21 December 2007

Moral panic surrounding JL Spears

Well, from last glance, there are no less than 1,542 news items devoted to the Jamie Lynn Spears pregnancy 'shock' today. After a good 24 hours of critical thinking time, I am pretty appalled by the world's reaction (and even my own) to this young woman's pregnancy. This morning as I ate my toast, every breakfast show devoted at least two segments to 'How To Talk To Your Kids About Sex' as if the appearance of a pregnant 16 year old would induce thousands of 'innocent' teenagers to drop their drawers, find a partner, and start having illegitimate children as if teen pregnancy is a new phenomenon. Last year alone, there were 800,000 babies born to teen mothers in America.

Jamie Lynn is just more famous and a very rich version of the average pregnant teen. I take umbrage that the media has positioned this woman as a 'bad role model' as if she signed up for being a 'good role model' simply by virtue of playing a popular character on a wholesome kids show. The fact that Spears has been sort of forced to say this baby was made irresponsibly and that she didn't make the right decision is very sad for the baby who undoubtedly will grow up one day and find out that he/she was a 'mistake'.

Then I came across a number of news articles that were really shocking. As she is technically underage and her pregnancy legally considered a result of 'statutory rape' the internet rumour mill is buzzing with suggestions that her 18yr old boyfriend could be charged despite the fact that the sex they have clearly been engaging in is most likely consensual. Whether or not these charges are actionable remains to be seen, however, the very suggestion that Spears is a 'victim' of a predatory 'older' man is absolutely ridiculous. There is a thriving moral panic surrounding chastity and virginity when it comes to young women and I find it really hypocritical that allegations of rape are thrown around when it comes to a young woman but when young men engage in sex with older women (as in all of those cases with young boys and their female teachers) everyone cheers him on for the 'stud' that he supposedly is. Similarly, as much as mother Lynn Spears has had a rocky relationship with Britney and the press, the suggestion that Jamie Lynn's pregnancy is the direct result of her 'bad' parenting is unfair. Why doesn't Dad get slammed for failing to preach the virtues of chastity?

Whilst undeniably everyone agrees that becoming a parent at sixteen is less than ideal, we all have to keep in mind that these young celebrities are living in a pretty fast paced world filled with sex, drugs, a whole heap of money and a lot of rock n' roll. Jamie Lynn may be 16, but she's not stupid and surely knows how to take care of herself. If she feels old enough to be in a committed relationship with her boyfriend (who she met at Church!) who are we to say that she will be the epitome of 'bad mother'.

The best thing to come out of this strange situation? At least all of Jamie-Lynn's bad press is giving Britney a much-deserved break.

Source: http://www.forbes.com/2007/12/19/viacom-jamie-spears-face-markets-cx_er_1219markets01.html


AvoidTheRedShoes said...

Well said! She is definitely not your average 16 year old girl. She's already had a "career" and I hope she'll be able to continue her career as a mom. I don't see why she's a bad role model. To me, she looks like a young church-going girl from a troubled family who is in a monogamous long-term relationship and is taking responsibility for her actions. Yes. Horrible horrible role model. The media hasn't even given this girl a chance to be a bad mother, to them, she already is.

Sarah Stewart said...

Its interesting to compare the press with that of Keisha Castle-Hughes, who is a young kiwi actress who found fame in 'Whale rider'. She is much beloved by New Zealand media and she continues to be a star here despite the fact she got pregnant at 16. Probably because we don't have many home grown celebs here so we cant afford to upset the ones we have!

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