After working on this project for three years and eight months, today is the day when Young Motherhood: The Triumphs, The Challenges, The Truth is officially out in book formats for the general public.
I feel relieved, exhausted…and disappointed.
When I started this project, I was an idealist. I still had that “fresh graduate” bounce, and buoyed by the success stories of alumni our lecturers paraded through our careers module, I was ready to go. But I wasn’t just going to think up an award-winning advertising campaign or launch a quirky and lauded creative blog, I was going to change the world one creative project at a time. I worked from the premise that people acted terribly because they just didn’t know. I was a “forgive them Father, for they know not what they do”-type of person, believing that all it takes is a bit of education and people won’t be so horrible to each other. So I decided to put an idea I had been chewing on into action, the working title was ‘Young Motherhood’. I thought I’d work on it for about a year, make a big splash, bring the truth to the people, take the truth to Parliament, parades, crusades, a kind of creative activist campaign. Simple, right? Wrong. I mean the project has gone further than I could imagine. We actually did make it to the House of Commons; it made a splash in a couple of online and offline publications; no parades or crusades, but a few workshops and events that went really well. But after all of that I’m disappointed because I’ve realised that the truth actually means very little.
I’m no longer an idealist. It’s not simply a case of “educating the masses” and the only innocently ignorant people are those who are illiterate – the rest of us have no excuse. If you care enough to have opinion, then you have more than enough means to do basic research. Maybe it’s Trump, maybe it’s Brexit, maybe it’s the days of constantly skim-reading articles about teen pregnancy that regurgitate the same half-truths almost verbatim: but the reality of the media, the government, and the general public is that the truth counts for very little in the face of base human desires that want to deflect blame, crucify scapegoats, and manipulate emotions for selfish gain. There are agendas, very real agendas. This is no longer the realm of conspiracy theory for me; this is how the world works.
In the process of working on Young Motherhood I’ve come across activists that work in full knowledge of this reality but press on despite it all. They are heroes. I have also spoken to journalists who care deeply about their work and write about stories that they find not only interesting, but important. My respect for them is endless. I have not ventured into the realm of cynicism where I do not believe that such people exist, nor that their work holds no value, but I naïvely thought that changing the narrative was as simple as “presenting the truth”. The truth doesn’t sell newspapers or get viewers to tune in; the audience for uplifting stories about young mothers “overcoming the odds” or “triumphing over adversity” is smaller than the audience who wants to read about “benefit-scroungers” and “silly slappers that can’t keep their legs closed”. It is what it is.
Without a doubt I’m incredibly proud of Young Motherhood and everything that this project has achieved. What I am disappointed about is how long it took me to realise the way our culture works. That doesn’t mean that the truth doesn’t matter and it doesn’t mean that I’ll stop telling it, but my aim is no longer to change anyone’s mind. There will be less hand-holding, less diplomacy, and less heartfelt pleas to recognise someone else’s humanity. I pledge to tell the truth in whatever way it needs to be told; whether screamed at the top of my lungs, or whispered menacingly into your ear with the blade of a knife pressed against your throat (kidding!). I don’t hold my breath waiting for stone-hearted people to scrabble around in the darkness for empathy; my only goal is make sure that at the very least they can never claim they didn’t know.