In the Blog

The good vs. bad sister?

December 20th, 2007     by Stacey May Fowles     Comments

I’ve been reluctant to write about this because I really didn’t want to add any fuel to the roaring media fire that already exists. Having said that, I think the recent announcement that Jamie Lynne Spears is (sixteen and) pregnant is relevent to what we talk about around these parts: how the media views, treats, responds to and disrespects young women, their sexuality and their abiity to make decisions.

With headlines like “Jamie Lynne Spears: Not That Innocent” some real media moral judgments are solidifying. Everyone has an interest and opinion, so much so that OK Magazine’s website crashed yesterday as everyone scrambled to get the “world exclusive” breaking news.

Opinions? There are many. For example: “Unfortunately for Jamie Lynn, so much of her brand and public identity is dependent on her wholesome credibility.

And there’s this: “Playing the role of the ‘good girl’ to her older sister’s ‘naughty’ reputation, was great for Jamie Lynn’s clean image and could have ultimately been good for her bank account.”

And Janice Min, editor of US Weekly, said this: “What’s sad about this is that Jamie Lynn was the good Spears.”

Okay, so one thing is pretty clear: good girls don’t have sex, right?

(This high profile piece of gossip is also- according to CNN - “casting new light on how states deal with the thorny issue of consensual sex among teens,” but that’s another issue all together.)

Jamie Lynne had this to say to OK magazine: “I definitely don’t think it’s something you should do; it’s better to wait… But I can’t be judgmental because it’s a position I put myself in.”

Nickelodeon released this statement: “We respect Jamie Lynn’s decision to take responsibility in this sensitive and personal situation. We know this is a very difficult time for her and her family, and our primary concern right now is for Jamie Lynn’s well being.”

“It’s better to wait?” “Take responsibility?” How has this piece of pop culture become a moral lesson about the importance of being a good girl, abstinence and “keeping the baby?” If anything, the pregnancy of a “teen role model” should suggest that abstinence doesn’t work? That and teenage sexuality isn’t waiting until marriage vs. unwanted pregnany; it can be informed, safe, responsible, happy and healthy. As for issue of “responsibility,” Feministing had this to say:

“Couldn’t Nickelodeon support Spears without making a judgment call? (Cause that’s what it seems like to me.) Wouldn’t she be taking “responsibility” if she had an abortion or decided on adoption? And why is the notion of “responsibility” even being discussed at all?”

The reaction to the announcement of Jamie Lynne’s pregnancy has been all over the map, but a general review is very telling if you’re interested in how our current society views teenage girls. There seems to be a really pervasive virgin/whore dichotomy where “nice girls never have sex,” and up until this announcement everyone thought Jamie Lynne was the “nice sister.” It’s not so black and white, of course - from

“How about birth control? Can someone please talk about the obvious? Can’t we please have a conversation in this country about teenage sex that doesn’t come down to, ‘just don’t do it?’

Maybe this is an opportunity for parents and teens to talk realistically about teen sexuality? This notion that Jamie Lynne is a “bad girl” who did something bad only further emphasizes the line in the sand between abstinence and pregnancy and doesn’t help anyone. And why is all the moral responsibility on her? Where is her partner?

In the realm of intelligent reactions to the story, I found this one, from Mary J. Blige:

If that’s her choice (to keep the baby), then congratulations.”

Tags: media savvy

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