The Candie’s Foundation is a non-profit organization that aims to help prevent teen pregnancy through event outreach, promotional ad campaigns featuring tweens’ favorite celebrities, and awarding other teen prevention agencies with miniscule grants. The organization has employed Fergie, Fall Out Boy, and Ciara to promote such catch phrases as “Not Really The Way You Pictured Your First Crib” and “Be Smart: You Are Too Young To Start”. In 2009, the organization even hired teen mom Bristol Palin to serve as a teen ambassador, joining other such ambassadors as Jenny McCarthy and Hayden Panettiere. However, a further examination of the organization shows that their messaging around teen pregnancy and their overall policies might have damaging effects on teen sexuality and teen pregnancy.
Part of the problem with the discourse surrounding teen pregnancy is the shaming and guilt-ridden messaging that enters the equation, especially for young women. The website features a number of dramatic PSAs showing young, hormonally charged teens getting it on. Suddenly, the bed turns into a crib or the hot convertible that no teenager would be driving morphs into stroller while an ominous voiceover warns viewers of the dangers of unplanned pregnancy. My favorite PSA is a tossup between the one featuring Bristol Palin and “The Situation” from Jersey Shore as they both try to say the word situation to reference penis, vagina, sex, pregnancy and the one featuring Jenny McCarthy interrupting a band of sexually active teens and thrusting a screaming baby in their face. The PSAs fall into the classic scare tactic genre; have sex and your life will invariably end.
One interesting thing I noticed is how much attention is directed toward women with regards to teen pregnancy. Little or no attention is directed toward the male partner’s role and responsibility. When Jenny McCarthy interrupted the teens with a baby, she handed the baby over to the young girl while the boy got out of Dodge and vacated the premises, enforcing negative stereotypes about absent fathers. The message is clear; though it takes two to tango clearly the woman is more responsible for “the situation”.
The Candie’s Foundation also only features white adolescents in their PSA videos. Even though the research shows that African American and Hispanic female teens are disproportionately impacted more by unplanned pregnancy than their white counterparts, the website does not feature any targeted campaigns aimed at those communities. Research has shown that messaging made for and directed at specific communities have a better success rate than messages that are vague and general.
Currently, the site is promoting their new buzz phrase “Pause Before You Play”; a campaign to encourage teens to think about consequences before engaging in sexual activity. While I agree that teens should take pause to consider the ramifications of sex before doing it, it seems as if the message lacks any substances to it. At no point does a discussion of condom usage and condom negotiation enter the equation or even a slight mention of sexual responsibility and healthy relationships. At no point does a conversation about birth control or emergency contraception occur in the PSAs. At no point does the Candie’s Foundation even elude to the fact that there are methods of protection teens can use to prevent an unplanned pregnancy. Nor do their videos depict parents having difficult conversations about sex, birth control, or pregnancy with their children. Instead, the Candie’s Foundation appears to rely on archaic ideology with regards to sex education. Scare tactics rarely if ever serve as a deterrent for behavior otherwise the dramatized pictures of cauliflower gonorrhea would have made everyone abstain from sex. With so much star power employed by this organization, I feel the Candie’s foundation is missing out on an important opportunity to engage adolescent youth and educate them.