The tao of Bristol – Yours for $30,000. No, really.

19 May

In case you missed it, word broke yesterday that Bristol Palin, teen-mama and daughter of former Alaska governor, Sarah Palin, has decided to hit the speaker’s circuit. For a mere $15,000 – $30,000 (USD) the 19-year old will share her pearls of wisdom regarding life as a teenage mother and reflect upon her sexual indiscretion, not to mention share her opinions of teen sexuality and her stance on the “pro-life” debate.

Are Britol's pearls of wisdom worth $30.000 a pop?

In the spirit of full disclosure, I don’t really care for the Palin family. Still, in the spirit of also not turning this post into some sort of personal witch-burning, I’m going to try to be diplomatic about this as possible.

I do not judge Bristol Palin for getting pregnant at such a young age and I think she is, to a certain extent, brave in her choice to keep the baby. Remember my rant about taking responsibility for your actions?

But as much as Bristol is taking a step in the right direction, she still falls short of getting an A for her efforts in my books.

If absolutely nothing else, Bristol is speaking from experience, and it’s an experience that young women everywhere can really learn a thing or two from. Premature motherhood is fucking scary, no matter who you are or where you come from. This is an issue that so many young women face, whether they too are/have been teen mothers or are simply concerned about teen pregnancy in general. Being a young woman herself and speaking from her own experience makes her relatable and, let’s face it, it is always better to hear someone speak from experience than to listen to some blow-hard advocate preaching poorly informed opinions from a soapbox.

But is it worth paying up to $30,000 to hear? You may as well save your money and pop in Juno or watch a marathon of 16 and Pregnant. Her story is one that young women can only benefit from hearing but charging that kind of money does not make in accessible in the least. And seriously, what kind of message does that send? Irresponsibility = lucrative, money-making speaking gig? Yeah, she learned her lesson alright.

Also, let’s take into account that Bristol has never had to worry about being disowned by her family or having to struggle financially to bring up baby Tripp. Yes, her ordeal was painfully public. Yes, Levi Johnson is an epic tool. But all in all, as far as teen pregnancy goes, the little lady has it pretty good. Her experience is relatable only in its most basic of elements: she got knocked up as a teenager. The majority of young moms don’t have the luxury of having a powerful and wealthy family that will help lessen the burdens that an unexpected child can bring. It’s all well and good for her to flaunt her decision to keep her baby, but how realistic is her situation?

Probably the biggest point of contention for me is the focus on abstinence as the answer. I recognize that Bristol isn’t the type of gal who doesn’t believe in safe sex at all and she isn’t mistaken in the fact that one simply cannot have a baby if they aren’t banging in the first place. But pushing abstinence as the be-all-end-all of answers to teen pregnancy just seems too naïve for me, especially when it’s coming from someone who’s been there.

If you, as an individual, choose to wait until you’re married, then all the power to you. Of course, I’d feel a lot better about the method if I believed that the majority of people did it because they truly believed in waiting and less because other people had convinced them it was the “right” thing to do. Because, the thing we need to remember is that sex (the act and the culture) is a very important part of being human. It’s not some deviant and shameful thing but a very natural and powerful instinct, and no amount of preaching by parents, advocates or religious and political leaders is going to change that (not to mention that the majority of those people haven’t practiced what they’ve preached anyway).

Wanting young people to be safe and make good choices about sexuality is great. Demonizing sexual behaviour and not properly educating them about it is not. I hate to get all Rachel Berry on you here, but the fact is, you can’t just tell people “don’t do it” when that’s what they’re hardwired to do and expect things to end well.

Glee, episode 2 – Showmance:
Rachel: The only way to deal with teen sexuality is to be prepared. That’s what contraception is for.
Quinn: Don’t you dare mention the C-word!

Because, in the majority of case, what happens? Hormones happen, that’s what. And then what happens if young people aren’t educated on sexuality and made to feel ashamed about it? Sometimes, babies. Or disease. Maybe even a little discrimination or low-self esteem or abuse while we’re at it. The cold hard truth is that sex happens. Preparing young people for it instead of locking the topic in the attic like some unwanted step-child will help them make informed choices and help avoid a whole lot of regret. Bristol Palin = case in point (after all, practicing safe sex “most of the time” doesn’t seem well informed at all. Accidents happen but choosing to take risks is what it is).

Bristol is more than entitled to her opinions on this matter and I can’t hold that against her. I’m a little worried about how much of this is, in fact, her own opinion and how much of it is related to mommy-dearest’s reputation but again, let’s give her the benefit of the doubt here. But I honestly believe that she won’t be doing her peers any favours if she opts to regurgitate archaic beliefs and misinformed ideologies. Ultimately, your $30,000 is better spent on proper educational programs and resources anyway.

Now, who’s down for some Juno? I’ll bring the popcorn.

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