Monday, December 27, 2010

No Easy Decision/16 & Loved: MTVs Airing of Teen Stories About Abortion

This post will be cross posted from my Media Justice column.

This week I’ve come back to DC to be with my family for the end of the year. It’s a tradition that I’ve done since moving back to NYC. One of the saving graces from the stress of holidays, family expectations (being in your 30s and not being partnered or have babies is kind of an issue as some of ya’ll can imagine), not having public transportation similar to NYC, and generally being back in the south (DC is below the Mason Dixon line, the sweet tea line, and it’s the south!), is cable television!

I haven’t had cable since leaving the area, so 5 years I’ve been sans cable, as well as still using rabbit ears for a TV that has survived the conversion of 2010. I’ve shared before that I live an analog life and it’s still true! The first thing I try to do when I get home is not get sucked into the Law & Order: SVU marathon that is a black hole, instead I peruse the music video channels and steadily stay watching Vh1 Soul. This morning (Thursday) they had a Prince block that gave me life!

All this to say, I was way behind in discovering that MTV is having a show “No Easy Decision.” l about teens who have chosen abortion when they have discovered they are pregnant. The show will air Tuesday December 28, 2010 at 11:30pm. This week I began to see a ton of tweets from my homies on Twitter about supporting the youth who share their stories of abortion on the television show. The hashtag being used is “16 & Loved” and I went to the MTV website and couldn’t find the show by that name.

I sent a tweet asking folks who are promoting the show to please see the class privilege in having access to cable. That’s when my homegirl Shelby Knox replied and sent me the links folks can show support if there is no cable access. MTV has partnered with Exhale and there is a website that folks can share their own stories of abortion and show support for the teens sharing their story at 16 & Loved. The website mission reads:

16 & Loved is a campaign to give our public support to the three young women who told their abortion story on the MTV special – “No Easy Decision” - created for the popular series “16 & Pregnant.” Markai and several other young women did their part to let others know: “you are not alone. I’ve been there too.” Now, it’s time to do our part. We need to make sure these brave young women feel our unconditional love and our support. 16 & Loved sends love and support to Markai and the others on the show, and, in the process, lets every young woman who has had an abortion know that she is not alone. She is loved.

I write this post because I won’t be home in DC after Monday and will miss the airing of the show as it’s back to rabbit ears TV for me. I’m loving the movement of youth and people that have come out to support young people and all of their decisions when facing an unplanned/expected pregnancy. It’s time we see that there are options and all young people must know what they are and that they are available. This is media making.

There’s also a ton of class privilege that I think can also be interrogated, and that we don’t usually see (but I’ve seen it vividly in Teen Mom especially with Tyler and Catelynn in Michigan). MTV is not the best at showing working-class White people like American Idol, but their story really is one that I find important to this narrative and testimony of youth and relationships.

Part of this class privilege is also having access to the Internet, which is completely connected to Net Neutrality (which is something we MUST get up on as a community of reproductive justice activists!) I’ll be honest with ya’ll, I “borrow” WiFi to write a majority of my Media Justice columns as well as other spaces where I do my online work. The Internet and access to it is a privilege. It’s a privilege that I don’t know how or when I may lose or have it and I for that reason I’m also thinking of the youth who may be in a similar situation and not be able to support and/or watch the show.

The hands of the many young clients I’ve held because they have accepted me as their abortion doula during their termination; hearing their stories; knowing some of their histories, I know they do not have cable. Their stories are theirs to tell and they won’t be told in this capacity. This is one of the reasons I see the importance of “speak outs” that happen at many feminist/gender-centered conferences.

I’m not a huge fan of the “speak outs” especially when connected to abortion, personally. Part of this stems from seeing people who are not prepared to hear those testimonios respond to them, youth thinking they are expected to share when they are not prepared or ready to do so, and the somewhat voyeuristic space that may be created. However, I have not ever spoken out against these spaces existing, or the importance and need they fill for many people. Any way for such healing and consciousness-raising to occur is essential. There is enough space for all of us to heal and build together.

I’m in support of this show, as well as the TV series 16 & Pregnant and Teen Mom. Unlike others (mostly adults that I’ve spoken to) who have issue with the shows and the possible glorifying of the situation, I have a different perspective. I actually try to watch the shows when I can get access to the site and full episodes. I find the shows useful tools for discussion, activism, and education.

To be honest, I can’t wait for the show when a teen that chooses to carry a pregnancy to term also chooses to be in a birthing center, have a midwife and/or doula help them through their birth. Now that is a story that is not being told either: birthing options. Instead we’ve seen all the young people give birth in hospitals, with medications, and on their backs. There’s been no connection or education to the ways young parents/pregnant people are informed about the health care industrial complex, profit-driven advice by physicians, and learning how to navigate these spaces.

Hopefully those of you will join in watching the show, join other folks who will be live tweeting and show your support through the facebook group or the 16 & Loved website.

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