Dear Mayor Bloomberg


Found his personal website. Found his official .gov site. Looked through both of them. Could not find a simple “contact the mayor” button . . . unless I were a New York City resident complaining about, say, trash removal.


There was no easy way (there could be, web administrators!) for the ordinary non-New Yorker to contact the 108th mayor of the Big Apple.


The address of Gracie Mansion is on the internet. But Mayor Bloomberg does not live in the official mayoral mansion on the north end of Carl Schurz Park, overlooking the East River – I know my way around the city – so mail would be unlikely to reach him there.


So I’m blogging this in the hope that someone savvy on Bloomberg’s staff links him.


If you live in NYC or read national papers, you know that the Mayor’s Office has recently approved a campaign using shame to bring down the rates of teen pregnancy and birth in the city. “It is well past time when anyone can afford to be value-neutral when it comes to teen pregnancy,” says Bloomberg’s press office.Posters have been appearing in the subways, photos of little kids with these sample headlines (bolded words original to the text):


“Honestly mom . . . chances are he won’t stay with you. What happens to me?”


“I’m twice as likely not to graduate high school because you had me as a teen.”


“If you finish high school, get a job, and get married before having children, you have a 98% chance of not being in poverty.”


Is any of this false? No. Is it a good idea to shame people into healthy behavior? Yes.


Look at MADD’s campaign against drunk-driving, and the way smoking has become impermissible in many places across the US – something that perplexes puffers who arrive here from Asia, where Big Tobacco is trying to addict as many people as possible in order to make up for quitters in, for example, America. Yes, shame works. A little bit of shame, that is, not enough to crush the person who likes to drink or the one who uses one of the most addictive substances on the planet (that’s tobacco, y’all).


Despite naysayers, shame is not a four-letter word, and it can be very useful to help teenagers avoid pregnancy. Holland certainly finds it so. Health experts from other parts of Europe visit the Netherlands to learn how the Dutch attain their low teen pregnancy rate. Hint: shame is utilized. Pregnancy in adolescence is regarded as an inexplicable failure of prevention on the part of both girl and boy. The Dutch also view teenage pregnancy as a family issue, and the state will not provide the young woman with a flat all her own – unlike in the UK, which categorizes a teenage mother-plus-baby as a distinct family unit.


So I’m not shame-averse. Not at all. What gets my goat, though, is using shame against only the female half of the pregnancy-creating couple.


Teenagers don’t use IVF. They don’t spend thousands of dollars on prime Danish sperm over the internet. No, they get pregnant the old-fashioned way. Which means they don’t do it alone.


Chances are, the guy who knocks up a 16-year-old is not himself 16 years old. No, sir. More times than you’d think, the dude depositing sperm is well over 18. He’s an adult, often with a wife or girlfriend. He has no business messing with teenagers.


So, what’s sauce for the adolescent goose is more than sauce for the adult gander.


Here’s what I want to see: a shame program aimed at the men who target girls. Those guys should be looking at women their own age. Pick on someone your own size, we should say.


Remember Pink Floyd’s “Another Brick in the Wall”? Of course you do. It’s still played, and not just on oldies stations. Hey! Teacher! Leave them kids alone!


So here’s how the next posters designed for NYC subways should read:


Hey! Man! Leave those girls alone!


Target the other half, the older, supposedly more mature half of the baby-making process. Shame grown men into better behavior. Let them know that picking on adolescents is the opposite of cool.


That way, teenagers won’t get pregnant in the first place. Problem solved.

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Filed under Adolescence, Bloomberg, New York City, Pregnancy, Subway ads, Teenage girls

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