There's been an uproar in New York all this week about an anti-abortion billboard in Soho. The billboard featured a little black girl with the message, "The most dangerous place for an African American is in the womb." Launched by anti-abortion group Life Always, the billboard served as a controversial way to bring attention to the fact that black women have a disproportionately high abortion rate in New York City and nationwide. While that's clearly worrisome, suggesting that black women are a threat to black children for exercising their reproductive rights is extremely offensive. One of the top reasons women get abortions is because they can't afford to raise children. Rather than address this dynamic as well as the disproportionate number of African Americans who lack health insurance, Life Always chose to publicly disparage black women.
You know how we've all been wondering how MTV could continue to air Teen Mom and 16 & Pregnant while avoiding the topic of abortion? Nearly one-third of teen pregnancies end in abortion, yet the popular MTV shows have skirted the issue for a few seasons—until now.
The launch of the blog series Bechdel Test Canon begins with reflections on 4 Months, 3 Weeks and 2 Days.
Cartoonist and graphic novelist Alison Bechdel created a three-part criteria for movies in her seminal comic strip Dykes to Watch Out For. Adopted as the Bechdel Test, movies that meet its standard must feature 1) two female characters who 2) talk to each other about 3) something other than a man.
MTV's been having a good summer. In part, that's because the second season of its reality series Teen Mom has been generating huge ratings for the network—it is this summer's third-most-watched original cable series in the coveted 12-34 demographic. The show, which documents the lives of four young women after they gave birth to children as teenagers, along with its sister show and predecessor 16 and Pregnant, has already generated a fair amount of cultural chatter on the question of whether the show is a valuable educational tool or just, as most seem to have concluded, regular old exploitation of the young women in question. There's something to this argument, of course. MTV's ratings success makes for a strange contrast with the fact that Teen Mom's stars have been occupying the front pages of celebrity weeklies like US complaining that they are dead broke, doesn't it?
I'm of two minds about the argument. On the one hand I certainly don't have much faith in MTV's dedication to social messaging, at least not enough to believe it extends much further than what advertisers are comfortable with. I'm not the first, for example, to point out that abortion, as an option, is not something that's seriously discussed in the context of the show. You can spin that fact as having something to do with showrunners needing to have a more extended narrative arc than, "Now I'm pregnant, now I'm not." But Teen Mom does follow one young couple, Catelynn and Tyler, after they've given their child up for adoption, so sponsor queasiness seems a more likely explanation.
Do a quick search on the Internet and you'll see that there are lots more people waiting to adopt a healthy newborn these days than there are babies out there ready to be adopted. Gone are the (ahem) "good old days" when a pregnant woman finding herself in less than optimal circumstances could be shamed, coerced or forced to give up her baby as a matter of socially accepted course (for more on THAT history, check out Ann Fessler's The Girls Who Went Away). Access to safe, legal abortion (while awesome when it occurs) has done a real number on the adoption industry.
Damon Linker recently blogged on the New Republic about a "deeply disturbing" Alternet article by Byard Duncan, My First Abortion Party. Linker's response was inspired principally by Conor Friedersdorf's blog on The Atlantic, an excellent response focusing on what Linker called the "neglected aspect of the story"—the "exclusion" of the boyfriend, and generally, a man's role in abortion proceedings.
that Alternet article Duncan describes attending an "abortion party"
hosted by a 22 year-old college senior in Indiana he calls Maggie.