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Magazines romanticize teen motherhood

Commentary Editor

Published: Thursday, September 9, 2010

Updated: Friday, August 23, 2013 16:08

We all have our guilty pleasures in life. When I'm having a particularly off day, two things are guaranteed to make me feel better: 1) a new magazine, or 2) getting into my pajamas and watching an episode of the hit MTV show, "Teen Mom." Now in its second season, the show has become increasingly popular as we continue to follow the lives of four teen moms and their struggles to raise children while still attempting to maintain a normal teenage life.

Though the television show is effective in portraying the unforgiving realities and consequences of having unprotected sex, the glossy magazines featuring the moms and their babies speak otherwise, glamorizing teen pregnancy.

This past month, the stars of "Teen Mom" have exploded onto newsstands, making the front covers of People, US Weekly and OK! Magazine. The moms are shown holding their babies and smiling at the camera, where they have no doubt been through wardrobe, hair and make-up before taking part in the photoshoot. The photos don't show what the moms look like when it's 3 a.m. and their baby is screaming or what it's like to struggle to find time to study for the GED because they had to drop out of high school.

They don't show what it's like to not only be a teen mom, but to also be a single mom when your boyfriend decides it's more fun to be a kid than a dad. The photos don't show these moms when they are sleep-deprived, lonely and scared. Instead, they show smiley, airbrushed pictures of pink and blue confections. They show what it's like to be a teen mom and go on a professional photoshoot to sell a magazine.

Unlike the pages of a magazine, in a typical "Teen Mom" episode, the viewer is able to witness the good, the bad and the ugly of what it truly means to be a teen mom in today's society. When a teen girl turns on MTV on a Tuesday night, in my eyes, she is getting her weekly dose of birth control.

There is nothing glamorous or enthralling about having to sacrifice your adolescence because of a careless decision. While it is important to acknowledge that Teen Mom is a dramatic reality show that is probably more focused on its ratings than addressing the teen pregnancy epidemic in America, it is nevertheless making a point: being a teen mom is hard. Whether you're watching the show because you want to steal baby Bentley for yourself (guilty) or feel a sense of relief that you're eating ice cream in bed and not changing diapers every time you watch the show (also guilty), the same message still resonates.

The girl standing at the checkout line at the grocery store who picks up a copy of US Weekly to go with her cereal and tampon purchases? She doesn't see that same message. Instead, she sees a nice, pretty girl like her—but with a baby. She thinks, "That's really cute. I bet I could do that." By being transformed into glamorous cover stars where they take the places of celebrities like Angelina Jolie and Megan Fox, they're also sending a confusing message to girls: being a 16-year-old with a baby is cool.

Don't get me wrong: I don't get any pleasure out of seeing Maci, Farrah and Amber struggle. I'm totally rooting for them. It kills me that they've robbed themselves of having a "normal" teenage experience. I hope they use the money they're earning from their "Teen Mom" fame to pay for their kids' college education. And while there's nothing wrong with sharing your story with the media, it's important for young girls to realize that it's only a snapshot (a staged one at that) of their lives, not reality.

 

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