Sex and the Teenage Girl - New York Times

wow. serves me right, I guess? I mention a blurb on teen pregnancy in feministing and now I have two articles on Juno and Jamie Lynn Spears fall right in my lap. Although, I do feel a little dirty for linking to the nytimes piece. Their op-ed page today was very woman-centric, as though they realized that sexism and pseudo-feminism gather mondo page views. The Steinem piece continues to show up on del.icio.us, and three of today's op-ed pieces by female columnists (who also author books about women) are on the nytimes' top ten most emailed list. Anyway, let's get started, shall we?

The authors seem to be coming from completely different sectors of feminism. Caitlin Flanagan wrote a book called To Hell With All That: loving and loathing our inner housewife. She explains her position as a historian in the moment in this essay; her goal in writing seems to be stepping back and pointing out. In her op-ed contribution, Sex and the Teenage Girl - New York Times, she writes:
"We, too, have a deep commitment to girls, and ours centers not on protecting their chastity, but on supporting their ability to compete with boys, to be free — perhaps for the first time in history — from the restraints that kept women from achieving on the same level. Now we have to ask ourselves this question: Does the full enfranchisement of girls depend on their being sexually liberated? And if it does, can we somehow change or diminish among the very young the trauma of pregnancy, the occasional result of even safe sex?"
Her take on Juno is that it's a fairy tale, no girl could go back to her adolescent life after giving a baby up for adoption as though the whole pregnancy never happened. Her opinion on Jamie Lynn Spears revolves around the fact that gossip columnists are still speculating about the father of her baby: "He has a chance to maintain his privacy, but if she becomes pregnant by mistake, soon all the world will know." Following all this, I think she asks a strange question in the above block quote. She asks if the enfranchisement of girls depends on their being sexually liberated, and I'm not sure how to respond. If she asked about the enfranchisement of women, I think I would say yes. But sexual activity, pregnancy, and motherhood don't sit in the same space as girlhood in my mind. She talks about protecting girlhood, but not chastity -- as though sexual activity can be a part of girlhood, but the responsibilities of pregnancy and motherhood should not. Should sexual activity without consequences be a part of girlhood? Why should we worry about diminishing the trauma of an unintended pregnancy for only the very young, instead of any woman who finds herself pregnant and unprepared?

Katha Pollitt starts out very differently. Instead of assuming all pregnant teens get that way accidentally, she notes that "maybe teens are having babies for the same reasons grown women are -- the birthrate for adults is up" as well as the birthrate for teens. She writes, in Pop culture pregnancies, teen edition:
Juno is sensible enough to realize she's just a kid and makes the choice that not long ago was forced on middle-class white girls. These days, 29 percent of pregnant teens have abortions; 14 percent miscarry; of the 57 percent who carry to term, less than 1 percent give up the baby. Paradoxically, the women's movement destigmatized single motherhood and thus helped make a world in which some of the old justifications for abortion no longer seem so forceful. Now it's abortion that is a badge of shame and "irresponsibility."
She continues by pointing out that Jamie Lynn Spears is praised for choosing to keep her baby, as though people assumed she would get an abortion (and even if she did, she prolly wouldn't make a deal with OK! magazine to tell us about it). That parenthetical is Pollitt's problem with the current situation -- that being a pregnant teen is portrayed as bad, but it's ok if you have the baby. She supports a woman's ability to make her own moral choice, and I support that too even though I wish women weren't in situations where abortions are a more sensible choice than adoption or motherhood. And to that end, Pollitt adds a final note to her article:

Just to bring the whole reproductive carnival full circle, Florida's "Choose Life" license plates, of which more than 40,000 have been sold, have raised more than $4 million for low-income single moms. But there's a catch: only women who choose adoption qualify. A woman who wants to keep her baby can just go starve in hell. Since only a handful of women want to give away their babies -- even among pregnant women who plan on adoption, 35 percent change their mind once the baby is born -- the money is just sitting there. Maybe someone, someday will make a movie about that.
Which brings us back to my question from Flanagan's op-ed piece. What can we do to diminish the trauma of not only teens, but any woman who is pregnant and unprepared?

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