Bristol Palin: An Unlikely Ally for Women's Rights?


By Megan Tackney, Acting Outreach Manager
National Women's Law Center

I'm a 26-year-old feminist working on the communications team at a women's rights organization. I write and work to encourage others to take action on behalf of women's rights—particularly those of low income women.

As you might imagine, I'm constantly surrounded by campaign plans, ads, and slogans that are meant to inspire. I enjoy the work, but I'm so inundated with these messages that it takes a lot to really force me to reevaluate my stance on an issue. But last week, I found myself drawn to an ad that did just that. I watched it over and over, so proud of its spokesperson. She caught my attention. She encouraged me to take action. She was Bristol Palin.

Bristol's ad about the realities of teen pregnancy shows her speaking honestly about how her fame and wealth carried her through what could of have been a very difficult teen pregnancy. Bristol, daughter of conservative former Alaskan Governor Sarah Palin, openly admits that her own fate was heavily influenced by her privilege. She could have ended up in the "dark room" shown in the ad. She could have ended up poor or alone or criticized. But she didn't.

The ad does a great job of showing the viewer that teen pregnancy and early motherhood can be a very tumultuous and stark existence—which it is for many girls. Read these stats from the National Campaign to Prevent Teen Pregnancy:

  • Two-thirds of families begun by a young unmarried mother are poor.
  • Approximately one quarter of teen mothers go on welfare within three years of the child’s birth. 
  • About 51 percent of teen moms have a high school diploma compared to 89 percent of women who didn’t have a teen birth. Young teen mothers are even less likely to graduate from high school.  
  • Fewer than four in ten (38 percent) mothers who have a child before they turn 18 have a high school diploma.
  • Only two percent of all teens who have a baby before age 18 ever graduate from college.

The second I saw Bristol Palin’s name, I wanted to think that this was another conservative messaging piece. But I don’t believe it was this time. Bristol does not provide commentary on whether she should or shouldn’t have gotten pregnant, and she doesn’t discuss whether she used birth control or if she considered abortion. She simply advises viewers to think before they engage in sex. She presents herself as another girl in a difficult situation.

Bristol—politics aside—you are very brave.


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