For 6 months, the student body of Toppenish High School in Washington watched as the pregnant belly of 17 year old high school senior Gaby Rodriguez grew. And during that time, Gaby, a straight “A” student, heard it all. Rumors circulated that she was irresponsible, there was no way she’d go to college, that it was bound to happen, and musings about whether she knew she had just ruined her life.
And one of many quotes that were read off of 3×5 notecards in a school assembly on April 20, 2011: “Her attitude is changing, and it might be because of the baby or she was always this annoying and I never realized it.”
Gaby stood before the whole school in a presentation titled “Stereotypes, rumors and statistics”. “Many things were said about me. Many things traveled all the way back to me,” she told the school. She admitted that she had been made to feel alienated and alone, and had several students and teachers read what others had said to her and about her to everyone there. The gym grew silent as many of the hurtful things said were revealed. And when they were done, Gaby faced the crowd and divulged a secret.
“I’m fighting against those stereotypes and rumors because the reality is I’m not pregnant.” And then she lifted her shirt to pull out a pregnancy pad that had given her the appearance of being pregnant for the past several months.
Could you imagine the reaction? A girl who had been walking the school in baggy clothes, and then sporting a pregnant belly for the past 6 months just divulged the entire thing had been a lie. Only a handful of people knew the truth from the beginning – her mother, her boyfriend, her principal, and a few select others. The rest of her family had no idea, including her own sisters and brothers. Neither did her boyfriend’s parents. Even her friends didn’t know that she wasn’t pregnant, and she lost some of them during her “pregnancy” as a result. When Gaby took the pregnancy pad off on stage in front of the whole school, the reaction was varied. Some nervously giggled, many gasped, some even burst into tears.
So why did she do it?
The idea came to her in her sophomore year in high school, creating a social experiment to gauge people’s reactions to a teenage pregnancy. She talked with her mother, and then her boyfriend, about the plan she wanted to carry out. At first, both felt uncomfortable with the whole idea.
“I thought I was going to end up getting into problems with her brothers. I didn’t really want to get into problems with anybody,” admitted her boyfriend, Jorge Orozco
“I thought she was crazy,” says 52-year-old Juana Rodriguez, Gaby’s mother.
While Gaby’s mother confessed that it didn’t feel good to lie to family members, she ultimately decided to support her daughter – even enlisting a couple mentors from the local hospital’s childbirth education program to assist with the project. And Gaby’s boyfriend agreed to it as well, even though it meant lying to his own parents. “My parents thought it was going to be a boy.”
When Gaby brought the idea to her principal, he fully supported her, though felt it necessary to enlist the permission of the superintendent. But the principal also admitted awe that Gaby’s mother was going along with this. “I have a daughter that will be here next year, and I would not let her do it.”
In essence, Gaby gave up her entire senior year to fulfill this social experiment. While she is now free to attend her Senior Prom in a form fitting teal gown, she spent the prior part of the year in baggy clothes and a large belly. But the research was done for a specific reason. She plans on writing a report on her findings and presenting it in May to community leaders to help other young women fight stereotypes and find courage when faced with teenage pregnancy. The report will include video and photos from the revealing assembly.
As for when Gaby plans on really being pregnant? She stresses it will be after college. “I’m not planning to have a child until after I graduate.”
What do you think? Was this social experiment crazy or brilliant? Would you allow your own daughter to conduct an experiment like this?
This girl is incredibly brave. I think it is wonderful that she took this project on, that her parents, boyfriend and school supported her, and that she wants to share her experience with others. I can’t imagine her not receiving an A+!!!
That is amazing. To go through so much negativity to show people how cruel and demoralizing they can be is really fantastic. What an inspirational (and responsible) young lady.
I would love to see someone try this experiment with a “fat suit”. Probably a lot harder to do, but overweight people are the last sect that people openly ridicule in public, on TV, in the movies, etc. I would love to see a popular, thin girl do an experiment like that. I believe someone did it years ago on TV while applying for jobs as both a heavy person and a thin person. Guess who got the job? Kids can be incredibly mean, as can adults. Our disassociation from the power of our words due to social media is affecting our society horribly. We insult via Facebook and Text and do not actually SEE the pain our words have caused.
Mixed feelings on this one – good research project for a little while, but her WHOLE SENIOR YEAR? I had a sister who was prego in high school and all of her friends dropped her cold. Nobody wanted to be with a ‘Scarlet Letter’. May I add it tore up our family.
Not having the boyfriend’s parents in on it? Siblings? That’s a little much. Perhaps shadowing a real pregnant girl or doing it for a few months would work, but a whole year? I don’t know what I’d think if I were one of her friends ‘not in the know’. Being lied to for a year and going through all that stress? Hmmm. Not sure what I think about this one.
One of the reasons social researchers do these type of experiments is bacause it gives them the chance to explore human behavion “in a controled environment” of course. I congratulate Gavy Rodriguez for conducting such an interesting and educational project.
Brilliant. Simply brilliant. Those who shamed her now can be ashamed of themselves. Way to go, kid 🙂
dumb dumb dumb. first of all, her “research” will be all based on personal experiences, so as long as she brackets out her own biases (yes, her own biases), then fine, but she certainly has a lot of them, otherwise she wouldn’t have done the “experiment” in the first place.
further, while it’s not nice to shun someone or talk badly about them because of their behavior, it’s what we do in this (and all) societies. actually our society is much more lenient than some others. (just imagine if she was a muslim, she would have been stoned to death) in any case, teenage pregnancy is a bad thing and ought to be treated as such. holding up a liquor store is also a bad thing and hopefully we won’t next have some student who wants to gauge others’ responses to that behavior.
Seems like a long way to go to find out which of you so-called friends are backstabbing jerkholes, but it appeared to work.
But really, do this tell us anything any human being doesn’t already know? People are judgmental, small-minded and self-righteous? How can that be?
And teenage pregnancy is often detrimental to the lives of the mother and child. That’s not a stereotype, that’s an economic, emotional and social fact.
I am male, and not a “young knocked up sorry for myself I need a connection so I need something to love me” girl, 1’st generation illegal or not. Oh so brave and strong you are. You are one of the epitomes of tax problems in this country and state. And here you are actually getting the pity and money you seek. Do something beneficial for this place you get to live in, instead of acting like you deserve special treatment for what you have done. If you are what you say, you should be a giver and not a taker. Maybe try reading “Ishmael”, by Daniel Quinn. You are contributing to sucking this state dry. I’m proud of you and your joke, but what about all of your sisters and cousins?
Proper research requires an ethics committee oversight. One of the things this accomplishes is making sure no harm comes to the subjects or the experimenter. I don’t think the principle or superintendent qualify nor did they perform due diligence to be certain no harm would come of this. Additionally, ABSOLUTELY NOTHING can be said to generalize to anyone else with an N of 1. Again, the principle and superintendent did not do this girl any favors. What if the girl’s brothers took the young man (father) aside? A terrible idea all the way around. They were extremely lucky, thankfully. Having said all that, an amazingly courageous young lady who will go far in life.