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

By Deirdre M. Kelly | Go to book overview

Chapter 10

Teen Mothers and the Inclusive Ideal: Toward a Critical Feminist Stance

This ideal cannot be implemented as such. Social change arises from politics, not philosophy. Ideals are a crucial step in emancipatory politics, however, because they dislodge our assumption that what is given is necessary. They offer standpoints from which to criticize the given, and inspiration for imagining alternatives.

—Iris Marion Young

Only recently have those with critical viewpoints—feminist scholars and practitioners, for example—begun to articulate a position on teen pregnancy and childbearing (e.g., Lawson & Rhode, 1993). This inattention can be partially attributed to the fact that feminists, too, have been caught up in what I have analyzed as the good choices discourse (see chapter 3). In seeking to explain the paucity of feminist analysis in this area, Constance Nathanson (1991) notes that, on the one hand, “empowering women to make their own choices” has been a goal of feminism. On the other hand, though, feminists (particularly White, middle-class ones) have found it difficult to view positively young (particularly working-class and ethnic minority) women's choices to have sex and to become mothers: “To `choose' motherhood is to be suspected by modern feminists either of being victimized or of copping out. In neither circumstance is the choice ideologically acceptable” (p. 222).

To counter the good choices discourse, it is worth trying to articulate a critical feminist stance toward adolescent sexuality, pregnancy, and childbearing in the hopes that it might gain more political force and thus influence policy. In this chapter, I begin to sketch such a stance. In the process, I will critique the dominant discourse—including such ideologically loaded terms as personal responsibility and welfare dependency

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