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Chicago's shocking 'pregnant boy' ads
Teen pregnancy isn't just about girls
 

(Facebook.com/Chicago Department of Public Health)

He looks like a typical high school boy — shaggy hair, low-riding jeans, a skateboard — except for one startling difference: A pregnant belly. Such is the imagery featured in Chicago's teen pregnancy awareness campaign, alongside the fitting tagline: "Unexpected? Most teen pregnancies are."

The message is as blatant as the boy's rotund stomach. Teen pregnancies are not just the girl's responsibility.

"We wanted to create an ad campaign that would cut through the clutter and get people thinking about teen pregnancy and teen births, and how it can affect more than just teen girls," Chicago Department of Public Health spokesman Brian Richardson told TODAY.

The attention-grabbing ads — which debuted in May and are being run on public transit busses, trains, platforms, and bus shelters — were actually first used in Milwaukee, but have been re-purposed for the Windy City.

(Facebook.com/Chicago Department of Public Health)

While Chicago's teen birth rate has decreased by 33 percent in recent years, it still remains one of the highest in the nation, according to a recent Chicago Department of Public Health report. Hence the need for something dramatic. The controversial nature of the campaign's content was purposeful, and officials said they hope the posters will spark more substantial conversations among teens and parents.

Sure, the ads are almost shameless in their demand for attention. But, for some, the marked shift in focus from girls to boys is enough reason to see the ads as a success. "The shift in narrative — one that holds our sons responsible in a dialog that has for much too long solely blamed our daughters — is a win all on its own," said Kao Beck at Mommyish.

(Facebook.com/Chicago Department of Public Health)

However, while it may be jarring to see a scrawny pregnant boy, these shock-value ads fall comfortably in line with the increasingly jaw-dropping imagery littering our commutes and commercials. In the public service announcement game, either you're controversial or you're ignored.

In New York city, for example, obesity-fighting officials recently ran a series of unsavory ads depicting slimy, blubbery fat pouring from soda bottles.

In Georgia, anti-obesity ads swapped gross for grim in a series of videos in which overweight kids ask their heavyset parents, "Why am I fat?"

Other countries have cottoned to the trend as well. In Lebanon, a striking PSA campaign against domestic abuse highlighted the damaging effects of verbal abuse. Beautiful women are shown with raw wounds, the shape of which mimic the audio waveforms of the harsh words used against them, including "whore" and "bitch."

 
Lauren Hansen is the multimedia editor at TheWeek.com. A graduate of Kenyon College and Northwestern University, she started her career in arts publishing and has since worked at media outlets including the BBC and Frontline.

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