Archive for March, 2010

Will Facebook eliminate the need for high school reunions?

March 31, 2010

High school reunions have historically existed so classmates can reconnect and learn what their high school friends, acquaintances and enemies have been doing during the past 10, 20 or whatever increment of years. But now that we have Facebook, are high school reunions really going to be that interesting — or necessary?

Recently, a friend of mine (and former high school classmate) had his Facebook status as a question about whether we’ll only talk about our Facebook photo albums at our high school reunion. It was a really interesting thought — what will we have to talk about? I’ll know if they are married, have kids or have moved away — in fact, I’ll probably know what they did the day before based on their Facebook status.

I’m Facebook friends with about 12.2 percent of my graduating class (that number goes down as people weed out Facebook friends and realize I’m not interesting and/or that we aren’t friends in real life), or a little more than one out of every 10 people I graduated with. With a graduating class of more than 800 people, that’s not too shabby. Aside from directly being friends with someone and seeing their business on my news feed, there are a few other ways I can find out what’s going on with classmates.

One way is through gossip, as my close friends from high school are Facebook friends with people I’m not. Another is through the new Facebook feature that shows you conversations with and tagged photos of your friends by someone who is not your Facebook friend. So if one of my Facebook friends goes to a wedding of a classmate who’s not my Facebook friend? I’ll see on my news feed, and I can do detective work from there.

So, you won’t know what’s going on unless you don’t use Facebook — which would be a minority of my classmates, as at least 500 of them (60.2 percent) have a Facebook account (some have multiples, likely because one account was hacked), and I was only at the letter “S” when it told me it can’t show more than 50 pages (10 people per page).

This is somewhat classist, because to use Facebook  you have to have a computer and Internet connection, so students from low-income neighborhoods might not have this same constant communication about each other’s whereabouts. I’ve also noticed that people who didn’t go to any type of college are less likely to have a Facebook account, as it first was targeted primarily at college students as a way to network around campus.

But, considering that more Facebook users are age 18-24 than any other age group, I think it’s safe to say that most young people in their early 20s have a Facebook account, and they aren’t just friends with “real life” friends, they are Facebook friends with former acquaintances and people they used to have class with. And we all have friended someone just to see pictures of their baby or pictures from a wedding — don’t lie.

We have this urge to stay connected and in each other’s lives (or business, depending on your point of view). The age demographic with the highest growth rate? People age 35 to 54, who would be due for at least a 20-year reunion. On Facebook, the number of 35-54 year olds grew by 172 percent in 2009. At this rate, will they even need a 20-year reunion?

Of course, high school reunions are great because you see people in person, have actual conversations, and your high school classmates are physically around you, not little thumbnails on the side of your computer screen. I don’t think Facebook can ever top the feeling of actually being in the presence of old friends, but it likely will leave us talking about things we already knew, commented on or “liked.”

I’ll take ‘Hodge Podge’ for $800, Alex

March 30, 2010

Another male college columnist thinks it’s cool and edgy to blame women for getting raped; the EPA takes a stand on a terrible mountaintop removal mine; and why bribes don’t work with children, but praise and attention do.

1. ‘”Date’ Rape is an Incoherent Concept”: Blaming the Victim, American U. Edition, from Jezebel

I don’t exactly know when male college columnists will stop writing about date rape, but another columnist thinks he is really being edgy by saying there is only rape and not-rape (um, so I would think date rape = rape), and he calls for someone to draw a nice, solid line between the two:

“Date rape” is an incoherent concept. There’s rape and there’s not-rape, and we need a line of demarcation. It’s not clear enough to merely speak of consent, because the lines of consent in sex — especially anonymous sex — can become very blurry. If that bothers you, then stick with Pat Robertson and his brigade of anti-sex cavemen! Don’t jump into the sexual arena if you can’t handle the volatility of its practice!

Of course, this wise man doesn’t seem to realize that (1) yes, the lines of consent are blurry, which is precisely why you can’t merely make judgment calls about what is and isn’t rape based on your personal interpretation of someone’s non-verbal consent. And (2) being anti-rape isn’t about being anti-sex — saying not to have sex if you can’t handle the possibility of rape is like saying don’t drive a car if you can’t handle the possibility of getting hit by a drunk driver.

I like that Jezebel writer Anna points out that this type of college column is not uncommon, which is really problematic. Victim-blaming continues, and lots of these male college columnists think they’re being inciteful and original by saying that all this “date-rape” is nonsense. Expect a blog soon about house party atmosphere and how this plays into the victim-blaming.

2. U.S. Proposes to Veto Mountaintop-Removal Coal Mine, from Grist

Now we’re talking! The EPA has proposed to veto to restrict or stop mining at a major MTR site in West Virginia. Why? Because:

In explaining its decision, the EPA said Friday that the Arch Coal Inc. mine would pollute surrounding water, fill over seven miles of stream, cause “unacceptable” harm to wildlife, and “directly impact” some 2,278 acres of forest. 

Even though mountaintop-removing mines in general all pollute waterways, fill streams with toxic sludge, hurt ecosystems, and destroy trees, it’s nice to see the EPA taking a firm stance on this one. Yes, everyone wants cheap coal, but we’ve got to stop and realize if coal is worth filling all the waterways of the Midwest with black coal slurry and toxic chemicals.

3. Why Bribing Your Child Doesn’t Work, from Slate

I don’t know why I’m drawn to articles about parenting and punishment, but I am. Here’s a good analysis of common myths regarding rewards vs. bribes. A lot of parents — my mom included — think that rewarding behavior that should be expected is a bad way to parent. The authors point out that common, consistent rewards are key, especially praise and attention:

A parent’s attention is very rewarding to a child, and praise is even better. Parents are giving attention all the time, and they are giving mild forms of praise, verbal and nonverbal (a smile, a touch, an affectionate or impressed look). Attention and praise are our main rewards, and often they’re sufficient to change behavior on their own, without resorting to tokens, privileges, or prizes.

Children gobble up praise and attention way more than cookies and stickers — they love positive attention just like as an adult, you like getting praise from your boss and recognition for a job well done. Also, the article highlights how rewards differ from bribes.

Burger King has it right: Vegetarians are hungry for options

March 28, 2010

Until recently, a vegetarian was hard-pressed to find anything to eat at a fast food place that wasn’t french fries or a side salad. These days, more fast food joints are catching on to the market of vegetarians they have been ignoring, but even the ones that do aren’t really promoting their vegetarian options.

Are they nervous the association to a veggie burger will make them seem “green” or “hippie,” or do they not understand how much their business benefits from the veggie options? Some entrepreneurs had trouble starting or marketing their eco-friendly businesses before the green movement became mainstream, because investors didn’t want to be associated with or labeled as niche or “hippie.”

About 3 percent of the adult population is vegetarian (one poll says 3.2, the other 2.8), which equals out to about seven million people, give or take a few hundred thousand. About 5.2 percent (11.9 million) are interested in vegetarian diets, and 10 percent (more than 20 million) of adults consider themselves vegetarian even though they occasionally eat chicken or fish. I fall into that latter group, as I probably eat meat once or twice a month at most.

Recently at a Burger King on the Pennsylvania Turnpike, I heard one of the employees shout someone’s order — a veggie burger. I was shocked and excited — Burger King had a veggie burger? Since when? Why didn’t they promote it more? Last weekend, a woman next to me heard me order the veggie burger at this same turnpike plaza, and she told her husband, “Wait, they have a veggie burger — I don’t want the fish sandwich anymore.”

Obviously there is a vegetarian demographic that would eagerly gobble this new veggie burger up, but they don’t widely publicize this new menu option (unless I missed the advertising — which I doubt considering all the TV I watch). If about 18 percent of people either identify, try or think about being a vegetarian, that’s a large customer base who are interested in vegetarian options — almost one in five customers.

Vegetarians and vegans are like anyone who has food preferences or allergies — they memorize the food places where they can eat in a mental map. If you’re allergic to peanuts, you seek out and remember what restaurants don’t use peanut oil; if you’ve got a gluten allergy, you memorize restaurants that have good wheat-free dishes — same goes when you don’t eat meat and/or dairy.

I know that I can get a veggie burger at Burger King, Fuddruckers and Flamers (and a grilled cheese at Five Guys, but it’s a pretty pitiful slice of cheese on a hamburger bun and also not vegan). These are fast food places that are burger-centric, and otherwise I might just get some fries if I went there. Because I can get the veggie burger, I immediately gravitate to these fast food joints if I need a quick bite, and I also spend more money at these places — e.g. instead of spending $2 on fries, I’ll spend $6 on a combo.

This is lucrative for fast food places, as vegetarians need to eat on the go, too. Vegetarians are also typically concerned about their health and/or the environment, so they probably won’t be making daily trips to these fast food places, but they and other non-veggie health concerned people are still going to give serious consideration to spending more money at these businesses.

More customers, more products bought = more $$$. Isn’t that a great business model? It’s important to recognize and promote vegetarian options because the customer base is out there. Eating is a very social thing, and when every menu option is either meat or covered in meat, made with a carnivorous audience in mind, it’s tough to find joy in eating out and with friends.

That is, unless, there are a few delicious vegetarian options. Vegetarianism is growing in popularity — between 2000 and 2004, 0.5 percent more people identified as vegetarian — that’s about 1.1 million more people. Vegetarian isn’t just a choice that crunchy granola hippies embrace — it’s becoming a mainstream lifestyle choice that restaurants need to embrace and adopt, rather than hide and ignore.

(Also, let me know if you’ve got some food spots with good vegetarian options!)

I’ll take ‘Potpourri’ for $200, Alex

March 26, 2010

More weight-bashing, the trouble with being opinionated and trying to find a date, and a feather duster taped to a space heater.

1. Enough About Sidibe’s Weight, Already, from Jezebel

Everyone is obsessed with Gabourey Sidibe’s weight — and this time around, fashionistas are hurling awful insults about her Oscar dress and why she would never make the pages of Vogue. I like Irin’s retort:

[Anna] Wintour has a type — Sienna Miller owns her entire non-Jude Law-related career to Wintour’s affections — and for more than one reason Sidibe is not that type. We have obviously wished aloud often enough that it weren’t so. But who said Sidibe even wants to be in Vogue?

I like this last part best — Vogue lovers publicly announce she isn’t allowed in the club, yet who said it’s a club that Gabby even wants to be in? Does she really want to be in a magazine whose readers obviously don’t like her body figure? Or do they want to spin it as Vogue dissing Gabby before Gabby can diss Vogue?

2. Dating While Feminist, from Feministe

This post rings true not just for feminists, but for anyone who is passionate about their personal beliefs — dating is a field of landmines when you hold strong opinions and beliefs, and it’s tough to figure out how or when to compromise. If you’re looking for a long-term relationship, do you wait for the perfect person who fits your every quality politically, religiously, etc., or do you make some compromises?

Political ideology and things of the like aren’t favorite bands or movie genres — Jill puts it best:

Any relationship requires compromise and flexibility, sure; but how and where to compromise on the feminism thing is particularly difficult because we aren’t talking about a political issue here, we’re talking about a way of seeing the world.

3. Whoops: Energy Star approves gas-powered alarm clock, from Grist

Um, oops? Energy Star is highly regarded when it comes to approving items for energy efficiency, but when government auditors tried to trick them by submitting bogus items for approval, they failed pretty miserably. Not only did a gas-powered alarm clock pass, but an electric heater with a feather duster taped to it also passed.

I don’t know how you look at a space heater, with feather duster taped, and think, “Ah, yes, genius, I see exactly how this is efficient!” but it’s unacceptable. Energy Star is supposed to be and needs to be a credible seal of approval, and it’s kind of frightening how obviously ridiculous items got approved.

HCR in 3-D: the $11,837 that could lower abortion rates

March 26, 2010

Maybe with 3-D movies on the rise, the entire world will start thinking in more than two dimensions — because when it comes to health care reform and abortion, some people seem to forget that there is more than one way to lower the abortion rate. Like by providing affordable health care to low-income women.

Although pro-life Congresspeople — both Republican and Democrat — partly hinged their HCR votes on federal funding for abortions (Democrats like  Bart Stupak caused a raucus when they agreed to vote for the bill on the condition that President Obama sign an executive order banning funding for abortions), giving women access to affordable health care could make it more financially feasible to care for a baby.

According to a 2004 study of abortion patients, 73 percent of women said one of the reasons they chose abortion was because they couldn’t afford a baby. According to costhelper.com, prenatal care costs about $2,000 without insurance — doctors visits, ultrasounds, etc. For someone with insurance, this cost shrinks to about $200.

A complication-free vaginal delivery ranges from $9,000 to $17,000 if you don’t have health insurance. If you need to get a c-section, that price ranges becomes $14,000 to $25,000. That’s a year of college, a new car or a down payment on a house.

Average cost for someone who has private health insurance? A vaginal delivery is about $463 and a c-section is about $523. If a year of college only cost $463 instead of $17,000, do you think more people would go to college after graduating high school? I do. And these costs fluctuate, as patients with insurance could pay between $500 to $3,000 depending on how much coverage the plan offers. But I’d still take a new car for $3,000 instead of paying $17,000.

And this is just the mother’s costs — costhelper explains that the new baby gets a separate hospital bill, which is typically covered by insurance but can run from $1,500 to $4,000 without — assuming the baby is perfectly healthy and delivered to term. If the baby is premature and needs to spend time in the Neonatal Intensive Care Unit, then the cost skyrockets into the tens of thousands.

Considering that women with financial problems would tend to delay prenatal care or possibly not get any at all (or might even be food insecure and not able to properly nourish the fetus), the pregnancy becomes more high-risk and the changes for complications increase.

So, you have a woman who doesn’t have a lot of money, which inherently makes it difficult for her to not only take prenatal vitamins and visit doctors to get ultrasounds and for check-ups, but these financial obstacles could actually make her delivery cost more — perhaps more than $35,000 if she needs a c-section and her baby needs special attention in the NICU. Considering that c-sections are on the rise, especially because of malpractice concerns, this woman would need to plan for a c-section just in case.   

So, best case scenario, the cheapest the medical expenses will be for having a baby without any health insurance is $12,500. That is assuming that the delivery and baby’s medical bill are on the cheapest end of the spectrum, compared with someone who has insurance and would only pay $663 in the best case scenario. Considering an early abortion can range from $350 to $500, and a 16-week abortion ranges from $650 to $700, the price of having a baby with insurance is comparable to having an abortion; therefore, someone who couldn’t afford the extra $11,837 is probably more likely to consider pregnancy financially feasible.

Of course, finances aren’t the only thing that affect whether a woman gets an abortion — career, education, and relationship status (not to mention just sheer not wanting a baby) all are factors. But health care reform, which is currently only seen by pro-lifers as a vehicle for baby-killing, actually enhances coverage and prevents insurance companies from denying women coverage because, yes, they considered pregnancy a “pre-existing condition” and used loopholes to deny women coverage.  

So, instead of focusing on federal funding for abortions, pro-lifers should realize that federal funding for women to get affordable insurance they otherwise couldn’t get is actually good policy toward lowering the number of abortions. As the blog I cited above, Big Think, notes, abortion rates are lower than the U.S.’s in developed countries that have universal health care. Coincidence? I don’t think so.

I’ll take ‘Potpourri’ for $600, Alex

March 25, 2010

Guys talk about why rape is “a misunderstanding,” Republicans talk about threats to their lives, iPhone has an innovative new app, and someone thought it was a good idea to make a bra with nipples:

1. Why Rape Isn’t One Big Misunderstanding, from the Washington City Paper (via Feministe)

This is a really informative article that focuses on a study done in Australia, where a group of guys were interviewed and asked about their views on women, sex, communication and rape. At first, the guys admit that they use body language to let women know they aren’t interested, and women do the same. Then the moderator mentioned rape:

Once the idea of rape is raised, these men claim ignorance of understanding when a woman is refusing sex, and go on to say that even when a woman explicitly says “no,” she can be making a victim of the perpetrator.

The men say that guys aren’t “subtle” beings, they need concrete answers, girls are flirtatious and if they want to go to the bedroom, doesn’t that mean they want to have sex? (Or maybe they just don’t want to make out or take part in some heavy petting with a bunch of people watching.) I think the report highlights how important it is to ask someone what their boundaries are, and it highlights how intuitive we are with respect to body language.

2. Eric Cantor Says Bullet Shot Through His Office Window This Week, from CBS News

And he is also claiming that Democrats are taking advantage of violent threats, but that’s another story. I think it’s important to note that everyone is going a little out of control — bricks through windows, gunshots through windows, etc. Republicans, Democrats, everyone — although Sen. Lindsay Graham says that threats are normal in his Congressional office, I don’t think violent acts of this magnitude are.

And, it’s obvious that they center around health care reform, which still leaves me begging the question, why is health care reform making everyone act so irrationally and violently?

3. iPhone app to sidestep aT&T, from The New York Times (via Slate)

The iPhone app “Line2” seems to be revolutionizing the cell phone world — it’s a $1 app that gives your iPhone a second phone line, connects to WiFi when available so you make Internet calls that don’t use minutes, and can turn an iPod touch into a cell phone because of the Internet call capability. Service is $15 per month, but the tech writer at NY Times seems pretty excited about it:

[WiFi calling is] a game-changer. Where, after all, is cellphone reception generally the worst? Right — indoors. In your house or your office building, precisely where you have Wi-Fi. Line2 in Wi-Fi means rock-solid, confident reception indoors.

Sigh … the interal struggle between buying a really cool iPhone or staying pissed that people can steal iPhones and activate them without a problem (but changing your account is like trying to get into a bank vault). Also, he notes that the Internet makes everything free — first it kills newspapers, now the phone industry.

4. Give Your Nipples That “Sensual Cold-Weather Look”, from Jezebel

I … don’t understand the point (no pun intended). It’s a bra with added nipples, so it looks like you aren’t wearing a bra but in fact, you are. Why not just skip the product entirely — save some money and not wear a bra in the first place? Or just start wearing one of those really thin, satin-y bras that offer no nip concealment whatsoever?

It’s like a twisted sexual revolution in which women express their artifically-made symbols of femininity while still making sure their breasts are perky and perfectly shaped according to societal standards. So counter-productive …

Republicans need to jump off the victim-blaming train

March 25, 2010

Not only am I shocked that people are getting so violent about health care reform, but I’m shocked that some Republicans are trying so little to make their condemnations of the violence actually seem sincere. I mean, you expect to have bricks thrown through your windows and threats of sniper attacks after passing health care reform, right?

On Fox and Friends, the hosts shared e-mails from people who agree violence is bad but it’s secretly OK if the people getting hurt are people you don’t agree with:

KILMEADE: Over in Kentucky, J says, “while I don’t condone the threats in any way, what do they expect when they basically stole from the American people? What do they think 1776 was all about and wasn’t there some violence back then?” But true, but that was a revolution against an occupier.

CARLSON: Uh huh.

KILMEADE: This is a policy.

DOOCY: Meanwhile, in New Jersey, one of the original 13 colonies, Koz writes, “I don’t like violence and it is wrong. Having said that, why should Democrats be surprised? Bill Ayers of the Weather Underground bombed the Pentagon and now he is a respected speaker of the left. Why should Democrats expect anything differently?”

(From thinkprogress.org)

This reminds me of the Bill Mahers of the world after 9/11, who said something along the lines of “Well, this is tragic but we kind of had it coming/I could see why they’d do something like that” — and those people were shunned almost immediately for even trying to condone or qualify such a tragedy, and Republicans were doing a lot of the shunning, not to mention it helped their image to have liberals on video saying the U.S. got what it deserved.

It also reminds me of when someone says, “No offense, but you suck” — just because you preface it with “No offense” doesn’t mean I’m not going to get offended, and just because you preface it with “I don’t like violence and it is wrong” doesn’t mean you can get away with then condoning the violence.

Now, we have people shrugging their shoulders and saying, “Well, what’d you expect?” Um, how about civility? I mean seriously, why the hell are people mad enough to threaten to kill people because of this legislation? They got their abortion provisions, they got the public option removed, and the individual mandate everyone is complaining about actually carries a much cheaper penalty than health insurance actually costs.

Is it tax increases? Is it that people think it will cause a deficit? Is it that people wanted Obama to focus on job creation? I am just so confused about why this level of violence — the I’m-going-to-call-you-on-your-phone-and-threaten-your-life-and-family kind — has erupted out of health care reform. And if someone tells me it’s because of “socialism,” I might hit that person over the head with a dictionary. Pardon the violence.

Victim-blaming isn’t good for anyone’s image. Neither is the argument of,  “Well, why didn’t he get in trouble for the violent things he did? I should be able to do violent things, too!” Let’s just agree violence is bad and then not try to justify death threats to Congresspeople.

Vegans, hegans, shegans, shenanigans …

March 24, 2010

Seriously, just read this post from Jezebel. Anna says it best when she says that coining a man-specific term for veganism — “heganism” — is ridiculous, and it unnecessary exemplifies when a man does something that people in general have been doing for years. I get that a stereotypical mark of a man is eating meat, but the gender-identifying noun is excessive.

The “he-ifying” of things that are weird and weak-minded when women do them — until men start doing them — could be endless:

Surely heganism will soon be replaced by hedonism, hecession by heconomic hecovery, while the only rational response remains a colossal he-addesk.

It’s also interesting from a language perspective, as changing root words for cleverness points distorts their meaning — vegan comes from vegetable, so what does “hegan” come from … someone who eats “he?” It reminds me of a comment I saw on a story about “femivores” — femivores are feminists who eat locally and cook food from scratch. But if you look at herbivore (herbi- = eats plants), carnivore (carni- = eats meat), or even locavore (loca- = eats locally), then femivore = someone who eats women, or eats in a feminine way?

I’ll take ‘Potpourri’ for $400, Alex

March 24, 2010

The GOP, bake sales in schools, Walmart’s packaging scam, and stay-at-home dads: I have a hodge podge of different stories that have caught my interest in the past few days, so I’ll outline them here — and try to be brief — and provide you with a link.

1. An Absence of Class, by NY Times columnist Bob Herbert

I really, really like this column because, as much as I don’t directly identify as being a Democrat, I certainly am not a Republican, and I feel like a lot of the tactics used in protests against health care are disgusting:

In Washington on Saturday, opponents of the health care legislation spit on a black congressman and shouted racial slurs at two others, including John Lewis, one of the great heroes of the civil rights movement. Barney Frank, a Massachusetts Democrat who is chairman of the House Financial Services Committee, was taunted because he is gay.

At some point, we have to decide as a country that we just can’t have this: We can’t allow ourselves to remain silent as foaming-at-the-mouth protesters scream the vilest of epithets at members of Congress — epithets that The Times will not allow me to repeat here.

We consider ourselves this influential superpower, but it’s often pretty embarassing how we act toward one another.

2. Parents Fight for the Right to Sell Treats at School, per NPR 

In New York City, schools have limited bake sales to once every month in an effort to promote healthy eating and knowing what goes into your body — which is why they still sell Doritos in school vending machines?

So parents and students can fundraise anytime they want with Cool Ranch Doritos or whole-grain Pop-Tarts or Quaker Oats granola bars. The packaged food just has to have fewer than 200 calories and not more than 35 percent fat.

Knowing what’s in food and understanding what malodextrin is are two different things, and this is sad to me because the bake sale was a staple of my childhood when I was in school. Plus, many different student groups used bake sales to gain money for their organizations.

The emphasis should be on changing children’s eating habits altogether, not teaching them that anything with a nutrition facts label is fair game. If you’re going to promote healthy eating, you better go through the vending machines and clean house, too. And, isn’t it bad if something has fewer than 200 calories and still manages to count for one-third of your total suggested fat intake for the day?

3. Walmart is sneaky: Its products have less stuff for the same price as competitors, per a friend

As if Walmart isn’t gross enough, they apparently package fewer items in a box and then look cool when they can beat a competitor’s price for the same item! For instance, they sell packages of 70 Luvs diapers as compared with Target selling them in packages of 80.

Walmart loves scamming people! The packaging is identical, and the consumer zooms to the price. The author’s original blog can be accessed at the link, but the link is an update of the original and provides readers with a visual comparison of Walmart vs. Target toilet paper, from the same company and type of toilet paper. Seriously, stop shopping at Walmart and get the amount of toilet paper you deserve.

4. Stay-At-Home Dads Grapple With Going Back To Work, per NPR

Lots of men lost their jobs in the recession, and they decided to stay-at-home with their children rather than keeping their children in daycare. This is nice, but then they started mentioning putting child care on their resumes, and I started thinking, “Hmm, I bet if a woman did that, they’d get a blank stare from an employer.” My first impression was that child care would make the man look more well-rounded, but it would somehow pigeon-hole or be expected from a woman.

You have to listen to the audio to hear about the resumes I think, as the text doesn’t have the part about resumes that I heard on the radio this morning. I think it would be great if anyone could use their child-care skills in resumes — multitasking, conflict management, prioritizing, stress management, etc. Most people advise that you don’t include parenting on a resume unless you are entering into a job that involves child care (although Ann Crittenden wrote a book about why parenting translates into the business world)

Either way, it’s nice to read about dads finding that spending more time with their kids is rewarding — it’s unfortunate that some need to be laid off in order to figure it out, but overall it’s good that they are realizing that fathers can be great caregivers, and they can enjoy it, too.

16&P: Sneaky moms, hereditary teen pregnancy, and innocence

March 24, 2010

In last night’s episode of 16 and Pregnant, we met Samantha, a high school senior who got pregnant with her boyfriend, Eric. They had been dating for two years, and Samantha’s mom — who was a teen mom herself — tried everything to keep them apart, but Eric’s mom actually helped them sneak around and see each other.

This episode had a lot of interesting themes: mothers who facilitate teen sex, the trend of teen moms’ children becoming teen moms, teen views on pregnancy prevention, and the thought that innocent girls don’t have sex. Let’s look at these separately:

1. Mothers who facilitate teen sex. Last night, we discovered that Eric’s mom, Estrella, actually would help them see each other behind Samantha’s mom, Soledad’s, back. Samantha’s mom was a teen mom herself, so it’s understandable why she was trying to prevent her own daughter from following in her footsteps. In fact, Soledad actually made her change schools so she wouldn’t be around Eric — she meant business, and I’m not sure how Estrella didn’t see that dramatic act as a sign that she needed to back off.

I think Estrella helped them sneak around for two reasons: Eric is a man, and Eric is 18. She said that she felt bad for Eric because he would cry every night when he didn’t see her, but she not only helped them spend time together, but she obviously helped them spend alone time together — they weren’t shacking up at her house, so they were having sex either at Eric’s house or thanks to Estrella helping them sneak around together.

Eric is a man, so as a mother, she indirectly had to prepare for the pregnancy. It wasn’t her child that was going to be pregnant, and maybe if Eric was Eric-a, she would have a whole different set of rules. Eric is also 18 and works a full-time job, and I assume he graduated from high school. In Estrella’s eyes, a pregnancy isn’t going to ruin his life because he has already graduated — except she neglects to think about Samantha, who has yet to graduate and will have about six months of school left after her baby Jordynn is born.

Maybe she thought she was being the cool mom, but I think it’s a lesson in respecting the wishes of your peer parents. If your son’s girlfriend’s mom doesn’t want them to see each other, respect her wishes or at least talk to her about it — Eric’s mom was under the impression they just didn’t like Eric, but she didn’t realize the history of teen pregnancy that ran through the family. Communication is key.

2. Children of teen moms becoming teen moms. On his reunion specials, Dr. Drew always makes a point to remind his teen mom guests that their kids are more likely to be teen parents because they were the product of a teen pregnancy. Studies have shown this to be true, and the daughters of teen moms especially are more likely to be teen parents themselves. Soledad didn’t want her to go through the same struggles she did being pregnant at 16, and it’s unfortunate that Estrella facilitated the sexual relationship of the two.

3. Teen views on pregnancy prevention. I just about had a heart attack when one of Samantha’s friends, in one of the opening scenes, said something along the lines of, “You can’t prevent pregnancy.” Some of her other friends laughed and responded, “Well, you don’t have to have sex,” and the girl simply said something like, “Well once you have sex you can’t prevent it.” My friend suggested that maybe she meant once you are pregnant you can’t do anything about it, but I contend that this girl is ridiculously ignorant.

It scares me to think that these are the thoughts that go through teen girls’ minds. It’s scary that they think sex just happens and sometimes you get pregnant, but it’s scarier to think that they almost think of sex as a necessity — like, of course they have sex, why would they abstain, they had no choice but to have sex with each other?

Part of me hopes that the girl was referring to the fact that condoms and birth control aren’t 100 percent effective, so there isn’t a way to have sex and completely prevent pregnancy at the same time, short of someone getting rid of their reproductive parts.

4. Innocent girls don’t have sex. Something that troubled me was that, at the end of the episode, Samantha was something along the lines of, “I’m an innocent girl, no one expected me to do this” or something that suggested that she was innocent in nature and shouldn’t have been having sex. I can’t access the MTV Web site to view the clip right now, but the idea that kept surfing my brain was “innocent girls don’t have sex.”

Or better, “Girls who get good grades and do well in school don’t have sex,” which also implies that “girls who get bad grades and do bad in school do have sex.” It applies pressure to the “innocent” girls, as being a goody-goody or a bookworm often has a negative connotation in high school, and having sex is a way to counteract that image; it applies pressure to the “not so innocent” girls, as being a bad or indifferent student brings expections of rebellion.

So not only are girls pigeon-holed into either being a “good girl” or a “bad girl,” but girls who are seen as innocent might either get less adult supervision or seem so pure that they don’t need sexual education from parents — I mean, their little angel is such a good student and wholesome child, why would they need to taint her brilliant mind with thoughts of condoms, birth control, or the morning-after pill?

If parents delude themselves into thinking that their child needs less discipline simply because they are book smart, then they might get a rude awakening when they discover that their teenager is sexually active. For all teenagers, male or female, getting straight A’s doesn’t deplete the raging hormones that surge through teenagers’ veins; yeah, they do well in thermochemistry, and they also think about sex all day long. They still need boundaries, and they still need the sex talk.

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I’m curious if Samantha and Eric used protection though, as I see Samantha’s mom, Soledad, as someone who would be educating her about sex from an early age, trying to deter her from having sex until she at least finished high school. If Samantha didn’t use any protection, then I’d be curious what kind of influence Eric had on her to not use anything. Then it raises questions about how what your boyfriend says can completely erase all logical sex education you’ve received, etc.

And, although Eric and Samantha had some trouble after the birth, I think their relationship is relatively tame compared to episodes past. There was unforeseen tension though, because Eric worked all day and then wanted to relax, and Samantha stayed home all day for six weeks and wanted a break from taking care of Jordynn when Eric got home. Samantha eventually got to leave the house and go to school during the day, but as we’ve seen especially with Amber, it can be emotionally draining to take care of a baby all day and also feel so secluded inside.

Sidenote, Samantha also taught us that labor can be hella painful, as I think my ovaries started to ache listening to her screaming during contractions.