Go Rogue, Bristol Palin!
Sarah Palin’s dancing daughter is no role model … but she could be!
(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.