Craziest. School. Project. Ever.
Gaby Rodriguz, a high school girl in Washington, faked a pregnancy for six months of her senior year as part of a school project on stereotypes. For the past six months, students at Toppenish High School in Washington thought Rodriguez, 17, was pregnant. Only her mother, her boyfriend, the principal, her best friend, a sibling, and a few teachers knew Gaby’s pregnancy was a fake. The rest of her classmates, teachers, and family members all assumed that A-student, college-bound Gaby was just going to be another statistic — a Latino teen mom — and give birth this July, after graduation. But in an all-school assembly this week, she let everyone else in on the secret. Gaby removed her fake baby belly made from wire mesh and cotton and told everyone they were part of a social experiment on stereotypes, rumors and gossip surrounding her perceived teen pregnancy. “Many things were said about me,” Gaby told classmates. “Many things traveled all the way back to me.”
Gaby got the idea for the fake-pregnancy-as-social-experiment in spring of last year, according to the Yakima-Herald newspaper. All students at Toppenish High School are required to do a senior project to graduate and Gaby thought she would explore the social attitudes towards and stereotypes of teen moms.
But of course she had to get a couple people on board first. Gaby spoke with her high school principal about the idea of faking a pregnancy during her senior year. Principal Trevor Greene listened to Gaby’s proposal, sought approval from the superintendent, and gave her the go-ahead. “She sacrificed her senior year to find out what it would be like to be a potential teen mom,” he said. “I admire her courage. I admire her preparation.” Gaby’s mom was also told her teen daughter’s pregnancy was fake. “I thought she was crazy,” Juana Rodriguez said of the idea. The most difficult part for Gaby and her mom was lying to six of her seven siblings about the pregnancy. (Interestingly, the Yakima Herald thought it necessary to add “including [her] four older brothers” — because somehow her brothers’ opinions matter more?) And her best friend and 20-year-old boyfriend were also let in on the secret, even keeping Gaby’s secret from their own families.
Gaby “got pregnant” at Homecoming — at least that’s what she told people. She faked her pregnancy throughout senior year first by wearing baggy sweatshirts and then with a wire mesh and cotton fake pregnancy belly. Throughout the year, she collected comments and bits of gossip that she heard said about her.
In Gaby’s assembly on Wednesday, she addressed “Stereotypes, Rumors and Statistics” — using her own experiences, obviously, as the learning points. Before revealing her fake pregnancy, Gaby had classmates and teachers read statements that had been said about her, which were written on 3×5 cards , including ones like, “”Her attitude is changing, and it might be because of the baby or she was always this annoying and I never realized it.”
Damn. Faking a pregnancy? The Monopoly game about women’s rights that I made for U.S. History during junior year suddenly looks totally lame.
It’s an imperfect social experiment, of course, as one can only be so instructive when the subject isn’t actually pregnant. While faking her pregnancy, Gaby took AP classes, lead a school club, and had a 3.8 GPA. Of course a pregnant teen still could accomplish all that … but in Gaby’s case, it’s impossible to know. Dealing with the judgment and gossip towards her is real, to be sure, but she and her boyfriend did not have to deal with the real life pressures of preparing both short- and long-term for a baby’s arrival, affording the costs of prenatal care, and real-life physical risks associated with pregnancy. God help me for actually saying something positive about MTV’s shows “16 & Pregnant” and “Teen Mom,” but those shows may actually be more realistic if one really wants insight into the experiences of pregnant teen girls (albeit mostly white pregnant teen girls). And we can probably bet Toppenish High School has had its fair share of actual pregnant teens whose experiences with judgment and stereotyping won’t be wiped away with a big “Whew!” reveal at a school assembly.
But hey. At least Gaby’s not pregnant for prom.