Sisterhood Blog

On 'Teen Mom,' Why No Teen Mameles?

By Lilit Marcus

  • Print
  • Share Share

The third season of MTV’s hit series “16 and Pregnant” wrapped up last week. The show and its spinoff, “Teen Mom” — the third season of which begins next week —  have become cultural flashpoints, spurring national conversations about everything from sex education to body image. While “Teen Mom” participants — girls from previous “16 and Pregnant” episodes — are a fairly homogenous bunch of mostly Caucasian youth, “16 and Pregnant,” which features a different young woman in each week’s episode, has featured a much more diverse array of young women.

But in the show’s three seasons, to the best of my knowledge, a Jewish girl has never been shown. (I’ve watched all of the episodes, and none of the teenagers has identified as Jewish.) Why is that? One answer is that, simply, no Jewish parents have thus far given permission for their daughter and her story to be shared on camera. But an informal survey of Jewish girls and women presents some other theories.

A 27-year-old who works in the not-for-profit sector told me about girls with whom she attended Jewish summer camp who became pregnant as teenagers and chose to terminate their pregnancies. “These were girls from good families who later went to Ivy League schools,” the young woman told me. “There was no way they were going to have babies.”

Another Jewish woman, a 30-something public relations professional, offered up a second explanation: “I knew several Jewish girls who had babies in their teens, but they were frum and married already.” In other words, not exactly the kind of teen pregnancy story MTV is looking to tell.

Also, many of the young women featured on “16 and Pregnant” come from lower-income families, and they agree to air portions of their lives on television in exchange for money or big-ticket items. (Several past participants have said that they were compensated for their time on the show with cribs, car seats and other expensive items they needed for the baby.) The ante goes up higher if a young woman is selected for the “Teen Mom” cast: One of the mothers from the original cast, Amber Portwood, reported that her income was upward of $280,000 a year.

One of season three’s participants, Izabella Tovar, kept her pregnancy a secret for nearly eight months, in part because she was worried about whether she would be ostracized at her Catholic high school; I found myself wondering whether a pregnant teenager at a Jewish day school would have similar concerns.

Whether pregnant Jewish teenagers have chosen not to do the show based on shame, lack of financial need, a decision to terminate the pregnancy or any number of other factors is unknown. It’s much easier to gather data about people who have appeared on the show than the ones who haven’t. For now, all we’re left with is hypotheses.

Lilit Marcus is the editor in chief of Crushable.com and the author of “Save the Assistants: A Guide for Surviving and Thriving in the Workplace.”


Permalink | | Share | Email | Print | Filed under: Teen Pregnancy, Teen Mom, MTV, Izabella Tovar, Amber Portwood, 16 and Pregnant

The Jewish Daily Forward welcomes reader comments in order to promote thoughtful discussion on issues of importance to the Jewish community. In the interest of maintaining a civil forum, The Jewish Daily Forwardrequires that all commenters be appropriately respectful toward our writers, other commenters and the subjects of the articles. Vigorous debate and reasoned critique are welcome; name-calling and personal invective are not. While we generally do not seek to edit or actively moderate comments, our spam filter prevents most links and certain key words from being posted and The Jewish Daily Forward reserves the right to remove comments for any reason.




Find us on Facebook!
  • Jon Stewart responds to his critics: “Look, obviously there are many strong opinions on this. But just merely mentioning Israel or questioning in any way the effectiveness or humanity of Israel’s policies is not the same thing as being pro-Hamas.”
  • "My bat mitzvah party took place in our living room. There were only a few Jewish kids there, and only one from my Sunday school class. She sat in the corner, wearing the right clothes, asking her mom when they could go." The latest in our Promised Lands series — what state should we visit next?
  • Former Israeli National Security Advisor Yaakov Amidror: “A cease-fire will mean that anytime Hamas wants to fight it can. Occupation of Gaza will bring longer-term quiet, but the price will be very high.” What do you think?
  • Should couples sign a pre-pregnancy contract, outlining how caring for the infant will be equally divided between the two parties involved? Just think of it as a ketubah for expectant parents:
  • Many #Israelis can't make it to bomb shelters in time. One of them is Amos Oz.
  • According to Israeli professor Mordechai Kedar, “the only thing that can deter terrorists, like those who kidnapped the children and killed them, is the knowledge that their sister or their mother will be raped."
  • Why does ultra-Orthodox group Agudath Israel of America receive its largest donation from the majority owners of Walmart? Find out here: http://jd.fo/q4XfI
  • Woody Allen on the situation in #Gaza: It's “a terrible, tragic thing. Innocent lives are lost left and right, and it’s a horrible situation that eventually has to right itself.”
  • "Mark your calendars: It was on Sunday, July 20, that the momentum turned against Israel." J.J. Goldberg's latest analysis on Israel's ground operation in Gaza:
  • What do you think?
  • "To everyone who is reading this article and saying, “Yes, but… Hamas,” I would ask you to just stop with the “buts.” Take a single moment and allow yourself to feel this tremendous loss. Lay down your arms and grieve for the children of Gaza."
  • Professor Dan Markel, 41 years old, was found shot and killed in his Tallahassee home on Friday. Jay Michaelson can't explain the death, just grieve for it.
  • Employees complained that the food they received to end the daily fast during the holy month of Ramadan was not enough (no non-kosher food is allowed in the plant). The next day, they were dismissed.
  • Why are peace activists getting beat up in Tel Aviv? http://jd.fo/s4YsG
  • Backstreet's...not back.
  • from-cache

Would you like to receive updates about new stories?




















We will not share your e-mail address or other personal information.

Already subscribed? Manage your subscription.