I won’t be taking part in #youngmumschat this evening on twitter which starts very soon! You can follow the hashtag and take part in discussion here:
This week the topic is ‘labels’ which I think is an excellent subject to talk about. Well, I would wouldn’t I? Since a lot of my preoccupations relate to language, and how we use words in ways that sometimes encourage and exaggerate negative perceptions of certain groups and individuals.
Young parents are a group who get more bad ‘labels’ thrown at them than many. @Prymface, the coordinator of #youngmumschat has taken one of those nasty names -pramface, and rather cleverly turned it to her own advantage, and into her own style. Prymface has also pointed out that the very terms ‘teen mom’ or ‘teenage mums’, though maybe not intended to be put-downs, often get used in sensationalist media stories, and all the world’s problems can be loaded at the feet of this stigmatised group. ‘Teen mums a burden on the benefits system!’ ‘Teen mums leave school before getting any qualifications’! ‘Teen mums give up their babies for adoption!’ ‘Teen mums come from broken homes!” etc etc.
Whereas prymface and her colleagues/fellow young mums are trying to show that actually, many young women(and men) make considered decisions about having kids, just like everyone else. And they find ways to balance work, education and home life, just like everyone else.
There are other more generic labels for ‘loose women’ thrown at young mums such as ‘whore’, ‘slut’, ‘slapper’ etc. The suggestion being that they got pregnant due to promiscuity, which is no more likely to be the case than with any other pregnancy.
But you won’t be surprised to hear that once again, in relation to #youngmumschat I want to bring up young dads, and the worst label I know given to them. ‘Deadbeat Dad’ REALLY annoys me for a few reasons. One is very personal, and that is that my parents broke up when I was five, and although my Dad didn’t have (or ask for) full time custody of me, he made sure he saw me very frequently and regularly, he ALWAYS paid child support to my Mum, and has been a brilliant father right up to and during my adult life. So the implication that comes with ‘deadbeat dad’, that men who don’t stay with the mothers of their kids tend to be feckless, lazy, uncaring (see image above) is hurtful to me. But also, on a wider societal level, I think the term ‘deadbeat dad’ is a self-fulfilling prophecy. If men, especially young men, have a reputation for not being good fathers, they are more likely to live up to that reputation, than to fight to combat both the stigma of the ‘deadbeat dad’ label, and other barriers to being active fathers from the start, such as the lack of paternity leave, the bias of the law towards mothers’ rights, and social expectations that children’s main carers are mums.
SO I am keen to hear a lot more about labels given unfairly to young mums, and how young mums feel about them, but I’d like to hear something of labels that young dads are given too, and how they feel about them as well.
I hope everyone has a great #youngmumschat it really is one of my favourite twitter hashtags!