I had a day off yesterday, so obviously I spent it catching up on the new season of 16 and Pregnant. The latest episode is about Briana, who’s 17, and lives with her mom and sister in Florida ( This is the third episode that’s taken place in Florida. What goes on there?)
Briana has already graduated high school by the time we meet her, which means there’s at least one giant hurdle she won’t have to overcome. She chooses to parent her daughter, in spite of the fact that her ex-boyfriend/father of the baby is only theoretically interested in being involved. Briana’s sister, Britney, found out she was pregnant at the same time, and chose to have an abortion.
I’m always worried whenever abortion gets portrayed on television, even if it’s a “real” situation. It’s a physical feeling, I actually am more tense in my body when I know it’s going to be edited by media who’s notoriously irresponsible. Back in 2010, when MTV aired “No Easy Decision,” I hovered, with many other feminists, over the TV and the keyboard, curious and freaked out. In the end, it could have been better, of course, and it also could have been worse.
Briana’s episode is really powerful, and not just in the ‘holy shit, I’m so glad this is not my life’ way that I often feel watching this show. It was powerful because people were honest about their feelings, and MTV didn’t edit it out, even though much of it is hard to hear. Brittany feels like she can’t talk to anyone about the abortion, which she’s struggling around still, Briana feels like she can’t talk to her sister about being a teen mom. At the end of the show, Briana tells Brittany that in having an abortion, she made a smart, hard decision, and that if she (Briana) had it to do over again, she might have made the same choice.
And then I did the thing that Fat and the Ivy warns me about, which is that I read the comments below the video. Not surprisingly, Briana was attacked for saying she might have made a different decision: “How can she say that with her daughter in her lap, breathing and making sounds…etc”
A lot of my friends have had babies, and some of them have even been brave enough to talk about how hard it is in places so public as Facebook. These friends of mine are not teen mothers, they are married women, college educated, financially privileged, and in most cases, planned their pregnancies. They love their babies, but they also love sleeping and showering and being able to leave the house without worrying about someone who is totally dependent on them. probably they miss being able to do those things regularly, as parenting is hard under even the best of circumstances, for a variety of reasons, not the least of which is because being human means having all sorts of complicated feelings. And last time I checked, women qualified as human and thus have a full range of human-type emotions, including regret, ambivalence, fear and longing. Asking how someone in Briana’s situation (or Brittany’s, who also would have been a teen mother)could experience complicated emotions around being a parent not only negates the fact that parenting is hard, but plays on the trope that women have simple and discrete feelings about motherhood-namely that we pursue it blindly and without thinking about its consequences and complexities.
I’d recommend watching the separate interviews Briana and Brittany later give, in which they each say honest and important things that makes me grateful that this story was on tv. Briana: “We both made sacrifices, we both made different choices, and with every choice we make, there’s hardships that come with it.”