What do you know, 16-year-old Jamie Lynn Spears’ pregnancy is already being framed in terms of good girl vs. bad girl. As in, everyone thought she was a good girl — “TV’s Perfect Girl,” as a New York Times headline puts it — but now, with news of her pregnancy, it’s clear we were wrong; she fooled us, just like her older sis Britney did, transforming overnight, it seems, from a schoolgirl in uniform and pigtails to barefoot and pregnant!
This morning, I’m finding the New York Times’ coverage of the unexpected pregnancy stomach-turning. In the reported piece, we hear from various parents who react incredulously and angrily to the news. Matt Younginer, father of a 9-year-old girl who loves Spears’ Nickelodeon show “Zoey 101,” says: “It’s usually Britney Spears who would do that stuff, not Jamie Lynn. She was supposed to be one of the good, clean actresses for girls to follow after. I think it just sends an awful message for the young girls.” Sharon Carruthers, mother of 10-year-old Yasmine, says: “I want my daughter’s mind in the real world. But this is not what my daughter is going to do in her life. She knows better. She knows right and wrong.” Yasmine adds, “I never expected her, of all people, to do this. She’s supposed to be the good one in the family.”
Get that? Becoming accidentally pregnant — details of how exactly be damned — at age 16 means you are not “good, clean” but bad, impure. The entirety of the parental discussion in this piece revolves around the supposed revelation that Spears isn’t a good girl but a bad girl; it certainly isn’t a discussion, as a fellow Broadsheeter wrote in a recent e-mail thread, of whether it’s a “Good vs. Bad idea to not be extra careful not to get pregnant.” Even so, we don’t even know that Spears didn’t use contraception. Birth control fails, condoms break. Yet, the Times quotes 16-year-old Mikala Viscariello: “There is no excuse for not using contraception.” Alicia Akusis, 17, adds, “I don’t think she should have gotten pregnant in the first place.”
There are some dangerous assumptions being made here, namely that having sex at age 16 makes one unclean, a fallen angel, and that contraception never fails. So much of the “TV’s perfect girl is pregnant” coverage focuses on the dilemma facing parents: How do they best discuss the news with their kids? It’s an important question, to be sure. I just hope the dichotomous angel vs. slut, smart vs. stupid context in this Times article isn’t representative of how parents are answering that call.