Wednesday, January 12, 2011

Reflecting On "No Easy Decision"

cross posted from my Media Justice column

I’m really excited to read so many young people writing about their responses to the MTV show “No Easy Decision” about young people and abortion. Although I had to wait until after it was aired to catch it online, I deliberately chose not to read any of the commentary by adults regarding the show. After all, I don’t think this show had older adults as a target audience, and wanted to hear more of what youth had to say. So thank you for all of you who wrote in a diary or blog post this week!

Avoiding adult commentary was difficult as the following day after the show airing there was a ton of articles written. However, I knew that when I saw the show I too would want to leave some commentary. Here are some of my thoughts about the show after taking a week to let it all sink in and to read lots of youth prespectives.

When I first realized Dr. Drew would be hosting the show I felt a bit of doom. I’m not a fan of Dr. Drew for numerous reasons, but this mainly stems from following his career on TV, especially MTV, over several decades. One thing I noticed very quickly was that Dr. Drew was very comfortable diagnosing everyone he came into contact with as having some kind of sexual abuse in their history, which lead to their “acting out” or behaviors considered “deviant.” Now, I have issues with mental health professionals doing this for all kinds of reasons that I can share but they will take me on tangents. Let’s just say that I think we are all more complicated than our experiences with sex and violence.

With that said, I have also not appreciated how Dr. Drew speaks to many of the young people who participate in the “16 and Pregnant” and “Teen Mom” series. At times I find him condescending and arrogant. I see him interacting with youth in the unfortunate and standard “I’m the adult I know more” approach but adds a hint of classism to the hierarchy he works in with the “I’m also a doctor so I know more than you.” It really makes my skin crawl, more so knowing that he’s not the only doctor who works with youth who has this same “bedside manner.”

So, it is needed for me to say that I was incredibly impressed with Dr. Drew’s hosting of the show. He allowed the young people to speak, interjected when they finished a sentence to share data that is factual and important for everyone to hear, not just folks who know what they would do with an unplanned pregnancy. I was pleasantly surprised and found myself thinking Dr. Drew is the perfect example, and reminder, that adults can learn to communicate more effectively at any age. This is not just a skill we acquire as we age; sometimes youth have to teach us how to do this as well.

I was also impressed with Markia, the young woman who spoke first and longest about her abortion decision and experience. As one of the young people featured on season 2 of 16 and Pregnant, I remember recently watching her episode with her partner and family about pregnancy. While watching her episode of “16 and Pregnant” I remember being overwhelmed or her. Watching her as she continued her pregnancy and her partner James, remained homeless stressed me out, so I can only imagine what it may have been like for her and her family. There were also times when I thought their lack of communication, distractions from friends and schoolmates, and riffs in their relationship were so real and so on point that I felt comfort in knowing that some of my time experiencing those similar stressors were behind me. It’s amazing how media can trigger such emotions, reminders, and relief. It was also uncomfortable for me to realize this for a while until I had to remind myself that part of being honest and open is being unashamed of some of the emotions I have and to share them so I can learn more or heal better.

Watching Markai and James on “No Easy Decision” really demonstrated their growth as parents, a couple, and as individuals. Each supported the other, listened well, communicated what they meant and felt to the best of their abilities, respected and trusted their experiences, and demonstrated some of the hardest parts of loving another person: appreciating and honoring the entire person by allowing them to bring their entire self into the partnership. They did not fight selfishly, learned the importance of eye contact, and showed affection in ways that give us all good examples of what a healthy relationship can look like.

Many of my concerns and hopes were not addressed: how youth are counseled and mentored in navigating the health care industrial complex, youth choosing diverse birthing options, and some issues with class and all of their connections. Yet, I believe we have been given a great opportunity to support young people through movements like 16 & Loved, watch young people grow, and receive amazing examples of strength and dedication that is centered in selflessness. These are things I never imagined having seen or witnessed and am glad to have had the opportunity with many of you.

If you haven’t seen the show “No Easy Decision” check it out below:

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