Fake Pregnancy, Real Difference

BlogHer Original Post

When I was a senior in high school, my main concerns were getting into college for something music related, managing my crazy curly hair and spending time with my Varsity basketball star boyfriend. I had a senior project; it was music related. I certainly wasn’t concerned with what society thought about teen pregnancy. In fact, I was one of those who judged girls in my class who got pregnant. (It’s okay. Karma got me by the end of college.) So when I heard that Gaby Rodriguez faked a pregnancy as a social experiment for her senior project, I was amazed.

Rodriguez is a senior at Toppenish High School. She decided to do this project due to the high rate of Latina teen pregnancy in her area. She held an assembly last week to inform the student body that she was not, in fact, pregnant. She actually took off her belly. This girl has some guts. She essentially “gave up” her senior year to do this project which could arguably be the most famous senior project ever. Was your senior project talked about on CNN.com by Dr. Drew Pinsky? Mine most certainly was not.

Neither was it on MSNBC, which you can watch for yourself.

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However, when I saw this news start flooding the web last week, I got one of those feelings in the pit of my stomach. I knew some people wouldn’t receive her hard work well because of preconceived notions, fear of de-stigmatizing teen pregnancy and/or single parenting and the almighty judgery that we all participate in at one time or another.

A discussion at The Blog Frog made me sad -- because I was right.

The article made it sound like she had done this groundbreaking thing, but... teenage girls actually DO get pregnant every day. It's not like she was looking into something rare or unheard of. She was replicating something that happens every day. Rumors and gossip that could actually be witnessed with any teenage pregnancy.

I'm just not sure that anything she came out with was all that earth shattering or important.

And I disagree. Yes, teens get pregnant all the time. But as a society, we pass judgment without question. Even good girls with great grades are automatically written off as no longer worthwhile. And now the teens, teachers and other community members who said nasty things, who passed that judgment and generally wrote her off are forced to pause and ask themselves: Should a teen pregnancy redefine a girl for the rest of her life?

The answer, of course, is no. And I want to give Gaby Rodriguez a high five. And a fist pump. And a belly bump, just because. What she did was brave. It took guts to make her boyfriend’s parents think that they were expecting a grandchild (though that is the most argued offense that I've seen thus far). It took some chutzpah to stand firm in a social science experiment when people starting saying not-so-nice things. She not only got the reaction, but her final report will feature important things like statistics. This wasn’t just a shock-value project; she’s addressing the problem at hand and the problem at hand involves the statistics and those who want to point fingers and pass judgment. This was a girl doing something that needs to be done: Taking a stand and saying that neither are good. She’s making a difference, far more than the naysayers are.

Reaction, for the most part, sided with Gaby being generally awesome.

u235 at The World of Suck defends Gaby, not society.

Bold. That's how I describe what she did, pure bully boldness, and I'm using the world 'bully' in a way that most people won't naturally intuit: to force others into retrospection about their own instinctive actions and behaviors.

Ms. C at The New Forty couldn’t help but cheer for Gaby.

I hereby crown Gaby Rodriguez one of my heroes – she is a fierce girl. I wish more young women were powerful enough to undertake a commitment to something so much larger than themselves.

Gaby was able to shine a light on the way pregnant teens in high school are treated; but perhaps even more importantly, she was able to show how powerful one person’s commitment to shedding light on an important social problem can be. One young girl, in one high school, with one idea that was designed to explore an unfortunate reality…the power of one once again shows us that we all can do something to create a better world.

And the most interesting reaction-slash-questions was on the TODAYMoms blog. They asked if you -- as a mom -- would let your own daughter fake a pregnancy for a project? I’ve had a few discussions and I’ve decided that I would with the caveat that the father’s parents would have to be looped in. As the mom of two boys, I’d be heartbroken to learn that I wasn’t going to be a grandmother after having “gotten used to the idea.”

As someone who eventually experienced an unplanned pregnancy and still receives negative reactions from society due to my decisions and the path I took, I also salute Gaby for her hard work. I think that’s the reason she’s ruffled so many feathers; no one wants to be caught pointing fingers at a girl in her most vulnerable time of life.

All that aside, I hope Gaby has a wonderful rest of her senior year -- prom and class trip and graduation. I know that this girl will succeed in college; we should all want our kids to be so innovative and determined to do what is right even when it’s hard-going.

So what are your thoughts? Would you let your daughter fake a pregnancy for a school project? How would you react if you were the parents of the boyfriend? Would you have been caught with your foot in your mouth?

Family Section Editor Jenna Hatfield (@FireMom) blogs at Stop, Drop and Blog and The Chronicles of Munchkin Land.

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