Parenting – fun for the whole family, unless you’re a journalist

It’s disappointing when journalists who usually get it right, go and get it so wrong. Like Adele Horin in today’s Sydney Morning Herald: Call for compassion in program to move young mothers off welfare.

Ok, the headline was written by the sub. But the sub writes the headline based on the article and the word “father” isn’t mentioned. Not even once:

DANIELLE TROY thinks compassion rather than punishment should guide the federal government’s new approach to teenage mothers… A trial program is being introduced this week that will compel teenage mothers on welfare.. carrots the government is offering to help young women…

It’s clear from the quotes in the article that when Horin interviewed people, she only asked them about teenage mothers.

By perpetuating the bullshit attitude that parenting is something that only women do, the article is wrong. Not wrong as in “it’s wrong to do this because it’s sexist”, but wrong as in it is pretending that young men are excluded from this Government program. They are not. It is the Teenage Parent Trial and nowhere on the department website does it mention teenage mothers:

The Teenage Parent trial is designed to increase the level of educational attainment among teenage parents and to ensure that the children of teenage parents have the best chances in life.

This is Journalism 101 stuff. Seriously.

As Andrew Elder writes in The information you need (I highly recommend reading this post):

The mainstream media isn’t giving us the information we need. It is giving us what they think is good enough for people like us, gathered by people that mainstream media organisations regard as competent; but this is not the same thing at all.

Parenting is something that single mothers do, that single fathers do, that transgender people do, that heterosexual couples do, that gay couples do, that lesbian couples do, that transgender couples do, yet the mainstream media continues to pretend that it’s just women’s work. Even to the point of misrepresenting a Government program. This is why we’re not getting any closer to equality.

28 responses to “Parenting – fun for the whole family, unless you’re a journalist

  1. Beautifully-written NWN.

  2. Slightly off topic, but I picked up the book “How to be a woman” you have over there. —>

    It’s fantastic! Thank you 🙂

  3. THANK YOU NWN! I have been banging on about this topic for a while (not specifically in relation to this program) so it’s wonderful to hear your eloquent voice on this topic. I’m surprised someone like Adele Horin got it so wrong – I normally enjoy her columns and think she’s a quality journalist in a sea of dross.

  4. Of course they only used the term “teen mothers”. It’s a loaded term – it conjures up the image of slutty teenage girls who had sex, which makes them easier to demonize.

    On the other hand, in the eyes of the patriarchy the young men who had sex with those young women are seen as studs who were merely sowing their wild oats. If a teenage father chooses to take on the responsibility for raising his child (either as a single parent, or as part of a couple with the mother) he becomes even harder to demonize.

    If the newspapers are using loaded terms like “teen mothers” then clearly they want an emotional knee-jerk reaction from their readers, and not a reaction that logically discusses whether the policy is good or bad policy.

  5. I just read this piece too, excellent comments, NWN! I’m actually rather surprised at centrelink for something that seems to actually be quite good – apart from the cancellation of payments as soon as you miss a playgroup/etc session. But centrelink will be centrelink.

    Kyna62 has some really good points about the double standards that teen mothers and fathers are held to – I do agree with them. However, the journo really should have gotten his facts right, and HELL YES, parenting is so not just a mother’s job! (Sadly a lot of teenage mothers are single, though.)

    • Jo, welcome to the News with Nipples. The journalist is female, Adele Horin, and she usually gets it right, particularly around family stuff.

      • Thanks for the welcome! Aargh, that “his” was a complete slip of the tongue, I was aware that the journalist was female. (Damn you internalised patriarchy!) My mistake 🙂

  6. Totally off-topic, but I like your new comment box heading.

  7. Ugh Adele horin annoys me. Yes she writes about worthy social issues like homelessness, child care, affordable housing, aged care, disabity etc etc. As a general rule I tend to agree (in the main) with what she says. … It’s just the WAY she says it that shits me to tears.

    She is such a bleeding heart middle class patronising lefty (yep I’m a hypocrite cos I’m one too… But I’m annoying!!!!) it’s the prose and the descriptions and what always sounds to me like ‘hey look at me, I met a homeless guy and sure he’s smells but I’m cool with thst cos I CARE and I’m so like cool cos I actually know poor people. blah ”

    I was just reading her article on the urban problem of having a second kid in a high property price city (actual a fact close to my heart so I thought I’d agree and tho i fit the bill in everywhere of her target demographic it bugged me). No mention of renting and lots of references about the horrors and fears of moving west of parramatta. Vieled middle class urbane snobbery. She bores me and sounds like a party spokeswoman too often.

    • I didn’t read that article because I figured it would be about inner city mortgages and small backyards and environmental concerns. Also, I don’t have a first kid, so I’m stressing over having a second.

  8. Adele Horin obviously has a long way to go before she can match a title like NWN, not every news title can encapsulate both female sexuality and female empowerment, let alone simultaneously.
    Kyna’s kyna on the money, I reckon. But have you ever thought we could be sitting here thinking up consipiracies only to find she had to cut the blokes out because mentioning them made the word count, like 5 words over the limit? It would be great if we could get AH to comment on our analysis.
    All single mums are over-sexed she-devils, doesn’t matter if they’re teens or not! Of course we all deserve vilification – we’ve not a single, solitary patriarch to redeem our worthless, witchy souls…

    • Ha! Thanks. Welcome to the News with Nipples. The word count theory doesn’t stack up because that’s not how cutting works. To make it shorter the sub would cut some of the lines about the teen parent Danielle Troy.

  9. Hate to disagree, but I think she was bang on and maybe just didn’t articulate the point she was trying to make as well as she could have. These shitty reforms are going to impact a lot more heavily on teenage mothers than on teenage fathers, given that they’re generally the ones who are engaged in caring for their children. I think the reason the reforms haven’t been questioned or opposed like they should have is because most people DO have that ‘all teen mums are careless sluts who neglect their children’ attitude, but I really don’t think Adele Horin is one of those people. In my opinion the policy is clearly targeted at young mothers, not young parents, and that’s not because i think parenting is something only women do! I’m probably not being very articulate myself now, but hopefully that makes enough sense 🙂

  10. I hate to disagree because I never do when reading your blog! Apart from this instance, obviously. Can see your point re bad reporting, I just think the whole policy is lazy and impacts disproportionately on young women rather than men and that possibly that was Horin’s point. Obviously the reporting also leaves a lot to be desired. Thanks for the blog though, it brings me great joy.

  11. Thanks for the recommendations, NWN.

    I’m a parent and I support the idea that teenage parents need support and should get it in pursuing education. TPT is not the first such initiative of its kind. There have been a number of initiatives over the years to provide such support, and Adele Horin has no excuse to a) be unaware of those and b) fail to compare the current proposals with those that worked, and those that didn’t.

    There’s also a question of what constitutes a “parent”. Take three teenage males from low socio-economic backgrounds: A is a father as a matter of bio-historic record but plays no role in the care of his child; B is not a father and also plays no parenting role; C isn’t a biological father either but is in a relationship with the mother of A’s child and changes nappies, feeds and bathes the child – and provides financial, practical and emotional support for the mother and care for the child. Under the TPT as I understand it, only A is eligible (no mention of cross-checking with Child Support Agency obligations).

    I went to school with a mousy girl who lived with her grandmother. When you got to know her better you found out that she didn’t just live with her grandmother, she showered her and took her to the toilet as well, and rang an ambulance when caring overwhelmed her. After her grandmother died she had a house and a thorough understanding of the labyrinthine health system, but such savvy as you do pick up in your teenage years passed her by. What do contemporary versions of that girl get under the TPT?

    Are there more teenage parents today than there were when I was a teenager in the ’80s? How big a problem is this anyway?

    Keep up the good work and do not feel that you have to settle for #journalismfail for the sake of your career.

  12. Hi NWN, I was really just winding you up about the word count…I already know the way it works.

    You don’t have to be a teen mum to be discriminated against, it’s just another of the prejudicial stereotypes that are generated by the media. It’s not the point that single mothers make up the majority – it’s that AH generalized though she had an opportunity to combat a sexist, misogynistic stereotype, simply by using more accurate language.

  13. You can’t develop social security policies based on how things ought to be though, and as nice as it sounds to say that fathers should do an equal share, that’s just not how it pans out in reality. In reality it is mothers whose lives are disrupted by pregnancy, childbirth and caring for newborns, regardless of age. It’s the young women who are going to be most disadvantaged across the life span, at greater risk of poverty, violence and homelessness, not the guys who got them pregnant.
    Insisting on gender neutral language is to erase the realities of women, and I suspect Adele Horin is using her journalism to challenge that idea.
    It’s great that she’s quoted relevant people in challenging the possibility of payments being stopped. It would have also been good to see her challenge the appalling time frames; six to twelve months is an awful threat to hang over the heads of new mothers adjusting to the demands of the role. What about bonding and breastfeeding? It’s as though the mother child bond doesn’t matter as much because the mother is young.

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