Forever 21, purveyor of cheaply made, brightly colored teen-wear, has launched a maternity line. It’s only in five states, three of which have some of the highest teen pregnancy rates in the country. In a store that’s aimed at the teen and tween demographic, it’s likely that this is a specific effort to target teen moms. But is this necessarily a bad thing? Does it “glamorize” teen pregnancy? And why aren’t the New York stores getting the elastic stomach panels and roomy tops, dammit?
The chain, which is now worth around $2 billion, is releasing the line in Alaska, Arizona, California, Texas, and Utah. Three of those states — Texas, Arizona, and California — are on the top 10 list for teen pregnancy (we’re not getting the line here yet, maybe because New York’s teen pregnancy rate has actually declined). Hmm! Aha! It must be a conspiracy theory in which Forever 21 is making girls get pregnant by offering them affordable maternity clothes.
According to Sara Libby at Salon:
Of course they’re not explicitly endorsing teen pregnancy, but by nudging teens and saying “If you do find yourself pregnant, looking fashionable is one less thing you’ll have to worry about!” the chain is going the Bristol route of unwittingly glamorizing teen pregnancy.
That’s simplistic. How does selling maternity clothes equate with actually encouraging pregnancy? I’d like to find one girl, just one, who thinks, “I want to have a baby so I can wear these maternity clothes.” The words “maternity clothes” are enough on their own to keep me from ever wanting to get pregnant — but maybe that’s just me.
And honestly, there are worse things than offering pregnant teenagers something to wear. Should we put them in burlap sacks, because what they’ve done is so shameful? Are we really this shocked by teenage pregnancy, still? Yes, there’s been an increase in media coverage on the topic (16 and Pregnant, Teen Mom, etc). I wouldn’t say, though, that either of those shows “glamorize” teen motherhood, but in fact show it for the difficult, draining ordeal that it is.
But listen, some teenage girls are going to mess up and get pregnant, and not all of them are going to want to get an abortion. I don’t think the promise of cheap, kinda-tacky maternity clothes has anything to do with that. Maybe we should try cutting out abstinence-only sex ed before we jump down Forever 21’s throat? After all, at least they’re not Forever 16.