There’s been lots of noise – well, at least some noise – about whether or not Bristol Palin should have been invited (and later disinvited) to speak about sexual abstinence at Washington University. Some critics asked what she could contribute that would be worth the $20,000 fee that she charges for such appearances. Others asked why she should be regarded as an authority on abstinence just because she failed to practice it.
While both points may have merit to a greater or lesser extent, there’s another aspect it seems to me everyone is missing. If you want to promote abstinence, Bristol Palin is a very poor example, not because she had a child as an unmarried teenager, but because she has parlayed that event into a very lucrative living. For Palin, crime may not pay, but teen pregnancy certainly has.
Here I need to say that while I believe it’s unfair to criticize family members of political figures as long as they remain private, Bristol Palin has made herself fair game. Daughter Palin hasn’t just been willing, but eager to take advantage of her mother’s celebrity and use it to rake in the dollars. She is interesting for two reasons, she’s Sarah Palin’s daughter and she had an out-of-wedlock baby, and she’s making the most out of both.
No matter how sincerely Bristol Palin may talk about the negative aspects of her experience and the merits of abstinence, doesn’t it strike anyone that her life provides just the opposite lesson? Here’s a young woman, nineteen years old, who just purchased her own five-bedroom house in Phoenix Arizona where she has implied she wants to go to college. Given the big-bucks she can currently pull in, she will certainly not want for child-care; her independence is assured for a number of years. Some might even consider little Palin’s tabloid-created persona glamorous. A confused teenager could be excused if she decides that Palin made out-of-wedlock pregnancy pay off really well.
In the interest of putting my biases up front, I should note that I believe the whole abstinence schtick, at least when it comes to establishing public policy, is silly and unrealistic. That said, I’ve got nothing against exploring the pros and cons and all the nuances fully in events like that planned for Wash U. If, though, I were responsible for putting together a panel to discuss the issue, I would want to insure that my pro-abstinence participant could represent that point of view in the best way possible. Would exploiting Bristol Palin’s notoriety really have done that?