I remember when I was in school and college the idea of a teenage pregnancy was an almost apocalyptic concept. Those who became pregnant during those years might as well have been branded with a scarlet letter out of sheer shame at their situation. “Life destroyer” was almost always the phrase whispered behind their backs and expanding bellies.
oh, I say ‘their back’, but of course I mean girls’ backs, because it’s always teenage moms that cause the shock and shame, isn’t it? I can remember the soaps and TV shows with several compelling storylines revolving around “gymslip” moms – but the ones that focus on the teenage dads just don’t seem to come to mind for some reason.
And as I read this week’s coverage, which focuses on Sinn Fein Vice Chairwoman Michelle O’Neill and the “teenage mother” aspect of her party’s recent election victory in the North, it looks like O ‘Neill taking on the role First Minister – my reaction, like many others, was outrage. How unfair to conclude that her success had come despite the agony of bearing a child at 16. Why on earth a professional achievement in relation to a personal decision made almost 20 years ago?
But then I wondered if it wasn’t my own ingrained prejudice — my teenage self horrified at the thought of having a child — that made me read the coverage this way. If we view mentioning a teenage mother’s past as an attempt to shame her, is it because we are still, in some ways, ashamed of ourselves?
Shame runs deep, more so in Ireland than most places, and especially when it comes to women and sex. But often, the only way we can start dismantling these harmful tropes is to announce the ones that dispel the rotten stereotypes associated with shame.
If there’s a subtext of shame attached to reporting O’Neill’s journey from teenage mother to political leader, doesn’t that suggest we need to tell more of these stories?
The time to rewrite the narrative of teenage pregnancy is long overdue — and instead of being outraged, isn’t it inspiring to see it finally happening?
O’Neill himself has been vocal about how positive, motivating and energizing it was to become a mother to her daughter Saoirse at 16.
“Being a new mum, well it’s my life experience, it made me who I am, it makes you stronger I think,” she told Sky News. “You were almost pigeonholed: single mom, unmarried mom, almost written off. But I was determined not to be written off, to work hard and give her a good life.”
Labor MP Angela Rayner has also spoken out about how pregnancy at 16 “saved” her. “I had a little person to take care of and I wanted to prove to everyone that I’m not the scumbag they thought I was going to be,” she said Huffington Post a few years ago, while reflecting on a debate in Parliament about the rise in teenage pregnancies in parts of the UK. “I’m not suggesting that we should endorse it [teenage pregnancy]but to say that these young women are just losers and have nothing left in their lives – I was really quite angry about it.”
Should every woman have to defend her choice of when, where and under what circumstances to have a child? no Should it be anyone else’s business what a politician’s or public figure’s parental status is? no
But unfortunately, as long as there’s stigma there – and when it comes to pregnancy there’s obviously still a whole swamp of prejudice – then it’s certainly important to see and hear the voices of those decrying the negative slurs in order to to celebrate the stories of those who are breaking with stereotypes and showing a new generation of women that there is nothing to be ashamed of and nothing to achieve.
Nicola’s BAFTA look has everyone tickling pink
Derry girls Nicola Coughlan was in pink this week and looked stunning at the BAFTA Awards in Valentino. Forget the “diamond” of the season, the Bridgeton Star is the one who’s been flawless at her guna game of late, with this week’s offering following on the heels of a stunning, bespoke Richard Quinn gown at the Met Gala.
Proof, if need be, that nobody has to resort to lemon juice, cayenne pepper, and maple syrup to look red-carpet ready.
There are worse things than “vampire devices”
My mom has always been a big fan of the saying, “Mind the dimes and the pounds will take care of themselves”. So when I read about “vampire gadgets” this week, that was the first mantra that came to mind.
So-called because they stealthily drain your energy, these household items are often responsible under cover of darkness for costing a packet in mindless energy consumption. Keeping things like the microwave, wireless router and computer plugged in and on, keeping the TV on standby, and boiling the kettle with more water than is needed have all turned out to be little money suckers.
I’ve already become one of those people (aka my mom) who is fanatical about turning the lights off as soon as a room is vacated, even briefly, and my energy-saving slow cooker has been turned on more frequently of late to help address the cost of living crisis . So I was happy when I heard that if I started unplugging my phone charger at night, I could be in for financial salvation.
Ready to begin my money-saving journey, I dutifully put two cups of water in the kettle and checked what tips I could expect from a less complimentary use of boiling water – €50. Yearly.
Ah. Unfortunately, with insurance bills soaring, utility bills, fuel bills, a massive increase in weekly grocery shopping, and even our streaming service bill that has doubled since we first signed up… it seems sad that I can take care of the dimes , as much as I want but it’s the pounds that urgently need to be traded.
Vampire gadgets aren’t the ones draining my bank account, this is much more a case of daylight robbery.
https://www.independent.ie/life/michelle-oneill-has-shattered-the-stigma-around-being-a-teenage-mum-and-we-need-to-hear-more-stories-just-like-hers-41632318.html Michelle O’Neill has shattered the stigma of being a teenage mom — and we need to hear more stories like hers