Todd Hartley: I’m With Stupid | AspenTimes.com
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Todd Hartley: I’m With Stupid

Todd Hartley
The Aspen Times
Aspen CO Colorado

There is a nonprofit organization out there called The Candie’s Foundation that, according to its website, “works to shape the way youth in America think about teen pregnancy and parenthood.” The way the foundation works is by having celebrities, among them Beyonce, Usher and Hilary Duff, do ads and speak at events promoting abstinence and safe sex.

It’s a good organization with an admirable goal, but I don’t know if The Candie’s Foundation is really going about achieving that goal in the best way, and I’ll explain why a little later. First, though, let’s talk about “the way youth in America think about teen pregnancy.”

I’m not a youth and haven’t been since I got old – and I had precious little sex as a teenager, so I probably wouldn’t have been the foundation’s target audience anyway – but I’ve always thought that what we thought as a nation about teen pregnancy was, “Oh, f-word!”

It was my assumption that we all thought teen pregnancy was a bad thing, something akin to a life sentence without parole. Teen pregnancy, in my mind, was a surefire track to an unfinished high school education and a life of hardship and working in fast-food restaurants. Believe me, if I’d been a girl as a teenager and actually had sex, I would not have wanted to get pregnant.

Ah, but that was the ’80s. We were so naïve. The problem back then was that teenage girls like me didn’t have any positive role models to look up to. Nowadays, teenage girls who are thinking about getting pregnant can look just about anywhere for inspiration.

There’s a reality show on MTV called “Teen Mom,” itself a spin-off of a show called “16 and Pregnant.” It’s been so successful for MTV that a sister show, “Teen Mom 2,” was added to chronicle the lives of four of the cast members from the second season of “16 and Pregnant.”

I’ve never seen a moment of any of them, but I’m guessing that these shows purport to show the truth about teen pregnancy, the difficulties it causes and responsibilities it brings. That’s wonderful. I’m sure MTV is doing a great job of that.

The problem, however, is that I’ve seen pictures of the cast members on magazines at the grocery store, meaning that what the shows really did was take a bunch of teenage girls and make them rich and famous for the sole reason that they got pregnant. Seems like a bit of a mixed message to me. I wonder if wealth and fame are two of the difficulties of teen pregnancy the shows talk about.

That brings us back to The Candie’s Foundation and its use of celebrities to get its message across. In 2009, according to tax records, the foundation paid $262,000 to celebrity endorser Bristol Palin, one of America’s most famous teen moms. Bristol was compensated for appearing on TV shows and in ads spreading the foundation’s message.

I’m not going to question Bristol Palin’s status as a “celebrity,” and I’m not begrudging her the right to earn a living. The Candie’s Foundation can pay her whatever they feel is fair. I did think it odd, though, that one of Bristol’s comments when she accepted the position with the foundation a few months after the birth of her son was, “I feel that I could be a living example of the consequences of teen pregnancy.”

What consequences is she referring to, exactly? Would that be the $262,000 she earned from a foundation that would never have hired her if she didn’t get pregnant as a teen? Or would that be the appearance on “Dancing With the Stars?”

Sure, maybe she would have been invited to do “Dancing With the Stars” even if she didn’t have a kid, but Sarah Palin has five children. None of the rest of them are celebrities. What does Bristol have that they don’t?

Look, I don’t mean to pick on Bristol Palin. I wish her nothing but the best. I do think it’s amusing, though, that she, a teen mom, got paid a quarter of a million dollars to talk about the consequences of teen pregnancy.

Actually, who knows? Maybe I read The Candie’s Foundation website wrong. Maybe the way they’re shaping “the way youth in America think about teen pregnancy” is by making it seem glamorous and exceedingly profitable. In that case, well played Candie’s. You, with MTV’s help, have made a believer out of me.


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