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The meanest PSA ever?
March 4, 2013 4:20 PM   Subscribe

New York City has announced a new teen pregnancy prevention campaign. Some are calling them the meanest PSAs ever.
Public service announcements that claim to be about "preventing teen pregnancy" are more frequently about shaming and stigmatizing young parents. This is not a way to encourage young people to take control of their reproductive lives, and it's certainly not a way to support young families.--Shaming Teen Pregnancy
Some are pushing back against stereotypes and misinformation.

NYC teen pregnancy, previously
posted by Stewriffic (107 comments total) 9 users marked this as a favorite

 
I don't care how good your itentions are; if you put a photo of a crying baby on your ad campaign you are very special kind of asshat.
posted by Doleful Creature at 4:23 PM on March 4, 2013 [13 favorites]


Wait is the baby crying because it's pregnant? It should have been more careful!
posted by aubilenon at 4:25 PM on March 4, 2013 [93 favorites]


I would rather unprepared teens not have kids. I don't think these ads will prevent teen sex. Money would be better spent on education or handing out condoms.
posted by graventy at 4:25 PM on March 4, 2013 [19 favorites]


I'm a bit confused about where the "misinformation" is. Are the statistics on those posters incorrect?
posted by HuronBob at 4:27 PM on March 4, 2013 [17 favorites]


Ugh ugh ugh. I understand why the ad is targeted to African-American and Latino people, in particular, because in NYC, those two groups have particularly high teen pregnancy rates (pdf), but the decision to make all of the babies olive- to dark-skinned and curly-haired is appalling given the way that this campaign is framed.
posted by gingerest at 4:27 PM on March 4, 2013 [4 favorites]


Mom shaming, how about kid shaming. If you're old enough to read these signs and the kid of someone who was a teen, they're telling you that you're a terrible burden and that you're likely to fail.

How about some posters that shame people who make sex a dirty topic and birth control a sin?
posted by Muddler at 4:28 PM on March 4, 2013 [92 favorites]


The little crying baby is so terrible. I mean, I get the point, but more effective would be to show teenage mom trying to calm a crying baby.
posted by roomthreeseventeen at 4:30 PM on March 4, 2013 [1 favorite]


The last two seem to be doing that classic "correlation --> causation!" thing. I know Mefites hate when someone mentions this with studies because they think it's silly to assume scientists aren't aware of that, but here it's being pretty explicitly glib ("this will happen to me BECAUSE") AND trying to hold the weight of policy, so ugh.

And I find the top ones sort of at odds with each other, too. "You won't be able to escape if you're the Dad!" vs. "As a teen girl, you're gonna be raising that kid all alone!" I know it's not quite that mutually exclusive, but it still rubs me the wrong way.
posted by ifjuly at 4:31 PM on March 4, 2013 [2 favorites]


But if there are no clinics, no sex education and little birth control, what are the messages supposed to achieve exactly?
posted by infini at 4:31 PM on March 4, 2013 [5 favorites]


"I'm a bit confused about where the "misinformation" is. Are the statistics on those posters incorrect?"

Its not so much that they are incorrect but that they are being used like a drunk man might use a lamp post, for support rather than illumination.
posted by Blasdelb at 4:31 PM on March 4, 2013 [88 favorites]


Man, seems like every force in the universe is nudging me toward this vasectomy.
posted by poe at 4:32 PM on March 4, 2013 [17 favorites]


This reminds me of the outdated attitudes in The Supremes' Love Child.
posted by Charlemagne In Sweatpants at 4:32 PM on March 4, 2013


Please. Teenage pregnancy is a fucking nightmare. Whatever works. Since school boards are determined to steer away from actually educating youth about sexuality, this is as good as anything.
posted by docpops at 4:33 PM on March 4, 2013 [37 favorites]


On a positive note, I like that one of them is directed toward the fathers.

Has there ever been a teen-pregnancy education campaign directed exclusively toward the young men fathering these babies?
posted by MoxieProxy at 4:33 PM on March 4, 2013 [15 favorites]


I worked with "at-risk" students for a lot of years and, regardless of the barriers they faced, they were, if anything, smart kids. They knew bullshit when it was shoveled at them, but given some simple, hard, cold facts, they would frequently give some thought to what they were being told. I don't see the problem in throwing this information at them. Some of them will take those statistics and make decisions based on that new knowledge. Why is this a bad thing.
posted by HuronBob at 4:39 PM on March 4, 2013 [30 favorites]


docpope, actually, NYC already does a great job educating students, and teen pregnancy has plummeted here 27 percent in the last 10 years.
posted by roomthreeseventeen at 4:39 PM on March 4, 2013 [5 favorites]


school boards are determined to steer away from actually educating youth about sexuality does not in any way imply this is as good as anything
posted by LogicalDash at 4:40 PM on March 4, 2013 [6 favorites]


docpops: "Since school boards are determined to steer away from actually educating youth about sexuality, this is as good as anything."

Except educating about sexuality, surely?
posted by boo_radley at 4:41 PM on March 4, 2013


I tried seeing something truly objectionable in those PSAs, but no. Unless they're giving out false information, I'm not seeing much there. If anything, the "pushing back" link is the one that looks a little bit wacko to me.
posted by 2N2222 at 4:41 PM on March 4, 2013 [7 favorites]


Teen pregnancy is directly related to income levels and single parent households. It's also linked to how old one's mother was when she first had kids. On top of that, girls who perform badly in school tend to have children at a younger age.

So there are some indicators that can be worked on right away. These posters won't make a damn bit of difference, but did allow some HRA bureaucrat to spend their entire budget, and accumulate more bureaucrat brownie points.
posted by KokuRyu at 4:44 PM on March 4, 2013 [3 favorites]


I don't think they're doing enough to really scare these teens. Let's see some zombie babies eating teen brains! Robo-babies with buzz saw limbs chopping off limbs! Bug-babies crawling the sewers and feasting on zombie baby scraps! Giant babies with poopy diapers like king sized mattresses!
posted by orme at 4:44 PM on March 4, 2013 [3 favorites]


If you finish high school, get a job, and get married before having children, you have a 98% of not being in poverty.

They're presenting this statistic in a very misleading way. They're not presenting a comparable statistic that isolates the variable. They should be giving you the percentage of people who had children, but then finished high school, got a job, and got married afterwords, and didn't end up in poverty. I'm guessing this figure is probably very close to 98% as well.
posted by zixyer at 4:48 PM on March 4, 2013 [2 favorites]


Those ads are great. They're just what the doctor ordered.
posted by coolxcool=rad at 4:51 PM on March 4, 2013 [2 favorites]


They should be giving you the percentage of people who had children, but then finished high school, got a job, and got married afterwords, and didn't end up in poverty.

It's just possible that having a kid in high school makes those things less likely.
posted by shivohum at 4:53 PM on March 4, 2013 [8 favorites]


ugh as if teen mothers aren't stigmatized enough as it is.

so you've got a kid, probably not much money because you are young, perhaps parents who blame you for getting pregnant and most likely the father of your kid is some dude older than you who doesn't give a fuck and now you get these posters. awesome!
posted by mandymanwasregistered at 4:53 PM on March 4, 2013 [16 favorites]


Why don't they just run pictures of those trainwreck couples from Teen Mom? "Do you really want to get pregnant by this guy?" and "You want to be her?"
posted by discopolo at 4:54 PM on March 4, 2013 [1 favorite]


"Meanest PSA ever"? Drive through southeast Missouri and take a look at the anti-abortion billboards. The use of crying babies and teenager-shaming are not new tricks, and at least this campaign is using facts instead of made-up medical-sounding nonsense and fire and brimstone.
posted by almostmanda at 4:54 PM on March 4, 2013 [35 favorites]



"Meanest PSA ever"? Drive through southeast Missouri and take a look at the anti-abortion billboards.


Hell I saw those in Boston.

Honestly just have the sign play the sound of a crying baby. That should fix it.
posted by Charlemagne In Sweatpants at 4:54 PM on March 4, 2013 [4 favorites]


Drive through southeast Missouri and take a look at the anti-abortion billboards.

Those aren't really PSAs though, those are propaganda.
posted by ssg at 4:55 PM on March 4, 2013 [3 favorites]


Speaking of mean PSAs... (previously).
posted by TedW at 4:58 PM on March 4, 2013 [1 favorite]


These aren't that much more in-your-face than most NYC PSAs. We've got the one with the woman flashing her hand that is missing fingers, the ones of the human fat poured into a glass, the ones with the beaten/endangered drunk people and now this. There's a really, really clear trajectory to all of these and it is "Don't Fuck Around." Is that the best way to go about things? I have no fucking idea. I understand that many people are shocked by this, but for the NYC residents who will be seeing these on a daily basis, they're more of the same.
posted by griphus at 4:59 PM on March 4, 2013 [12 favorites]


These are terrible....but not a surprise at all, after the Latch On NYC campaign last year shamed mothers who chose not to breastfeed or had problems with breastfeeding.
posted by barnoley at 4:59 PM on March 4, 2013 [3 favorites]


Drive through southeast Missouri and take a look at the anti-abortion billboards.

Those aren't really PSAs though, those are propaganda.


I don't see an enormous distinction between anti-abortion and anti-teen-parent propaganda:

"If you make a reproductive choice we in our infinite wisdom disapprove of, you are a terrible terrible person who will/should have a terrible life."
posted by FelliniBlank at 5:01 PM on March 4, 2013 [3 favorites]


Also, we've got a 35% high school dropout rate (and I will bet cold, hard cash about the co-morbidity of teenage pregnancy and dropping out) so unless sex-ed is started in elementary and middle school (which it was in the schools I went to, but I didn't go to broke schools) the whole "we have to EDUCATE them" is not taking into account that they're not in the building where the educating is being done.
posted by griphus at 5:02 PM on March 4, 2013 [9 favorites]


I actually think they are pretty much alright. I was fucking stupid as shit as a teenager and common sense things had to be pretty drilled into my head - and even then it was anyone's guess if I actually caught on. I wish there'd been one of these with a crying 22 year old outside of college that said "this college will cost you thousands of dollars a year for the next twenty years!" frankly. Because at that age, man, the big picture and the real ramifications of things are hard. A little straight up, "hey, this kid will cost you TONS of money" without much sugar coating is okay by me.

Oh sure, we should instead change things like sex education and poverty and all of those factors that contribute to the problem to begin with. But in the (very long, maybe eternal) interim, eh, I don't think these are so-much shaming as a little bit of a reality check.
posted by Lutoslawski at 5:04 PM on March 4, 2013 [11 favorites]


"If you make a reproductive choice we in our infinite wisdom disapprove of, you are a terrible terrible person who will/should have a terrible life."

See, my gut reaction to calling unplanned teen pregnancy a "reproductive choice" is to think that's not really fair. I think nearly all teens having sex are not, typically, making a "reproductive choice," but are really only (in their own estimation, anyway), making a sexual choice.

In fact, as I think of it, maybe an effective PSA would be one that features someone fiercely advocating for a teenager's right to make the extremely sophisticated and far-reaching reproductive choice involved in certain sexual choices, including running down all the attendant and totally-predictable ramifications of that reproductive choice in the short and long term, and stressing, over and over again, that choosing to have sex is, indeed, a "reproductive choice."
posted by The World Famous at 5:12 PM on March 4, 2013 [10 favorites]


you are a terrible terrible person who will/should have a terrible life.

Am I seeing the same ads the rest of you are seeing? Where does it imply anyone deserves a terrible life because they're a terrible person? These ads say in a straightforward way, "here are the ways having a child while you're a teenager is expensive and difficult". Does anyone claim that having a child while you're a teenager is easy? Are any of the points presented on the posters even opinions? Are they incorrect facts?
posted by the jam at 5:13 PM on March 4, 2013 [5 favorites]


If you finish high school, get a job, and get married before having children, you have a 98% of not being in poverty.
From their flickr - 'However, the actual stat is "those who finish high school, work full time, and marry before having children".'
posted by unliteral at 5:13 PM on March 4, 2013 [1 favorite]


They won't work very well. So then these are just mean-spirited advertisements directed at "them".
posted by nickrussell at 5:14 PM on March 4, 2013 [3 favorites]


having a child is their punishment fo having/possibly being coerced into having sex--are we really ok with framing things in such a way?
posted by mandymanwasregistered at 5:15 PM on March 4, 2013 [4 favorites]


I'm a bit confused about where the "misinformation" is. Are the statistics on those posters incorrect?

Well, one of them says

If you finish high school, get a job, and get married before having children, you have a 98% of not being in poverty.

If I am already in poverty, I'll bet that is not true of me. It might well be true of somebody else who reads that poster, but that somebody else might be someone who's at substantially lower risk of teen pregnancy, and at whom the poster is not really directed.

What they probably mean is "98% of people who finish high school, get a job, and get married before having children are not in poverty." (I can't tell you exactly what they mean, because the citation for the 98% figure is to a Brookings book that's not online.)

But the poster doesn't say "98% of people who finish high school, get a job, and get married before having children are not in poverty," which would be true. It uses the modified version that's not exactly true. And that's not an accident.

(Note: I don't have any particular opinion about whether these posters are good or bad, just trying to explain why it's not so unreasonable to characterize at least that one poster as "misinformation.")
posted by escabeche at 5:19 PM on March 4, 2013 [12 favorites]


The World Famous: "In fact, as I think of it, maybe an effective PSA would be one that features someone fiercely advocating for a teenager's right to make the extremely sophisticated and far-reaching reproductive choice involved in certain sexual choices, including running down all the attendant and totally-predictable ramifications of that reproductive choice in the short and long term, and stressing, over and over again, that choosing to have sex is, indeed, a "reproductive choice.""

This. While it may be hard to think of it this way, there is this childbearing instinct that I think kicks in for people around puberty. It doesn't mean we shouldn't talk about the severe consequences of bearing a child at that age, but treating teenagers as though they're silly or callous for having the feelings seems to me counter-productive at best.
posted by Apropos of Something at 5:27 PM on March 4, 2013 [6 favorites]


Meanest PSA ever?

Surely the laurel goes to Australia's infamous 1987 Grim Reaper HIV/AIDS awareness TVC, which unleashed an enormous wave of community panic about the virus and attached a stigma of death and evil onto people living with HIV/AIDS (chiefly gay men).

Still, it's widely thought to have been effective in reducing transmission rates. Perhaps this PSA will be effective too.
posted by dontjumplarry at 5:36 PM on March 4, 2013


The 10 Most Disturbing PSA's From Around the World
posted by josher71 at 5:44 PM on March 4, 2013


"having a child is their punishment fo having/possibly being coerced into having sex--are we really ok with framing things in such a way?"

Yeah considering this:
"Studies have indicated that adolescent girls are often in abusive relationships at the time of their conceiving.[68][68][69] They have also reported that knowledge of their pregnancy has often intensified violent and controlling behaviors on part of their boyfriends. Women under age 18 are twice as likely to be beaten by their child's father than women over age 18. A UK study found that 70% of women who gave birth in their teens had experienced adolescent domestic violence."

and this:

"Multiple studies have indicated a strong link between early childhood sexual abuse and subsequent teenage pregnancy in industrialized countries. Up to 70% of women who gave birth in their teens were molested as young girls; by contrast, 25% for women who did not give birth as teens were molested."

and this:
"Studies from South Africa have found that 11–20% of pregnancies in teenagers are a direct result of rape, while about 60% of teenage mothers had unwanted sexual experiences preceding their pregnancy. Before age 15, a majority of first-intercourse experiences among females are reported to be non-voluntary; the Guttmacher Institute found that 60% of girls who had sex before age 15 were coerced by males who on average were six years their senior.[citation needed] One in five teenage fathers admitted to forcing girls to have sex with them"
just from the wikepidia page

I am so so ... so so so so so... so so so sick of women like myself who were sexually abused as teens being trampled on as baby making whores who don't care about our children and are ditzy self centered jerks who don't understand how babies are made.

This is one issue metafilter doesn't do well in my opinion. At all. (But I believe in you folk, just..seriously you're better at exposing yourself to research and exploring things in depth than this, really.)

I'm not saying their aren't female teens who are leaping at the opportunity to have unprotected sex, and literally aren't thinking about or understanding babies can happen-- but I don't think they are the majority of teen pregnancies that happen. I remember someone once told my daughter she should "stop the cycle of teen pregnancy" with me sitting right there.

Maybe our culture could stop enabling the sexual abuse and rape of teenagers instead of blaming the teenagers for their own sexual abuse and children who may happen.
posted by xarnop at 5:48 PM on March 4, 2013 [48 favorites]


I think it should say "I'm twice as likely to not graduate high school because you had me in America"

and then in the yellow band "Kids of unequal societies like yours are twice as likely not to graduate than kids whose moms were from egalitarian societies"

Text "NotInAmerica" to 877877
posted by crayz at 5:52 PM on March 4, 2013 [14 favorites]


Also my experience as a teen and into my twenties was that SO MANY guys assume they both can do whatever they want to pressure or coerce a girl into sex no matter how shitty and abusive as long as they don't clobber someone over the head violently-- and that they shouldn't have to wear condoms because "it doesn't feeeel good! it ruins my pleasure!"

Men who want unprotected sex WILL find the most vulnerable, lonely, broken things they can find who have a hard time standing up for themselves or who have already been abused, or who are isolated from family and peers already and easy targets and break them down.

And I'm sick of women who have been abandoned by their family and peers getting blamed for subsequently being more vulnerable to sexual abuse and pressure to submit to unprotected sex. Yeah what they need is MORE blame because their lives aren't hell enough already! Failing in school as a vulnerability factor? Try standing up for yourself as a failure in school- when your WHOLE SOCIETY thinks you're a piece of trash who doesn't even deserve a living wage unless you can magically be better at school than you are. These girls don't need an abusive guy to tell them they're worthless, the school system and society taught them that well enough. And then suddenly blames them for having self esteem problems as if those problems aren't being caused by the same people who think people who aren't good at school ARE unworthy of a comfortable life and unworthy of social status as a good human being!
posted by xarnop at 6:03 PM on March 4, 2013 [25 favorites]


"I was a model. I mean, way back when I was a baby."

"Really? What did you model in?"

"Anti-baby ads."
posted by damehex at 6:12 PM on March 4, 2013 [31 favorites]


I've mentioned around here before that I had my daughter as a single parent when I was 17. It was, and continues to be, so hard and it's such a multifaceted issue. That people still hang on to these facile approaches (shame them!) is beyond discouraging.

This isn't gonna help, NYC, but I can't in good faith think you imagined it would.
posted by Space Kitty at 6:14 PM on March 4, 2013 [4 favorites]


photo of a crying baby

Why? Is the baby suffering somehow?
posted by mattoxic at 6:18 PM on March 4, 2013


I think nearly all teens having sex are not, typically, making a "reproductive choice," but are really only (in their own estimation, anyway), making a sexual choice.

Well, after they have sex and become pregnant, when they choose whether to have an abortion, carry the pregnancy to term and keep the baby, or carry the pregnancy to term and adopt out the baby, that's a reproductive choice, just as it is for a 30 year old woman.
posted by FelliniBlank at 6:20 PM on March 4, 2013 [6 favorites]


The tremendous proportion of NYC's budget being spent on this campaign obviously prevents anyone from taking any other action to prevent teen pregnancy. The harrowing ordeal they must have put him through to compel that baby to cry will surely haunt him for the rest of his days. They even use sub-par reasoning on posters meant to tell teenagers not to have babies. Of four babies only one is white, and he has curly hair. Simply appalling, I am forced to exhaust my limited emotional capacity on worrying about this for the rest of 2013.

WASTED. YEAR.
posted by pleurodirous at 6:20 PM on March 4, 2013 [6 favorites]


The PSAs on cigarette packages are horrible, which is why they work. Pictures of weeping gum ulcers are even more viscerally repellent than crying babies. Disgust can sometimes do what reason can't.

However, cigarette warnings depict a thing as being loathsome. That ad with the mewling kid is depicting a person as being loathsome. Not OK.
posted by justsomebodythatyouusedtoknow at 6:29 PM on March 4, 2013 [1 favorite]


Is it perhaps possible that there is a lack of these ads aimed at men because men have absolutely no absolute say in whether to have an abortion or not?
I'd LOVE to see some "wear a condom, jackass" ads, but when you're dealing with an unwanted pregnancy, only one person (potentially) has the ability to make that decision.
Honestly though, I don't really even accept that these ARE (significantly) disproportionately aimed at mothers. One of the posters specifically mentions "Dad," two specifically mention mom or mothers, and the rest are seemingly gender neutral.
I don't really rebel against the idea that people who decide to raise children as teens are doing a stupid, horrible thing to both themselves and their children. I think the "it's your fault" thing is less emphasized than "this is a stupid fucking decision," yeah?
posted by GoingToShopping at 6:37 PM on March 4, 2013 [1 favorite]


What they probably mean is "98% of people who finish high school, get a job, and get married before having children are not in poverty." (I can't tell you exactly what they mean, because the citation for the 98% figure is to a Brookings book that's not online.)

Here's a link to the Brookings Institute study.
posted by yoink at 6:48 PM on March 4, 2013 [3 favorites]


gingerest: "I understand why the ad is targeted to African-American and Latino people, in particular, because in NYC, those two groups have particularly high teen pregnancy rates (pdf), but the decision to make all of the babies olive- to dark-skinned and curly-haired is appalling given the way that this campaign is framed."

With blondish hair and blue eyes that first kid looks pretty white to me. So be inclusive but not _too_ inclusive?
posted by Mitheral at 6:49 PM on March 4, 2013 [1 favorite]


If you finish high school, get a job, and get married before having children, you have a 98% of not being in poverty.

This strikes me as not so much a shocking statistic as a reworked Jeff Foxworthy joke.

Here's a crazy question: How many teen parents were in poverty before having a baby?
posted by Sys Rq at 6:52 PM on March 4, 2013 [4 favorites]


(And might that be the real problem that needs solving?)
posted by Sys Rq at 6:54 PM on March 4, 2013 [8 favorites]


Here's a link to the Brookings Institute study.

Not the main point of this thread at all, but yoink's link is to a different paper by the same authors, which is not the one cited by the poster and which does not contain the 98% figure. So I still can't say confidently what that percentage refers to.
posted by escabeche at 6:55 PM on March 4, 2013 [1 favorite]


Reproductive choice and female empowerment includes the right to continue a pregnancy. Yes teens should be educated about the hardship- but ironically we know that children of teens are facing hardship and we stand around doing nothing but sneering rather than help.

The ONLY way society will provide meaningful support to the child of a teen mother is if she submits to the barbaric ploy to make her child worthy of resources called adoption. Destroy your mother hood- and THEN your child deserves the resources to have a good life.

But what happens to the majority of mothers who wisely don't want the destruction that is adoption? Their children don't matter to society.

Defining the meaning of life, the moment at which a zygote/embryo/fetus becomes human enough to warrant personhood FOR a woman is central to the presumption that she shouldn't have the right to believe the entity in her womb has personhood according to her.

Seriously ya'll, reproductive justice, pleeeease at least read about it if you want to pretend to care about women's liberation at all.
"“The control and exploitation of women and girls through our bodies, sexuality, and reproduction is a strategic pathway to regulating entire populations that is implemented by families, communities, institutions, and society. Thus, the regulation of reproduction and exploitation of women’s bodies and labor is both a tool and a result of systems of oppression based on race, class, gender, sexuality, ability, age and immigration status. This is reproductive oppression as we use the term.”

I don't like teen pregnancy, nor pregnancy of single mothers in poverty-- but I also think people should be married and committed to conscious parenting if we are to serve the ideal. In fact, I think people should probably wait until they feel ready to parent to have sex at all, unless they are completely sterile. People don't WANT that kind of regulation and shaming. Right?

Yet people love throwing hatred, shame, and blame in the faces of teens because it's trendy. Teen mothers need resources and access to support, guidance, mentorship and financial aid. You don't know the reasons they got where they are and you sure as shit don't love her child as much as she does because unless you can take custody away from her and gain something for yourself you're not likely to be helping her make that child's life better, right? Pretend that this social hatred is actually about caring about the welfare of the children is nonsensical. If you care about the children help them and respect the families they already have. Yes OF COURSE educate teens that teen parenting is unspeakably hard and to be avoided if at all possible.

But any such campaign should be educating teens about the real dangers-- reproductive coercion, sexual abuse, sexual coercion, pressure to have unprotected sex-- and should be aware that teens with no support system are more likely to NEED emotional support accessible from abusive partners because they aren't getting it any where else.

Shaming people for needing love when their families and communities have failed them is hardly an impressive activity to spend your time on.
posted by xarnop at 6:59 PM on March 4, 2013 [17 favorites]


The one that strikes me as especially problematic is the one that begins "Honestly, Mom, he's probably not going to stay with you". Sexist, because it invokes the old "if you have a baby then no one will want you" trope, and because the supporting statistic uses marriage as the sole indicator of whether a relationship failed or succeeded ("90% of teen parents don't end up married to each other"... who cares? Isn't it possible that a lot of them are cohabitating, or that they didn't ever have marriage as a goal?) Racially problematic as well, because the baby pictured on that particular poster is unambiguously Black. I feel like the PSA is designed to trigger the insecurities that a lot of Black women have about their likelihood of getting married (even though the Black marriage "problem" has been sensationalized by the media.)
posted by Pizzarina Sbarro at 7:07 PM on March 4, 2013 [2 favorites]


Then there are the Montana Meth Project billboards.
posted by salvia at 7:22 PM on March 4, 2013


I wasn't the finest student in my marketing courses, but hasn't it been established repeatedly that scare ads aren't typically very effective?
posted by DirtyOldTown at 7:55 PM on March 4, 2013


I wasn't the finest student in my marketing courses, but hasn't it been established repeatedly that scare ads aren't typically very effective?

I don't know; this one was pretty effective in steering me away from fried eggs.
posted by Sys Rq at 8:14 PM on March 4, 2013 [2 favorites]


Please. Teenage pregnancy is a fucking nightmare. Whatever works.

I agree. We should be focusing on stuff that works, not this bullshit.

I think everyone who approved these ads should have to spend a year with a "correlation does not imply causation" billboard with a picture of a crying baby on it outside their home.
posted by NoraReed at 8:33 PM on March 4, 2013 [2 favorites]


When I was in high school, more than twenty years ago, there was some kind of stupid Family Life class where students--and the only people who took it ever were female students--had to carry around raw eggs in a little basket for a week or whatever without leaving them anywhere or breaking them. I think there was even something you had to do to "feed" them every couple of hours. This was supposed to give them some idea of how hard it is to care for a baby. I never took that class, but these ads bother me the same way seeing girls carrying around baby eggs did.
posted by Violet Hour at 8:54 PM on March 4, 2013


I agree that these are probably not going to help and are specifically teen girl/woman-blaming, but I'm not sure about the racial criticisms. I think they're fairly representative of what people in NYC look like, especially on the subway and other places we'd see these ads. I mean maybe they should have had some Asian kids too just to round it out.

Also: "Of four babies only one is white, and he has curly hair."

So what if he has curly hair? Does that make him less white? I don't understand.
posted by sweetkid at 9:20 PM on March 4, 2013 [2 favorites]


In my senior year of HS, our sociology class made us carry around a bag of flour for a week, and we had to journal how we cared for the "baby," where we took it, etc. (Both boys and girls.) The ostensible reason for the project was to make us aware of the constant mental and physical labor that goes into parenting a baby. But since parenting doesn't come with an end date, the project wasn't terribly effective as a contraceptive.

It also ignored the larger situation in our school: the college-bound kids who took sociology already had plenty of incentive and the kind of home support that made things like contraception and safe sex a matter of course. So the prophylactic properties of King Arthur's flour were wasted on us.

I can see what these ads are trying to do with the cause-effect thing, but it seems like a handy way to finger-wag at people who are more than likely to be able to look around and say, "You know, I know plenty of people who had kids at 17 and they're fine." There's a whiff of negative class feeling here, IMO.
posted by sobell at 9:39 PM on March 4, 2013 [2 favorites]


That second link... "once we control for social factors such as socioeconomic class, most of the adverse outcomes claimed in these ads disappear." Aside from the fact that "such as" and "most" are pretty mushy, I'm not sure I understand the point. Lots of things things are harder when you are poor than when you are not.

I don't know if PSAs work or not. I've read that anti-smoking campaigns contributed to reductions cigarette use. If PSAs work and if we think teen pregnancy is something we would like to see less of, then I think the anger at the ads is misplaced.
posted by Cassford at 10:02 PM on March 4, 2013


I don't mind a three-pronged approach of information, access to resources (birth control, abortions), and scare tactics. Teens tend to have that invincibility complex--"it couldn't happen to me." I think at least someone needs to be giving them a reality check that it COULD happen to them.
posted by mantecol at 10:06 PM on March 4, 2013


New York ads are always hilarious because New Yorkers are surrounded by so much advertising, it desensitizes them - so marketing companies compete to make the ads increasingly more eyecatching and "in your face," no matter what it takes. By New York City standards the perfect ad would be a crazy robot with a projector on its head that grabs you and screams commercials into your face while beaming the images directly into your retina. Every time I visit it makes me feel like I accidentally wandered into the movie Total Recall or Blade Runner because of how aggressive the marketing campaigns are.
posted by wolfdreams01 at 10:20 PM on March 4, 2013 [2 favorites]


What are kids supposed to do to avoid teen pregnancy? Abstinence? Birth control? Abortion?

These ads seem to trust their audience to come up with the plan themselves, which is odd, since the ads also presuppose that their audience is uninformed, not thinking in the long term, and viewing reality unrealistically.

But there's a lot less controversy over data, as opposed to advocating a specific behavior-based approach to preventing teen pregnancy.
posted by alphanerd at 10:33 PM on March 4, 2013 [2 favorites]


In defense of the Brookings stat (which I haven't seen directly, but which looks pretty similar to stuff I've seen before), I think the research is taken out of context here. Family researchers making this point are usually arguing that premature parenthood tends to prevent individuals from accessing the institutions (high school, recognized legal relationships) that we create as a culture in part to provide the opportunity to get out of poverty. Those institutions should almost certainly do a better job, but it's not totally off to think that providing good reasons, resources and reinforcements to make sure kids get to school might be step zero in that process.
posted by Apropos of Something at 10:40 PM on March 4, 2013


I don't really need to preface my rants on these with a statement about how bad the ads suck, but it does feel really good to put it in writing. Just to be perfectly clear. These ads blow big shitty diapers.

First one: Kid exists. Kid is sad and worried for some reason. According to ad #2, everybody knows that dad will likely choose either A) pay child support for 20 years, or B) bail (not directly stated). Given the pressure and negativity surrounding option A...what's the other one? Oh, right.

The wording, kid fonts and voice, and picture in the second one are sooo victim-blamey. As if mom was damn stupid to ever think he would stick around...even her kid knows this. I mean, honestly, mom. [hangs finger on lip and looks upwards]

The third one..."Got a good job?" Ha! Bet you didn't think of that, did you, you dumb shit.

The fourth ad makes it seem like "If you just follow these four easy steps, you won't be poor!" So let's see:
1. finish HS
2. get a job
3. get married
4. have kids
= 98% of the population?* I don't think so.
(You didn't follow the four steps, did you? Game over, you dumb shit.)

The data from that last ad is at least 18 years old. It is all your fault. In this picture, I will be crying forever.

*Intentionally misleading.
posted by iamkimiam at 11:08 PM on March 4, 2013 [2 favorites]


So what if he has curly hair? Does that make him less white? I don't understand.

Sweetkid, that's my fault. From the context of the other posters (unambiguously African-American and mixed babies) and the fact that the baby's skin tone is maybe olive (? maybe lighter than that?) I concluded and remarked that the baby was meant to be read as of mixed race or at least was intended to be other than White or Asian/Pacific Islander. The ads are probably targeted at African-American and Latino audiences because those are the groups with the highest teen pregnancy rates in NYC (White and Asian/Pacific Islanders - not my groupings, NYC PH's groupings - have lower, similar rates of teen birth and teen pregnancy termination).

But the fact that the ads are clearly also intended to be confronting people about the realities of teen parenthood, without flinching at shaming teen parents, means that already marginalized populations are the target of blame.

I probably over-read that particular baby's apparent race/ethnicity, and probably am attributing too much racial/ethnic targeting to the campaign as a whole.
posted by gingerest at 11:16 PM on March 4, 2013 [1 favorite]


Please. Teenage pregnancy is a fucking nightmare. Whatever works. Since school boards are determined to steer away from actually educating youth about sexuality, this is as good as anything. this is all they'll bother doing.
posted by docpops

Frankly, they could have bought a year's worth of condoms and put them in a fish bowl by the doors of every Jr and Sr high school and done a better job.
posted by BlueHorse at 12:44 AM on March 5, 2013 [1 favorite]


> Frankly, they could have bought a year's worth of condoms and put them in a fish bowl by the doors of every Jr and Sr high school and done a better job.

And I'm sure they know that, but its not a politically practical solution because it annoys the Pope and other ageing influencers who want to pretend that young people dont have sex.
posted by memebake at 1:12 AM on March 5, 2013 [2 favorites]


Pope Emeritus, please.
posted by Joe in Australia at 1:22 AM on March 5, 2013 [1 favorite]


I'm assuming the person in charge of the copy for these PSAs at the NYC Dept of Health or wherever did read Random Family by Adrian Nicole Leblanc or The Corner but then got tripped up in a morass of too many statistics and hamhanded copy

The decision to have babies when you're poor and young is the desire to make a family and create love and meaning; it has little to do with practical considerations like whether you will be able to pay for the kid's SAT tutors in 16 years.
posted by spamandkimchi at 3:00 AM on March 5, 2013 [2 favorites]


Using the logic behind this sort of thing, If the genuises behind this strategy truly think these PSAs effective, they should go ahead and make the babies out to be scabby cigarette smoking, soft drink-drinkin', obese, HIV positive, meth injecting addicts, with missing fingers and teeth, who physically abuse their parents...

Just go ahead and hit three half a dozen dang birds with one big ole SUPER Mayor Mike-y "I love Goldman Sachs", Bloombergian type PSA.


The Bloomberg era in NYC, can't end soon enough IMHO. The man's epic condescension, arrogance and ignorance, towards the middle class here, has done enough damage. This is more of that horseshit.
posted by Skygazer at 4:15 AM on March 5, 2013 [1 favorite]


Which is all to say; these PSAs will have much more value as historical artifacts that will much more effectively illuminate this time period in New York City...

But are otherwise painfully tonedeaf, embarrassment from a mayoral administration, run by a smug billionarie who reduces most of the citizens of this town not white or working on Wall Street or Silicon Alley, as minority morons and idiots, and minimum wage boobs, that are an inconvenience to City government.

It's probably the reason the El Bloombito meme (another future historical artifact of value) is so hilarious and on point.
posted by Skygazer at 4:46 AM on March 5, 2013


Living in NYC has pretty much inured me ads -- I don't find them particularly mean at all. In fact, I'd rather see them than those scammy ads for "colleges" that take your money and don't get you jobs.

These ads are hamfisted and possibly ineffective (although if you think they haven't been thoroughly focus-group tested, you haven't worked with the Bloomberg administration), but they're about 500th on my list of ads I'd like to see removed.

For what it's worth, NYC is actually far more proactive when it comes to sex we and contraception than most -- it's recently come under fire for making Plan B available in some high schools. So looking at this campaign in isolation rather than as part of a fairly successful multi-pronged strategy is a bit unfair.
posted by snickerdoodle at 5:05 AM on March 5, 2013 [4 favorites]


I want to see a PSA directed at young women that says "You don't need a boyfriend."

Could someone post to the blue if they see that on the MTA? Thanks.
posted by Currer Belfry at 5:24 AM on March 5, 2013 [3 favorites]


I'm honestly not sure what I think about these ads, but I do really wonder who the hell is spending $10,000 a year on their kid. With the exception of the year my son was born and spent two weeks in NICU, I doubt I've spent even half of that on any of my kids, and we do manage to keep them in food and clothes.
posted by Pater Aletheias at 6:44 AM on March 5, 2013


...but I do really wonder who the hell is spending $10,000 a year on their kid

"In NYC, the average cost of family child care is approximately $800/month." (via)
posted by griphus at 6:52 AM on March 5, 2013 [3 favorites]


That's obviously a really rough figure discounting a lot of factors, but it ain't cheap to have a kid here and even less so if you've got two working parents and working grandparents. And the plural of both of those is the best-case scenario.
posted by griphus at 6:54 AM on March 5, 2013


NYC govt is really on a roll with this whole Bloombergian "blame the victims and nag them until they're ashamed" vision of the City.

No wonder people love NY. It's the place to go if you like watching old white multi-billionaires belittle the poor, the sick, the young and the obese.

It's like the SNARK version of what's written on the Statue of Liberty's tablet, Bloomberg Style:

Give me your tired, your poor, Your huddled masses yearning to breathe free

{And those who don't invest in Real Estate}, so I can browbeat them, scold them for being mean to my friends on Wall Street,harass them about buying soft drinks, speak to them like they're children, and generally make them feel like low-life pieces of shit...

- Mayor Mike "I'll be jetting down to Bermuda again, this weekend in my private jet producing more pollution than all the smokers in NYC combined will produce in a year, but that's okay cos I'm the King of NY" Bloomberg
posted by Skygazer at 7:24 AM on March 5, 2013 [1 favorite]


I do really wonder who the hell is spending $10,000 a year on their kid

I'm in the UK, but swap $ for £, and childcare alone is nearly £1,000 per month.
posted by EndsOfInvention at 7:51 AM on March 5, 2013


I agree also that a much greater portion of these ads need to focus on the men/boys who are impregnating these girls.

Preferably coupled with some new laws and regulations designed to improve the collection of child support from the non-custodial parent (whether male or female.)

Want these shoes? So did I. But my kid needed a winter coat.

My peeps went to Vegas! I went to work to make my child support payment.

What happened to my paycheck?! It got garnished.

I can't drive till I pay my child support.

Etc.
posted by jfwlucy at 8:03 AM on March 5, 2013 [5 favorites]


The kid in the last picture looks almost exactly like my very-light skinned older brother did as a baby. So much so that I did a double take.
posted by magstheaxe at 8:04 AM on March 5, 2013


I don't really need to preface my rants on these with a statement about how bad the ads suck, but it does feel really good to put it in writing. Just to be perfectly clear. These ads blow big shitty diapers.

Tweak this just a little and you've got an additional ad for the anti-teen mom campaign. "Have a child while you are in high school and your life will blow big shitty diapers!"
posted by layceepee at 8:36 AM on March 5, 2013


[A few comments removed. Please engage one another calmly and respectfully, or do not engage at all.]
posted by goodnewsfortheinsane at 8:38 AM on March 5, 2013 [1 favorite]


HS teacher conundrum:

If I fight against the stereotyping and mocking of teen moms, I'm told I'm diminishing the threat of unwanted pregnancy and therefore contributing to the problem. If I stereotype and mock teen moms, I'm crushing girls who vitally need help and support--to say nothing of the proxy effect this will have on their kid(s).

If I educate about safe sex and eliminate prejudices and stereotypes, I'm encouraging teens to have sex. If I don't answer questions about sex ad if I'm afraid to talk about it, I only contribute to the stigma and I do nothing to prevent serious lifelong problems arising from bad sexual experiences in teenage years.

If I fight against slut-shaming, I'm encouraging promiscuity. If I don't fight against that, I'm supporting stereotypes (and perpetuating an environment that I frankly find disgusting).

Point being: as a teacher, whatever I do about this sort of stuff and whatever opinion I voice, I will be told I'm wrong by someone in authority and will probably wind up in trouble with someone.

I just go with my own lefty-open-minded view of being accepting and educating as best I can and fighting the slut-shaming, but it would be nice if I could do that and actually expect to be backed up on it by my peers and administrators.
posted by scaryblackdeath at 8:48 AM on March 5, 2013 [5 favorites]


I think they are AWESOME. Tell it like it is. Anything that might prevent teen pregnancy is a good thing in my book.
posted by mary8nne at 9:07 AM on March 5, 2013


I live near Seattle and there's a billboard from some anti-choice organization that's pretty much the opposite of these. It shows a smiling toddler and says "I'm Daddy's Little Man!" on it. The idea, I believe, is that a pregnant woman will see it and think "Oh look, I could have a happy, healthy baby, and the father will be here and be involved and love our son so much." Bah. I wish we had some ads like the NYC ones.
posted by The corpse in the library at 11:28 AM on March 5, 2013


This may make me weird, but I have on occasion whispered into my children's ears that while there are certain things I would not want for them in this life, if they were to have babies young, we'd work it out.

And I whispered such things because I had watched one too many law enforcement dramas about teens being separated from their babies, or teens being scared to tell their parents they were having a baby, or teens to scared of having a babies that they abandoned their babies or had no support in raising their babies.

So, as I said, it may make me weird, but I'll be damned if I don't let my kids know that while I don't want them to be parents at 15 or 16 or even 20, we'll work it out should it happen. So they'll learn about condoms and birth control and safe sex, and if there is still a pregnancy and then a baby, we'll work it out.

We just will. And I doubt the NYC PSAs consider the possibility that maybe teen parents do have supports to help them succeed.
posted by zizzle at 11:48 AM on March 5, 2013 [4 favorites]


Frankly, they could have bought a year's worth of condoms and put them in a fish bowl by the doors of every Jr and Sr high school and done a better job.

Free condoms have been available in all NYC public high schools since 1991.
posted by toxic at 12:27 PM on March 5, 2013 [2 favorites]


That's because teens in supportive families aren't the problem they're trying to solve. 70% of teen moms in NYC drop out of school. The Bronx's teen pregnancy rate is twice that of Manhattan's, and 30% higher than the national average. This is the population that's being targeted here. And they are already aggressively addressing education and contraception (this fall, they plan on offering Depo-Provera shots to students). They're now trying to tackle the psychology, albeit in a harsh way.
posted by snickerdoodle at 12:32 PM on March 5, 2013


That may be, snickerdoodle, but the PSAs are just noises.

And as others pointed out, it shames the children born to teen moms as much as it shames the teen moms.

That's not okay.
posted by zizzle at 12:45 PM on March 5, 2013 [1 favorite]


Hey, can we have a little compassion here? I think what you're all failing to understand is that every time Mayor Bloomberg falls asleep, he has nightmarish dreams about the baby in the last PSA. "I'm twice as likely to become homeless because YOU didn't do anything about teen pregnancy, Mayor Bloomberg," the baby tells him. "Also, I have diabetes because of super-sized soft drinks, and since my parents can't afford insulin, they're going to have a back-alley doctor amputate my necrotic fingers. All because of YOU."

"NOOOOOOoooooo!" the mayor screams, waking up in a cold sweat. A few minutes later, as he drinks a hot toddy to steady his nerves, he rocks back and forth in a semi-fetal position, muttering to himself "Not my fault. Not my fault. Can't save everybody. Not my fault. Need to show them what I've seen. Not my fault." Then he laughs hysterically, his voice tinged with madness.
posted by wolfdreams01 at 1:17 PM on March 5, 2013 [3 favorites]


Pater Alethias: I do really wonder who the hell is spending $10,000 a year on their kid

London UK, but my daughter's childcare costs £1200 per month for four days per week. I wish I was only spending US$10 000 per year on my kid.

I just don't get the thinking in general behind these ads - the girls/ women who are likely to have babies young already know the score, I don't think the ads are going to make a difference. I may be wrong.
posted by goo at 3:05 PM on March 5, 2013


Clearly coddling them with mass-media nonsense hasn't made the point. Time for some good old-fashioned shaming. Yeah, it's ugly, but so's the situation in dire need of changing.
posted by wkearney99 at 4:57 PM on March 5, 2013


To hell, with the shaming and dehumanization...

The Specials made the same point much more effectively a long time ago, with compassion and empathy (and no need to speak down to anyone...), AND put it to a killer SKA beat (beat that Mayor Bloombito!):

The Specials - Too Much Too Young
posted by Skygazer at 8:11 PM on March 5, 2013 [1 favorite]


Free condoms have been available in all NYC public high schools since 1991.

Yeah, people talking about how NYC should adopt a different strategy should look up what the city has already actually achieved.

It's interesting to note that the health commissioner credits education and contraception availability for the drop in teen pregnancy because kids are learning sex is risky and using contraception as well as delaying having sex. Probably this campaign is just trying to make that message more explicit.

I'm not sure we can just assume it will have no positive effect, or on what basis so many posters in this thread are making that assumption. Having a 14yo and a 17yo myself, I am perfectly happy for them to see these messages reiterated when they ride the subway.
posted by torticat at 10:25 PM on March 5, 2013 [4 favorites]


My passing interpretation of these signs was that they weren't really about preventing teen pregnancies. I assumed -- probably over-optimisitically -- that there we plenty of studies showing such minor interventions had little effect on someone in a relationship with repeated opportunities for sex and coercion.

Instead, I figured they were mainly about abortion. All you need is one solid jolt, enough to get you to make the call and schedule an appointment -- something a billboard is much more likely to be able to produce, particularly if it's scary enough. But of course, even in NYC you can't say "Teenage? Pregnant? Get an abortion. Call 212-..." So this was the closest they can come to that.

But that was just idle speculation, and certainly isn't to say I agree with the billboards' approach.
posted by chortly at 12:23 PM on March 6, 2013 [1 favorite]


I had the same thought, chortly, but it would be unusual to use a picture of a toddler in a pro-abortion ad.
posted by The corpse in the library at 12:47 PM on March 6, 2013


City Journal: To Speak Of Woe That Is In Teen Pregnancy
The backlash illustrates two defining features of contemporary poverty discourse. First is the stigma against stigma. Accusing someone of being stigmatizing is almost as powerful a means of silencing him as calling him a racist. For millennia, humans relied on social disapproval to reduce behavior that produced disproportionate costs to individuals and the community. Now, however, one cannot point out the bad consequences of actions that generate multigenerational poverty, because that would be “judgmental.” Even abstract statements of fact, like those in the Bloomberg ad campaign, are now reviled as insensitive, even when not directed at any particular individual.
posted by the man of twists and turns at 4:39 PM on March 11, 2013


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