Go Rogue, Bristol Palin!

Sarah Palin's dancing daughter is no role model ... but she could be!

Go Rogue, Bristol Palin!

Sarah Palin’s dancing daughter is no role model … but she could be!

-Gretchen Sisson

Bristol Palin

(A couple of weeks ago I wrote a piece called Good for You, Bristol Palin! Gretchen Sisson read it and tweeted her vehement disagreement, so we invited her to write a piece for us. Here’s the result!  -April Daniels Hussar, Executive Editor)

Bristol Palin, spokesperson for teen pregnancy prevention, danced the quickstep last night on Dancing with the Stars. I didn’t think it was quite as good as the judges thought, but I’m no expert on the quickstep. I do, however, know a bit about teen parents and teen pregnancy prevention, so I’ll judge her on that.

Since giving birth to her son, Bristol had posed both in advertisements giddily baking cookies in designer gowns, and in uber-depressing PSAs from The Candies’ Foundation, which educates on the “devastating consequences” of teen pregnancy. Which is it, Bristol?  An awesome, glamorous, consequence-free adventure? Or a devastating life-ending scenario that’s turned you into nothing more than a statistic? Of course, it’s neither. And teen moms living in the real world (where work-life balance involves jobs less accommodating than $10,000+ speaking gigs to promote abstinence programs that we know do not work) know it’s neither. They know young parenthood is filled with lots of hard work and challenges, but lots of love for their children and a profound sense of accomplishment at being successful in the face of a culture that told them they were doomed. So, while it’s encouraging to think of Bristol as changing the stereotype of pitiful young moms sitting at home with their lives ruined, most of them weren’t doing that anyway – they’re too busy living their own lives and raising their children, just like any mothers!

Let’s be honest: Bristol is famous not because she’s a “teen pregnancy prevention advocate,” but because she’s Sarah Palin’s daughter – something she doesn’t want us to forget, because if we did, it would be totally absurd that anyone was paying attention. This is probably why Bristol shows no real effort to be separated from her mother. Bristol made sure Sarah was on everyone’s mind during last week’s dance with her flag-pinned outfit and candidate style up-do, her choice of song (“Mama Told Me (Not to Come)”), and her finger-wagging dance moves reminiscent of a half-hearted disciplinarian who can’t stop being hypocritical long enough to teach her child about safe sex. This week, in addition to sitting Sarah courtside, the show inexplicably included a visit to Alaska for Bristol to introduce her dance partner to the Mama Grizzly herself. Why did this happen, when no other dancers had packaged hometown visits? Sure beats me. It certainly wasn’t relevant to the program, although it did allow Sarah an opportunity to gush about “how extremely proud” she was and how much “energy and confidence” Bristol had.

And you know what? She was kind of right. Bristol does show more confidence and poise than most young women her age. I kind of want to root for her.

So I think Bristol should go rogue. If she portrayed what young motherhood is really like, if she worked to promote programs shown to be effective at preventing teen pregnancy, if she mentioned the government-funded teen parent programs that are essential to the success of young parents less socio-economically advantaged then herself – then I’d be happy to cheer her along as she twirls across the dance floor. But Bristol doesn’t do those things, and she doesn’t represent the young moms I know. So she doesn’t get my vote.

Gretchen Sisson is the Communications Manager at the Massachusetts Alliance on Teen Pregnancy. You can learn more about the Alliance on Facebook and Twitter (@MATeenPregnancy).

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0 thoughts on “Go Rogue, Bristol Palin!

  1. Yay heels says:

    Hear! Hear! I agree with your viewpoint!

  2. MaryMack says:

    Gretchen, you sound like an extremely jealous person that just wants to hate Bristol so much that it blinds you. Is Bristol the only teen to get pregnant-NO. Is Bristol a bad person for doing so-NO. Is Bristol a bad person for being blessed and fortunate with a strong family-NO. Should Bristol purposely live like a poor struggling inner-city teen mother when she is blessed with a successful family-NO. Should Bristol turn down jobs and offers that will help her to become an independent woman that can support her and her child-NO. Would anyone in their right mind think she should-NO.

    If you are such an advocate for teen pregnancy as you claim, rather than hate Bristol because you hate her mother (whom you probably don’t know but just hate because she had an “R” next to her name rather than a “D”), you should embrace her and SEE that she is smart enough to take advantage of the opportunities offered her and that she is doing what is BEST for her child and herself. Jealousy and hatred will blind you and make you a bad person.

  3. GretchenSisson says:

    @MaryMack: I don’t blame Bristol at all for taking advantage of this opportunity! She believes it will help her get out there, set a good example for her son, and prove that young moms can succeed. To those things, I say kudos.

    I just think – if she’s going to promote herself as a teen pregnancy prevention advocate – she should, well, work to advance programs shown to reduce to teen pregnancy. Or, if she wants to empower young moms, she should make sure she’s showing the balance of hard work and real reward that goes in that job.

    And finally, I definitely don’t think Bristol should live like a poor, struggling inner-city teen mother. But I also don’t think most poor, struggling inner-city teen mother should live the way they do, either. What’s wrong with wanting Bristol to step up and say “My family supported me. Lots of teen mothers don’t have families that can do. So, let’s invest in them – as mothers, as young people, and as important members of society – so that this challenge they’re facing (the same challenge I faced!) doesn’t turn into a setback.”

  4. bdennis says:

    Kudos to Bristol. She is dancing far better than anyone thought she would and her confidence is increasing. They put her on the show because she was Sarah’s child and ratings would skyrocket as everyone checked her out. And filming an Alaska visit with Sarah and not other parents, is all about boosting the ratings.
    How about letting those who like to watch the show, watch it. And those who want to make political statements, focus on candidates and government.

  5. pjs411 says:

    I found it telling that the judges gave Bristol much higher marks than she deserved and that the show also pandered to the whole Sarah Palin publicity movement…yuck!! Bristol is doing a decent job, so good for her, but, other dancers like Kyle did so much better (he was actually singled out to do the encore dance) but received the same score as Bristol. Is that fair? No. If Bristol comes out as one of the two couples still standing in the finale…we will all know it is rigged or that the scoring process should be adjusted because I just have that feeling that all the Sarah Palin fanatics will be out in force voting for Bristol just to show their support for Sarah not because Bristol deserves to win. I also think it is a laugh that Bristol was so critical of Levi’s quest for his 15 minutes by selling himself, she is doing the exact same thing (sans posing naked). She is a hypocrite, guess she learned it from the master, Sarah Palin.

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