Pregnant with Meaning: Teen Mothers and the Politics of Inclusive Schooling

By Deirdre M. Kelly | Go to book overview

Chapter 8

Warning Labels: Stigma and the Popularizing of the Stories of Teen Mothers

We know that the forces that silence us, because they never want us to speak, differ from the forces that say speak, tell me your story. Only do not speak in a voice of resistance. Only speak from that space in the margin that is a sign of deprivation, a wound, an unfulfilled longing. Only speak from your pain.

—bell hooks

Those who are interested in critical, feminist, and anti-racist pedagogy search for means to counter dominant ways of speaking about stigmatized groups. Some see promise in popular theater, which starts from the experience of those on the margins. Popular theater can become a site for enacting identity and challenging stereotypes.

In the face of widespread misconceptions and given their relative lack of power, teen mothers are an unlikely group to succeed in disputing the stereotypes. But what if they were given the chance? What if they were allowed to mount a production to tell their “own story” to the rest of the world? That is just what was proposed at City School, where a group of teen mothers was invited by community and school adults to write a play based on their experiences and then perform it for fellow students at City School and three other high schools in Pacifica.

School authorities made no overt attempt to silence the play that the teen mothers eventually produced. Yet the voice—or voices—that emerged from the play proved to be, if not silenced, more conflicted and compromised than the play-builders ever intended because of the forces shaping the play's production, performance, and interpretation. In the end, the stories of the teen mothers proved generally easy to “recuperate”; that is, the dominant discourse was able to subsume the challenges of the teen

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