Trippin' Out: Bristol Palin's less-than-successful campaigning

Bristol Palin went on several talk shows recently as a spokeswoman advocating against teen pregnancy, and reactions seem to be split between finding the whole thing deliciously ironic or wholly unsurprising. Although drumming attention for a critical issue in the United States (teen pregnancy rates are still extremely high–and you thought swine flu was a pandemic!), the coverage of teen pregnancy rings hollow—not only was discussion centered around practicing abstinence, but Bristol herself rarely gets a word in edgewise.

As the “teen ambassador” (I’ll say it again…”teen ambassador”) for the Candie’s Foundation (follow their dull Twitter feed here….um, 140 characters is enough that you can spell out “you”!), Bristol did a quick media tour promoting the organization and abstinence. But although people are talking about teen pregnancy the message is unfortunately narrow.

On Good Morning America, “birth control” only comes up when the host cracks a joke after viewing a Jenny McCarthy PSA: “As you’ve learned, there may be no stronger form of birth control than a screaming little baby being introduced into a teenager’s life.”

The subject is broached on the Today show, but weakly. Matt Lauer ventures, “Is there room in this entire discussion for safe sex?” I would hope the “entire discussion” of teen pregnancy would go beyond the experience of Bristol Palin. To her credit, she doesn’t completely discount safe sex, but is a broken record on the “safest, most effective form.”

Visit for Breaking News, World News, and News about the Economy

Watching all these clips, it’s hard not to feel bad for Bristol, not because she’s been saddled with a bouncing baby boy earlier than she’d imagine, but she never seems to be able to speak for herself.

Remember her infamous Fox interview in February when Bristol began sharing her thoughts on teen motherhood, however nervously, only to have Grandma burst into the studio and talk for the rest of the interview (awkwardly not even taking a seat!) while Bristol quietly sat by holding baby Tripp?

On Good Morning America Bristol was accompanied by the father-like Neil Cole, founder of the Candie’s Foundation, an odd spokesman for teen abstinence (hey ladies, chew on this: “Just because you’re wearing high-heeled sexy shoes doesn’t mean you should have a baby.”)

Similarly, in the Today show clip, Matt Lauer asks Todd Palin what life is like for Bristol, who smiles shyly as the two men talk over her, her father describing, to the best of his knowledge I’m sure, what sacrifices teen mothers go through. (This is around 3:40 in the video above).

Even her ex-fiancee, Levi Johnston overshadows Bristol, and they don’t even have to be in the same room. Recent news headlines on Palin weren’t complete without the counterpoint of Levi’s soundbite of abstinence being “unrealistic,” although Bristol herself said the same thing in the Fox interview.

Since when did this face become the voice of reason when it comes to safe sex?

Teleprompter says what?

What do you think? Is Bristol Palin a believable advocate?

by Kjerstin Johnson
View profile »

Kjerstin Johnson is a writer and editor in Portland, Oregon. She is the former editor in chief of Bitch. She tweets at @kajerstin

Get Bitch Media's top 9 reads of the week delivered to your inbox every Saturday morning! Sign up for the Weekly Reader:

6 Comments Have Been Posted

Okay now just hold on a

Okay now just hold on a minute! You can't pin ALL the blame exclusively on conservative men, her mother had a voice in raising her, what she taught her, and that damnable abstinence only education she advocates. Granted the Republicans and politicians in general are nearly entirely men, but within the confines of the family, and especially representing her views and campagain, Sarah had her part to play and her share of the responsibility. Feminism isn't a blame the men campaign, it's about education and equality, that equality includes taking the heat when you were wrong.

Not surprisingly, a truly

Not surprisingly, a truly 'teachable moment' has been wasted by the right.

f*** abstinence

no one can be a believable advocate for abstinence because it can't be believably advocated. i haven't watched any of this stuff but i was struck by an article in people or something where it kept talking about how bristol though kids should 'wait' without even saying what they should be waiting for. the whole thing really sounded like she just meant wait to have kids.

has no one just asked her why she didn't use a condom and what she thinks would have been the outcome if she had? has anyone even said, hey, you're telling kids not to have sex because they will get pregnant. so does that mean you only had sex once?

goddamn does abstinence advocacy stick in my fricken craw. it is -completely absurd-. countries with low teen pregnancy rates don't have high abstinence rates, they have really great sex education that includes talking about birth control! how fricken radical.

It angers me that they use

It angers me that they use this Bristol for this propaganda trip. When in fact Teen Pregnancy hasn't been on the rise, it's been around for quite some time. Young girls getting married after High School and then having kids is no different from what is going on now. Now, the fathers' doesn't have the moral facade to wed the girl or be there in general.

I wonder why Bristol always has to have some-type of male, authority-figure around her for her interviews. Are they afraid she met slip up and have a real opinion about her situation? Her words ring hollow to me, like they had a set-list of answer to the studios questions. I was hoping that she would be advocating not only abstinence, but actual sexual education. If you talk about sex and condoms it doesn't mean kids are going to go out and have sex like rabbits. It's been proven that abstinence and purity rings don't work 100%, just like condoms.

I live in a neighborhood in NYC that teen pregnancy is prevalent. My old JR.High School made sure that the students had sex Ed. and notified us of the protection that is out there for us, if we decide to have sex. Not to mention I went to a H.S. that the teachers could give you condoms and they let you know what teacher had them and what floor they were on. That saved a lot of grief and decreased girls becoming young mothers expectional.

I am a former teen parent.

I think it is completely fucked up they are using Bristol Palin in this regard. First of all, YES it is HARD to be a teen parent (I got pregnant at age 18 in high school, my senior year). But I cannot imagine being thrown into the media to be an advocate against teen pregnancy while being a teen parent. Parenting CAN be hard for people of ALL ages. Would I suggest anyone becoming a parent? I do not have that right to suggest things like that to anyone - that is THEIR decision. However, I am not always going to discount someone's age and assume that teen pregnancy is necessarily an awful thing. I am happy to be a teen parent, it has sculpted me into who I am today. I have learned a lot and am grateful for that. Having a child at a young age gave me a lot more grasp on the real world. I cannot imagine NOT being a mother of a 7.5 year old. So why not focus on how teen mothers (and fathers) CAN kick ass instead of completely exploiting their situations like what they are doing to Bristol.

Also I do not like calling teen parenting a "pandemic" and comparing it to the swine flu (like in the original post). That is comparing it to being something like a disease and it is not comparable. Like, I said I cannot imagine NOT having a child - she has completely sculpted me into being a radical feminist and using feminist mothering for child rearing has been a wonderful experience. What would then be the "appropriate" age for having a child? I think it is a personal thing. Some teen parents take complete and better responsibility comparable to a married, nuclear family. Some don't, just as any aged-parent. I am also a single mother and my daughter is in advanced reading programs at her school and she already has a grasp on feminism, gender roles, racism and white privilege. All this while going to school full-time, leaving an abusive relationship, working ... etc. etc. And many other teen mothers I know have done a lot of what I mentioned.

How could they use Bristol

How could they use Bristol Palin for this propaganda trip? She says: "If I can prevent even one girl from getting pregnant, I will feel a sense of accomplishment". Do as I say! Not as I do! Frankly speaking, she'd better perform a birth control campaign, not abstinence.

Add new comment