Rod Dreher

Rod Dreher

Teen pregnancy as fashion trend

Oh, vom:

While those assertions assume an insulting lack of agency on the part of young women, the recent wariness over Forever 21’s maternity line is much more in line with reality. Forever 21’s most recognizable model is Kendall Jenner, the 14-year-old half sister of Khloe, Kourtney and Kim Kardashian — suggesting that the brand makes a concerted effort to court customers who can’t yet drive themselves to the mall. Magazines targeting adolescent girls, like Seventeen, are constantly promoting Forever 21 goods in spreads on affordable fashion finds.
Much has been made of Bristol Palin, who has parlayed her ordeal as a teen mom into lucrative speaking engagements, TV appearances and magazine covers – gigs that carry an underlying message about the possible benefits of teen pregnancy no matter how many abstinence PSAs she phones in. The same is true for Forever 21. Of course they’re not explicitly endorsing teen pregnancy, but by nudging teens and saying “If you do find yourself pregnant, looking fashionable is one less thing you’ll have to worry about!” the chain is going the Bristol route of unwittingly glamorizing teen pregnancy.

The reader who sent me this link to the story is a man whose teen daughter got pregnant out of wedlock. He comments

I guess no sense letting any market go unexploited. I wonder what’s next. Maybe pitching condoms to teen boys in the colors of their favorite sports team?

Comments read comments(21)
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posted July 20, 2010 at 4:31 pm

That’s right, the babies are little blesslings :-) Forget college, enjoy. Ah, the ravages of abstinence-only education.

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John E. - Agn Stoic

posted July 20, 2010 at 4:38 pm

Is this one of the things for which White elites look down on working and lower class Whites?

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posted July 20, 2010 at 4:42 pm

You’d think the father of an unmarried teen mom would support anything that would get boys to wear a condom.
Still, he’s a decade late, at least.

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Bruce G

posted July 20, 2010 at 4:44 pm

I don’t think I mind pregnancy being cool enough that a teen doesn’t feel like she has to abort the baby.

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Amy B

posted July 20, 2010 at 5:13 pm

While I don’t want to defend anything that is just another example of the idolatry of consumerism…
Many of my twenty-something friends and family still shop at Forever 21, including married women. YES, the store does market primarily to teens, but teens are definitely not their only customers. I am 28, married and pregnant, and while I haven’t bought anything there in recent years, I still go in there to browse whenever I do happen to go to the mall. So it is absolutely the case that married, pregnant women could be thrilled that Forever 21 now carries a maternity line.
I also somewhat sympathize with Bruce G’s comment. While we shouldn’t encourage teen pregnancy, if teenage girls get pregnant, they do need to wear something. Old Navy is also popular amongst teens, and they have a maternity line.
I guess my main point is, let’s not be quick to make a mountain out of a mole-hill.
(Btw – Supposedly the founders of Forever 21 are Christians, and the store’s bags used to have “John 3:16″ printed at the bottom. I do not know if the founders are still the owners, or if the bags still have the scripture verse printed on them, since as I said it has been a while since I have purchased something from the store.)

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Grumpy Old Person

posted July 20, 2010 at 5:32 pm

Since when is being (forever?) 21 the same thing as being a “teen”?

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posted July 20, 2010 at 5:37 pm

Forever 21 also markets to adult women, albeit the 30-and-under crowd. It’s not only a teen store and I see no reason to assume that they’re trying to make teen pregnancy fashionable. Quite frankly if I was still in the baby-making stage of life I’d be happy, because maternity wear is quite hard to find around here.

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posted July 20, 2010 at 5:38 pm

Uh, maybe if the boy in the case in point had been successfully pitched a condom, the man’s daughter wouldn’t have gotten pregnant?

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pregnancy los angeles

posted July 20, 2010 at 6:00 pm

I am having a lot of mix feeling toward this issues. Neither for abortion or teen pregnancy. The cold true fact is no mom would wish their daughter to be pregnant at such a young age. Perhaps if we raise our future kid to be….? I dont know what the word is.

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posted July 20, 2010 at 6:42 pm

Bruce G. raises a good point. If you want to discourage abortion, and I certainly do, then we can’t stigmatize teenage mothers and should be welcoming and supportive of them. Anything that encourage pregnant teenagers not to have an abortion is a good thing.

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posted July 20, 2010 at 11:27 pm

I’m with Hector. Unless we want to return to The Girls Who Went Away.
Captcha: social jackboots

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Elizabeth Anne

posted July 20, 2010 at 11:42 pm

1) Rod, I love and respect you. I enjoy your blog and everything you write, even when I disagree. But please, I beg you, stop saying “vom”. It sounds painfully out of touch and out of date to ME, and I’m, well, someone’s mother. 😉
2) Everyone I know who shops at Forever 21 is well over 21. Maternity clothes are ridiculously expensive given how long one actually wears them, and I wish this had been an option last year when I needed them.
Captcha: May Implore (HA!)

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posted July 21, 2010 at 12:14 am

I find any woman who shops at that store to be ridiculous. Age gracefully, I say. No decent man wants a 21 year old broad.

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posted July 21, 2010 at 2:42 am

I’m confused as to what the problem is: pregnant teens do exist and the clothes they need to buy are maternity clothes. It’s a sad commentary on our society that the market is there, but I don’t see that it’s a sad commentary on Forever 21 that they’re willing to service this market. I doubt these clothes are any more gorgeous than any other maternity clothes anywhere, and I guarantee you no one was ever incentived into pregnancy by the gorgeousness of maternity wear.
I mean, I guess you could say that carrying the clothes in a regular teen store sort of promises that, in the event that they got pregennt, they wouldn’t have to disrupt their lives to the extent of shopping in an “old lady store”. Which maybe gives them a teensy weensy sliver of comfort. But on the other hand, maybe shopping next to pregnant teens and seeing how unflattering maternity clothes are will act as a deterrant.

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posted July 21, 2010 at 6:29 am

I think you’re saying “pregnant teenager”, when what you really object to is “pregnant unmarried female”. Look, I share your values on this point – I think that illegitimacy is one of the modern world’s biggest social problems – but I think you’re trying to disguise Christian morality (chastity) as elite-secular-liberal pragmatism (babies disrupt education). Surely conservative Christians have no objection to pregnant, virgin-until-marriage 18-year-olds? On the other hand, pregnant unmarried 30-year-olds have been at least as unchaste as, and, unless very prosperous, present similar social problems to, pregnant unmarried 15-year-olds. Why not say what you actually think?
Hector: Being in the prolife camp, if not quite as absolutely as Erin, say, I sympathise with your view about not stigmatising pregnant unmarried girls/women. Are encouraging the evil of abortion, and approving the socially destructive phenomenon of illegitimacy the only alternatives, though? Discuss.

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posted July 21, 2010 at 8:56 am

Rombald — I know you know this, but there is no such thing as a “pregnant, virgin-until-marriage 18-year-old.” :)
This discussion brings us back to how to discourage unwed pregnancy in general and teen pregnancy in particular without social stigma. Back in the day (50s and 60s) both the mother AND the baby were stigmatized (“bastard” children and all that). Part of why unmarried pregnant teens were “sent away” was because they (and their families) would have been shunned otherwise. Pretty powerful disincentive for many teenagers and unmarried women.
So what do we do now? I think a stigma that would truly work (was and now) would be cruel. But acceptance of unmarried pregnancy, and teen pregnancy in particluar, seems like no answer to me.
As for Forever 21 — if they really are marketing to teens that’s creepy. But I know (in part because I am a pregnant woman) that you can get maternity clothes at lots of different stores where teens shop, like Old Navy and Target. The stuff you can get at actual maternity stores (like Pea in a Pod, etc.) is WAY too expensive for most folks, teen or adult. And younger adults do shop at Forever 21. So Forever 21’s campaign may or may not be a problem; I can’t realy tell.

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posted July 21, 2010 at 9:17 am

Helen: “there is no such thing as ..”: I don’t really know what you mean.
A virgin may marry at 16, 17 or 18, and thus be pregnant at 18, a “pregnant teen”, yet having done nothing objectionable according to conservative Christian moral values.

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posted July 21, 2010 at 9:47 am

Sorry Rombald, you are right — I was assuming you meant *unmarried* pregnant teen. My apologies.

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posted July 21, 2010 at 9:49 am

I guess that’s my bias coming out — I don’t think 18-year-olds should be getting married, under any circumstances. I think pregnant teens should give their babies up for adoption. But doing so seems really, really out of fashion, including among social conservatives. I don’t understand why. Without in any way minimizing the pain of giving up one’s baby, I still think adoption is the best approach.

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posted July 21, 2010 at 2:13 pm

Helen: “I don’t think 18-year-olds should be getting married, under any circumstances. I think pregnant teens should give their babies up for adoption.”
That strikes me as a bizarrely extreme position. A girl of 18 gets pregnant by her steady boyfriend, who she loves, who is 24 and has a decent job so he can support her, but she should give the baby up for adoption?
I can hardly imagine anyone agreeing with your possession there, but I would go further in the other direction. I don’t think teenage motherhood is a bad thing at all, as long as the appropriate social support structures are in place, which in practice means that the girl is married.
My grandmother was 17 when my mother was born, and her marriage lasted until her husband died. My mother was 18 when I was born, and, although her marriage broke down, she always said that she never for a moment regretted having children young.
This brings me back to my original point, which was that, when people talk in disapproving tones about “teenage pregnancy”, what they actually tend to mean is “unmarried pregnancy”. However, there is quite a strong stigma about saying that illegitimacy is a bad thing, or even discussing that possibility, so many people, including even conservative Christians like Rod, talk in such a roundabout way.

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posted July 21, 2010 at 3:06 pm

Rombald —
We may just have to agree to disagree on this. I think 18 is too young to get married. The world — and marriage — are very different than they were when your gandmother was coming up. There will always be outliers (that is, people who can handle marriage as a teen), but the majority of people are not done growing up at eighteen.
I hate the way we infantilize teenagers, especially in the US. They are capable of a lot more adulthood. But I would not include marriage in that, because for me mariage is a *lifetime* decision. I certainly was a totally different person when I married (at 30) than I was when I was 18. For me marriage at 18 would have been a disaster, and almost certainly would have ended or been persistently miserable for me and my then-boyfriend.
I am not surprised your mother has no regrets in when she had her kids. Almost no one regrets when he or she has children, because of the specific children themselves. I am sure you brought and bring your mother great joy. Had she not been pregnant at 18 she would not have had *you*, which I am sure is important to her. That is different, I think, from saying eighteen year olds should marry.
Anyway. I appreciate your perspective.

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