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Hot New TV Show: "All My Babies' Mamas"

The latest reality show stars Shawty Lo, his 11 kids and their 10 mamas.

Oxygen has a new reality show scheduled to broadcast soon. 'All My Babies' Mamas' follows Shawty Lo, a 36-year-old rapper who fathered his first child at the ripe old age of 15. Presently, he has two sons and nine daughters — 11 kids total from 10 different women. His present girlfriend is 19, the same age as his oldest children.

As expected, there are many screaming foul over what is perceived as a glorification and promotion of an irresponsible lifestyle. Heading a petition at Change.org is Sabrina Lamb, who is trying to block the show from being aired. So far, there are 30,000 signatures, and the heat is only getting hotter. The Parents Television Council asked Oxygen not to air the program, saying it is "grotesquely irresponsible and exploitive."

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Lamb insists just the term Baby Mama is extremely disrespectful to all African American women, but especially those who have been impregnated by a man who is not her husband — often not even a boyfriend — who has no emotional bond with her and who has any plans to marry her.

As for the effect on guys, Gerald Radford of Rollingout.com (an urban blog site) bemoans the fact that 72% of black fathers are absent from their children's lives. Yet here's Shawty exploiting his children and glorifying his lifestyle for the sake of ratings and dollars. 

Shawty Lo defends himself, saying he provides for all of his 11 children. I guess that’s true if providing for your children is defined as giving money to the mom. But, is it possible to nurture, bond and serve as a role model for your children if they're spread across 10 homes? What exactly constitutes being a responsible father?

Radio host Morris "Mo 'Kelly" O'Kelly stated: "A reality TV show featuring a rapper, his TEN baby mamas and ELEVEN children? And you thought this was going to be good for your business and profile within the African-American community, on a network co-founded by Oprah Winfrey? I will save the pith of my commentary for my columns and programs, but in short.... this show cannot happen. As a respected African-American media professional I cannot in good conscience allow this program to move forward. There must be accountability as to the programming decisions at your network."

Is the show exploitive? Of course! With comments coming from Shawty Lo like, "You can hate all you want to. I didn't ask for it. It just happened!" Really, Shawty? I won’t digress, BUT, is it any worse than MTV's 16 And Pregnant, with the cameras following single, pregnant high school girls around? By the way, 16 And Pregnant was so popular MTV had two spin-off shows, Teen Mom and Teen Mom 2.

Then, let’s not forget Toddlers & Tiaras, where cute pre-adolescent girls (and boys) strut their stuff in a pageant where they are judged on beauty.... Well, beauty AFTER make-up, false lashes, fake tans, fake hair, revealing costumes and in one case a padded bra. They all want the prize — the crown, the trophy and of course, the cash.

There's also the Bad Girls Club that featured verbal and occasional physical fights between seven female contestants. Also a product of Oxygen, these girls are in one house together, and they all have anger issues, lack of trust and want to control everyone and everything—especially the other girls. Oh, yes, they also want to change and turn their lives around.

All these shows glorify irresponsible behavior. Look at the content: excessive drinking and drugs, rudeness, promiscuity and absolutely disgusting behavior. Gone are the days of Father Knows Best or Leave It To Beaver because there isn't one young adult or teen that would tune in, even if they were still on. 

Here’s the deal: the question of whether to ban this show is the wrong question. The question is who watches this and WHY? 

Why is it that reality shows of pregnant 16-year-olds, youngsters drinking until they're obliterated, 6-year-olds dressing like they are 21, or a man producing 11 children with 10 different women pulls in the ratings?

Rather than ranting about the Oxygen network, understand that there is a huge market for this type of TV. Shawty Lo is considered cool and living the life by many, and this includes blacks as well as whites; men as well as women. That’s a reflection on our society and culture, NOT on the network that is airing the show.

So, the question is not what do we need to do to keep this show from airing. Rather, it is what do we need to do to make being responsible cool? How do we teach our kids that good grades and graduating from school and not doing drugs and getting a decent job and being a responsible parent and raising a family is the key to happiness and success?

Until we can figure out how to do that, shows like this will continue to be produced to meet the demand of the viewer.

Dale Archer, M.D., is a clinical psychiatrist and author of The New York Times bestseller, Better Than Normal: How What Makes You Different Can Make You Exceptional.

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