. What if she visited the website. The website is really well done, tasteful, invitational, with stories, places to call, etc. What if it brought her up short, and engaged her critical reasoning enough to choose another way.

    Yes, Mythago, there are ‘what ifs’ in this scenario. But, something is better than nothing … and, I’d rather go with ‘what if’ than with nothing.

    And, yes, for me, the example of that young woman won the argument in proving me wrong on my opposition to the Posters and for thinking David’s reasoning was wrong. It was: game, set, match … for my way of thinking.

  39. mythago says:

    Diane asked isn’t doing something better than doing nothing.

    Isn’t doing something effective better than doing something pointless? Diane’s question is a false dilemma, in that it assumes the choices are a) these posters or b) nothing. Do you really believe that?

    If we’re making up “what ifs” and treating them as checkmates, I guess I can do that too: the girl, before she got pregnant, saw Planned Parenthood advertisements, went on the Pill and so never got pregnant in the first place. Or, the girl saw an advertisement from an adoption agency, and when she got pregnant, had all of her expenses paid for by the adoptive family, and went on to complete her scholarship because she wasn’t trying to raise the baby as a single mother.

    Game, set and match, right?

  40. Mont D. Law says:

    (If we’re making up “what ifs” and treating them as checkmates, I guess I can do that too:)

    What if the girl with the scholarship found herself pregnant and gave it up because she saw the poster and knew there was no point in trying.

    What if the pregnant scholarship girl saw the poster, decided to have an abortion and got killed in a car accident on the way to the clinic. The poster killed her.

  41. La Lubu says:

    Most mothers don’t want to work full-time, at least not their whole lives. They would like to be able to work part-time or stay at home.

    Which is why I mentioned paid parental leave. Most women do not want to spend extended periods of time out of the workforce, because it effectively makes them unemployable at anything other than temp work or unskilled labor when they seek to return. Look at the study fannie quoted. If an egalitarian relationship wasn’t an option, and given the choice of a fifties-style marriage or single motherhood, most of the women picked single motherhood. They (we) would rather have economic struggle than interpersonal struggle, identity struggle, and lack of respect. It’s an unpopular opinion, but women get as much satisfaction out of work as men do. We don’t want to give that up. I’m all for a conversation on the failures of recent feminist movement in the US, but from my perspective those failures stem from institutionalized racism in the movement, deep classism and the abandonment of working class and poor women, cultural irrelevance to anyone other than upper middle class white women, and ongoing marginalization of lesbian women (also known as “the lavender menace”). It isn’t because feminists aren’t giving homemakers their due. I’ve sat around too many break tables for too many years with the older generation—if anyone isn’t giving homemakers their due, it’s their own husbands.

    Look, I don’t think anyone disagrees that getting pregnant as a teenager makes ones life more difficult for the next several years. But those posters are phrased in such a manner as to imply that teens are naturally abusive and neglectful mothers, which is going to turn off a lot of young women even if they aren’t thinking about getting pregnant. And let’s be frank—most of them aren’t. Most teens that get pregnant are older teens who got pregnant accidentally. Teens who’ve had “abstinence only” education are especially susceptible to this, as they’ve been told that condoms are as ineffective as nothing. These posters are worded in an insulting manner, not just a negative manner. People—and especially teens—-don’t respond well to that. People do respond well to positive messages, such as how teens that don’t get pregnant have a greater chance of graduating from college. Instead of showing crying children and intimating that if a teen becomes a mother she will inevitably abuse and neglect her child, how about showing a smiling young woman with a college degree, and information on the poster about birth control, with the link on where to find it. These posters are pretty cagey about birth control.

    And that’s a damn shame, because the teens most likely to postpone sexual activity and the least likely to get pregnant before marriage are also the teens that received positive messages about both birth control and sex. Not the ones that were shamed or told they should be ashamed for having sex.

    There is a precedent for posters of this nature being ineffective: various anti-drug abuse campaigns. Marijuana as a “gateway” drug, and other “reefer madness” type of spin. Teens laughed at that. They won’t laugh at this; they’ll be angry and defensive and figure that since you disrespect them that much nothing else you have to say matters either. Teens don’t want to get pregnant, so why not just post a mountain of Planned Parenthood posters, and target them to specific neighborhoods so you can post the address of the nearest clinic, and a QR that will provide a map and hours? I’ve often said that the best delivery might be picking up BC at the school nurse’s office (hey—-it works for college campuses; that’s why the pregnancy rate of college women is so low).

    Now, if you want to address the small percentage of teens who aren’t having accidental pregnancies, that’s a harder nut to crack. Then you’ve got to deal with entrenched poverty and few realistic future options and the role of fatalism as a coping mechanism for people with little social or institutional power. And it should go without saying that any form of poster no matter how worded is going to be ineffective for this population.

  42. Diane M says:

    I just wanted to throw out another example: high school drop-outs.

    Poverty is no doubt a huge factor in whether or not someone will drop out of high school. (I don’t know the studies in this area, but I’m willing to bet it is true.)

    If you drop out of high school, you increase your chances of being poor.

    What is interesting to me about this, is that we don’t have trouble saying this. We have advertising campaigns aimed at keeping children in school. We don’t have any trouble telling them that they need to stay in school if they want a job.

    Yet many of the arguments that apply to teenage motherhood could be applied here. Dropping out of school is linked to poverty, lack of jobs, lack of fathers, dangerous neighborhoods, and scary schools. Changing those things would probably do more than a public service announcement can hope to.

    Why don’t we see blogs about how it’s terrible to stigmatize high school drop-outs? Why isn’t anyone worried that we’ll make people who’ve already dropped out feel bad? Why aren’t the ads attacked for being ineffective? Why no comments about how this is Puritanical, tough-love or a way to blame the poor rather than helping them?

    There’s something about suggesting that teens shouldn’t get pregnant that upsets people more than suggesting that teens shouldn’t drop out of school.

    I’m not sure why this is, but I think it must be something social or emotional, not just reason and logic. My own best guess is that a) there is a history of single motherhood being a contentious issue between conservatives and liberals and people are reacting to the history as well as the immediate issue and b) there are many middle class single mothers who don’t want to be criticize, but there are very, very few middle class high school drop-outs.

    A few PSA about high school graduation. Some of them are over-the-top negative, some are more positive. Skimming the web, some of the most negative ads are done by high school students (as school projects).

    We promise to graduate campaign:
    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=JCgoZzVeQVk

    High school drop-outs will die young – think about that when you are considering dopping-out:
    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=352U74bL1Q8

    What are your plans for the future ad (funny):
    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=9yVFxjmIg1E

    think again about dropping out:
    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=J2IOVWoENgI

    impressive kids who don’t drop out:
    http://www.allmyfaves.com/blog/video/undroppable-social-media-campaign-battles-high-school-drop-out-rates/

    high school drop-outs go to jail:

  43. Diane M says:

    @Mont D Law – This is one of my frustrations: “Many of us are arguing that this campaign is ineffective and saying why. We are arguing that previous campaigns based on similar principles, shame and predictions of doom have failed.”

    So far, I have heard the argument over and over that the campaign is ineffective, but I have not actually seen evidence on this. I have asked the question a number of time. It is a real question, I am not just trying to use it as an argument.

    People have said other factors like poverty are the critical ones. Sure, but why not a poster, too?

    People have said stigma is bad – but do we know it doesn’t work?

    And I keep coming back to, if we think posters are so ineffective, why do we use them for other issues?

  44. Diane M says:

    Mythago – I and the women I know were not exhorted to stay home. We were not told that the money we would earn wasn’t worth it.

    We were given the message that women should work. That dropping out would hurt us and our families. That dropping out was betraying feminism or misusing our education.

    We did it anyway. We did not do it because we were fooled into it or pushed into it. We did it because there are some good reasons it works better than full-time work while raising children.

    I am not against mothers working full-time. For many mothers it is the best choice – and not just for financial reasons.

    However, for many mothers staying home or working part-time is the best choice.

    We need to come up with a social system that support women who do things either way. And if we can do that, we will be more able to get men to do things either way.

  45. Diane M says:

    LaLubu – Do you have a study showing this? Because the biggest study I know of by Pew found that most mothers would prefer something more than parental leave.

    “Most women do not want to spend extended periods of time out of the workforce, because it effectively makes them unemployable at anything other than temp work or unskilled labor when they seek to return. ”

    Keep in mind that working part-time is not being completely out of the paid labor force, but it is also not working full-time and getting six months or a year off.

  46. ki sarita says:

    as to the question of whether “most women” – or men, for that matter- would rather go out to work or not- I think it really depends on what kind of work. If we’re talking about drudgery which many low paid jobs are- most people would rather stay home if they could.

  47. Teresa says:

    Busy thread.

    Granted everyone, ‘what ifs’ are myriad. Without being condescending to any other ‘what if’ choices, somehow I started to see things in a positive light. I, also, spent some time on the Poster website.

    I’ll ask some question back at you: have you been to the Poster website, and listened to any of the stories? What if it proves to be effective, what will you say? Yes, it’s a ‘what if’ question. But, try to actually go with the question.

    Last question: we’re adults here conjecturing what we think teens are thinking when they see these Posters. To the parents among us … what would your children think about the Posters and the website? Without prefacing anything, prompting in anyway … what would your children say?

  48. JayJay says:

    Melissa Harris-Perry had a scathing commentary on the poster campaign. She began by pointing out that teen pregnancy in NY is very low compared to where it was ten years ago and vociferously objected to the poster showing the child in effect shaming his or her single mother. She observed that single mothers have done heroic work in adverse circumstances.

    The question of whether mothers should stay at home transcends social class. Stay-at-home fathers are given short shrift, but as I know from personal experience dropping out of a career to care for children involves a sacrifice. I made a decision to stay-at-home to care for our son. I don’t regret doing so, but I realize that I will have a very difficult time resuming an academic career. I suspect the same is true of other stay-at-home Dads.

  49. mythago says:

    Diane, I have been both a full-time at-home parent and the sole breadwinner. So when you talk about what mothers want or need, please do not assume you are the only one here who has had to make those choices.

    We will not have a social system that supports women either way until we have a social system that also asks men to make those choices. You won’t have that system as long as we assume that staying home is fine for women but kind of beneath men, who are supposed to be doing the much more valued work of earning money.

    Re the campaign, what-ifs do not show that this campaign is effective. And it amazes me how many people sort of pat La Lubu on the head and say, wow, you have some nice points about economic and social issues, but we like our posters.

  50. Teresa says:

    Mythago said:

    And it amazes me how many people sort of pat La Lubu on the head and say, wow, you have some nice points about economic and social issues, but we like our posters.

    Being ‘one of the many people’ that I assume you’re referring to, Mythago, I don’t think “I sort of patted La Lubu on the head”. I happen to agree with much of what she says … and, she happens to be an excellent writer. Because I disagree with her (or others) on the Poster topic is in no way diminishing anything I’ve said concerning her point of view.

    Mythago, I don’t see life as an either/or proposition. And, I most definitely do not have to be lockstep with anyone’s overall, arching view of life to see value in what they’re saying. I’m sure you agree with this.

    Additionally, seeing Posters as good, as somehow violating some feminist principle; I simply don’t understand.

    Is seeing the Posters as good … uncivil, Mythago?