February 1, 2009

An almost great article about resisting normative families in the NYT

Posted in economics, family, gender, heteronormative, New York Times, reproduction at 6:44 pm by LB

This article in today’s Times is great…well, almost.  The article discusses the interesting and creative ways that middle class single mothers are successfully forming their own families of choice, made of up other families like them, who provide each other with emotional support and companionship, outside of the heteronormative nuclear family.

Some single mothers like Fran forgo romantic and sexual relationships for extended stretches, turning to one another for the help and companionship that spouses normally provide — filling up one another’s cellphone directories, thinking through whether to get speech therapy for a child who is talking late, snapping and sharing summer photos. They are friends, and also more than friends. The trips to the Outer Banks that Fran’s group takes represent a step toward an all-female, platonic, chosen extended family.

Cool, right?  Until this gem:

For a woman of means to have a baby without a husband seemed to threaten the institution of marriage and, with it, family stability.  Today’s single mothers by choice often do their utmost to prove that they’re not a threat to anyone’s social order, as Rosanna Hertz, a Wellesley College sociologist, points out in her study of 65 such women, “Single by Chance, Mothers by Choice.” After the award ceremony, Fran didn’t talk back to her pastor. For her, being a single mom isn’t a form of rebellion. She wants to share in middle-class norms, not challenge them. To spend time with Fran and her friend Nancy is to appreciate them as a couple of anti-bohemians: two middle-aged women in high-waisted jeans and tennis shoes, sitting and talking on folding chairs while soft rock and a mix of sweat and Lysol fills the air during their daughters’ Saturday-morning gymnastics class. Read the rest of this entry »

Advertisements

September 26, 2008

LA Representative wants the poor sterilized, rich to procreate more

Posted in economics, intersectionality, myths, politics, privilege, reproduction at 5:11 pm by LB

I just heard on CNN that Louisiana’s Rep. John LaBruzzo (R) is looking into a plan to pay poor women to have their tubes tied. This is based on his concern that poor people reproduce at a higher rate than more economically privileged people do, who pay more in taxes. Folks, this is his guess–he has no data to this effect. Mark Waller from The Times-Picayune reports on nola.com that “He said he is gathering statistics now.”

Hmmm…so instead of looking at the actual range of factors that affect poverty and aiming to solve those, he’s going to racistly assume that it’s because they’re voluntarily having “too many” children “they can’t afford,” and if they can’t afford them, we should encourage, not free contraception and education, but sterilization, so he’s then going to try to find data to support this?

It also could include tax incentives for college-educated, higher-income people to have more children, he said.

Now we’re at the meat-and-potatoes.  It’s not really about “helping” people to avoid welfare (as if having kids is the prime reason people are on welfare in the first place), but also ensuring that the “right” kind of people reproduce–those who are wealthy and educated.

The idea here is that poor citizens receive social welfare and therefore do not have the “right” to have families.  This is bullshit in and of itself.  On top of that, LaBruzzo is essentially hoping for the “extinction” of the poor on account of his faulty logic that that would reduce or eliminate poverty, as if poverty were a function of people, not of societies and economic systems.  Even more, well-educated, wealthier people should have even more children to make more educated, wealthy people!  Who knew economic privilege was genetic!

OK, I know he’s not saying that.  But if he really thought about the implications of poverty begetting poverty, he might realize that helping people out of poverty is not at all accomplished by telling them not to have children (and since when should we coerce the poor with money to do invasive, irreversible, medical procedures on their bodies?–and for the record, he’s sure not suggesting that we pay for or demand that poor women have abortions), but to help change the environmental circumstances and social structures that perpetuate economic inequality.

And never mind that the rhetoric that children and families are the “foundation” of our society that justifies a slew of tax advantages given to middle and upper class families.  Forget the college tuition credits given, and deductions for homeowners’ mortgages that partially subsidize the middle-class American life.  The right consistently talks about tax breaks to help families out, but those breaks are for people who owe taxes to begin with: they are tax breaks for the middle class, not the poor.  But folks like Rep. LaBruzzo seem appalled that folks on welfare would dare to be free citizens and have children, who allegedly are the reason for their poverty.  Meanwhile, middle and upper class families benefit from their own share of social welfare in the form of tax deductions and government-guaranteed education (as well as partially taxpayer-funded state universities), and this welfare is completely invisible to them.  I don’t have kids and I am forced, through taxation, to pay for the education of other people’s children.

In one way or another, aren’t most of us social welfare recipients?

July 23, 2008

All this gas talk reeks of classism

Posted in economics, gas crisis, news, privilege at 10:15 am by LB

You know, I’m really starting to get sick of all the “news” stories about rising gas prices and how that’s affecting family summer vacations. Several times a week I hear, read, or see some sort of report about how people are “coping” with having to cancel vacations and instead are creating their travel experience at home (i.e. having a luau in your backyard because you can’t afford to go to Hawaii). There’s even a cute name for them: Stay-cations.

This is by and large the hot gas-related story of the summer. The gist of the story? Woe is me, gas is so expensive that we can’t afford to take our family vacation, we’re sooo stressed out over it, we’re handling this stressful and tragic situation the best we can by having a pretend glamorous vacation at home.

Ahem, privilege, anyone? Honestly, I really don’t feel all that bad for the families who are so economically privileged that they can actually afford to take off of work (or are privileged enough to have paid vacation time) and can go on a family vacation. Why should I?

I’d say I was solid lower-middle to middle class growing up. We went on a vacation every year: a week at my grandparents’ condo in the Southern Tier of New York, less than 3 hours from home. Why? Because it was free. A few summers we didn’t go; those years we visited my aunts, uncles, and cousins in New England. Besides the travel costs of my parents’ station wagon? Also, for the most part, free.

We never went on what you might call a family vacation. And up until now, I didn’t realize that going on some wonderful elaborate trip was some sort of innate American right such that we ought to spend valuable news time lamenting that middle class families this year can’t afford to drive halfway across the country and stay in a resort for a week. Heaven forbid for a summer you actually spend that week doing activities–gasp!–in your own general region. Or that you might now have to vacation–shock!–every other summer. Or, that you–horror!–spend time socializing with friends and neighbors. In an age where we hardly know our neighbors, and where most people are unfamiliar with the gems and resources in their own town, is it really all that huge a loss that the privileged Americans have a Staycation?

Why are middle and upper-middle class families and their precious Disney vacations the face of the rising cost of gasoline and not the working class families who lived month to month as it was before the exponential price increases…who maybe have to skimp on food or medical services, and for whom a Myrtle Beach trip isn’t even on their radar? Instead of moping about being stuck at home, maybe some of these families should spend part of their summer volunteering for charities who help those who will only ever hear about DisneyWorld in the stories told by other more fortunate kids.

July 14, 2008

A thought on economic incentives for having kids

Posted in double standards, economics, myths, social justice at 2:00 pm by LB

As I sit here finishing up the final edits of my Master’s thesis, I had this thought:

The Right tends to argue that our social welfare system provides incentive for single women (a.k.a. “welfare mothers”) to pop out children left and right.  This constitutes an abuse of the system.

I’m not saying that’s at all true (and actually the stats on this “phenomenon” are rather skewed: the number of kids women on welfare have is about the same as the general population), but take their argument and consider this…

Yet there are a slew of tax breaks for families with children.  Does this not also constitute an incentive to have kids in order to receive unearned money (one could call it welfare, sure!) for those kids?  Yet I don’t hear anyone on the right complaining about those..in fact, they usually want to raise them!  Yet why should “we” subsidize “their” children?!

Curious, huh?

I guess so-called “incentives” are OK for the “right” kinds of families…

June 10, 2008

Times article on gender, marriage and same-sex couples

Posted in economics, gender roles, heteronormative, ideology, marriage, queer, social justice at 8:42 pm by LB

via Feministe

The New York Times reported an interesting study on the relationships of married (heterosexual) and same-sex couples.

Same-sex relationships, whether between men or women, were far more egalitarian than heterosexual ones. In heterosexual couples, women did far more of the housework; men were more likely to have the financial responsibility […] With same-sex couples, of course, none of these dichotomies were possible, and the partners tended to share the burdens far more equally.

While generalizations couldn’t be made by sex, I would be interested to see if husband and wife “types” emerge in same-sex relationships, along lines of economic providing/dependency and domestic work–especially when children are involved in the relationship. Economic necessities of families–and the government and social restrictions on how these are met–don’t go away just because the sex of the partners changes. Economic roles in families are indeed gendered, and are organized along sex-based gender role expectations. But this isn’t to say that the structuring effect of the heteronormative traditional family won’t in any way also structure same-sex marriages.

I’d be interested in reading the study itself, because, notably, the above quote was the only comment made about income and domestic work…and it was with reference to heterosexual couples only. There was nothing reported in the Times about the of division of labor and employment in same-sex couples, and nothing about how things change when children are involved. Some studies have shown that egalitarianism in heterosexual couples tends to go out the window once children are born. The article was really more about conflict resolution and less about economic relations in the family, which I think misses a very important aspect of family constitution. Read the rest of this entry »

May 7, 2008

More on heteronormative familial-economic arrangements

Posted in economics, gender roles, heteronormative, ideology, social justice, U.S. politics at 2:45 pm by LB

This post on income splitting at The Hand Mirror is a darn good read. It’s an analysis of income splitting, which is a “remedy” for the unfairness brought on by this scenario:

Family A, a family with two working adults each earning $40,000, pays less tax than family B, in which one adult earns $80,000 and the other adult stays at home to look after the kids. Each family has the same gross earnings, but the single earner’s larger income places him in a higher tax bracket. This is unfair, Dunne believes: where a parent (usually mum) has given up paid work for childcare, her family should not face a financial penalty.[…] Income splitting seems to recognise the value of women’s unpaid work, and the fact that it supports men to do their paid work. So what’s wrong with this picture?

The critique asserts:

Although families A and B earn the same, things are not equal between them. Family B spends only 40 hours a week in the workforce to make $60,000, whereas Family A spends 80 hours. The extra time available to family B makes a huge difference to its quality of life. Both Mum A and Mum B have domestic work to do, but Mum A begins hers after she knocks off from her paid job each day. Noticeably absent from Dunne’s plan are solo parent families. Solo mums bear lone responsibility for all the paid and unpaid work in their households, but have no one to split incomes with, so cannot receive any tax relief. Income splitting is less about recognising women’s unpaid work than about shoring up traditional nuclear families in the face of increasing solo parent, blended and gay families and whanau.

This is a great critique, as those who stand to benefit the most are those who replicate the ideal, gender-normative and heteronormative family.

(see my two previous posts on this topic).

April 28, 2008

The Next Steps for Redressing Unequal Pay

Posted in economics, gender, oppression, patriarchy, social justice, U.S. politics at 9:58 am by LB

I
I don’t normally blog on equal pay. It is for sure not an area of expertise. I did a short post two weeks ago for Fair Pay Day, because I was so struck by the tangibility of the day in April where men’s and women’s wages would be equal, and how that day is so close to Tax Freedom Day. But it really isn’t an area I’m extremely knowledgeable about (as far as studies go), and I know that the notion of “equal pay” is often contested– studies often come to conflicting conclusions, people often don’t make their terms clear, and there are many different opinions as to who should get equal pay and what counts are equal pay.

These debates are not what this post is about. This is about the Fair Pay Act–the one that on the 23rd a motion to advance it was passed by a majority in the Senate, but didn’t get enough votes to have a debate and vote scheduled on the bill itself. It’s called the Lilly Ledbetter Act, and Suzanne Reissman has an excellent explanation about the history of the bill and what this bill is actually about–check it out here.

Regardless of whether you ‘believe’ that pay discrimination as a result of sexual identity exists or not, there is no reason not to support this bill–because the bill addresses the terms by which pay discrimination can be redressed–and if there is no pay discrimination, then the law won’t need to be utilized!

The next steps for advocating this bill is to contact your Senators. See the National Women’s Law Center for more information on pushing your Senator to get a debate and vote on the bill scheduled.

April 18, 2008

Fair Pay

Posted in economics, gender, sexism, U.S. politics at 10:37 pm by LB

Today, April 18th, is “Blog for Fair Pay” day, in honor of the fact that today, women will have finally caught up to what men earned income-wise in 2007. Yes, the gendered pay gap means women have to work almost 4 months more to earn what men do. And Angry Black Bitch reminds us it’s even worse for women of color. Designating a day for recognition and advocacy of this is an important tangible reminder of the effects of inequality and sanctioned discrimination.

It kind of reminds me of Tax Freedom Day, the day that the nations has earned enough income to pay our tax bill. Funny, though–(federal) Tax Freedom Day is April 23rd (although this varies by state, mine in New York isn’t until May). That tends to make people pissed–realizing they work 4 months just to pay their government taxes.

But women have to work an extra 4 months to equal what men are paid yearly, which is about the same amount of time “Americans” have to work to pay their tax bill. Thus, , from a conceptual point, the difference in men’s and women’s pay is about the same as the amount of taxes paid by the “average” American. Think about that for a second. Or several.

Then write in your support for the fair pay act, and encourage others to do the same.

cross-posted to The Reaction

April 16, 2008

What’s wrong with this article? Marriage and Taxes, part 2

Posted in economics, gender, gender roles, heteronormative, ideology, marriage, patriarchy, social justice, U.S. politics at 2:14 am by LB

Especially in light of my critique of ‘marriage’-centric social organization, check out this article from CNN.com:

Study: Single parents cost taxpayers $112 billion”:

Divorce and out-of-wedlock childbearing cost U.S. taxpayers more than $112 billion a year, according to a study commissioned by four groups advocating more government action to bolster marriages.

hmm…what’s wrong with this so far? (hint: it’s something to do with the premise of the article)

Ok, I’ll tell you.

  1. It implies that divorcees and parents who are unmarried are not ‘taxpayers.’
  2. Thus, it positions those not divorced or single parents–married people, single people (aka not-yet married), and married parents–as the ‘ideal taxpayer-citizen’

And that’s just the first paragraph.

Next:

Sponsors say the study is the first of its kind and hope it will prompt lawmakers to invest more money in programs aimed at strengthening marriages.

Could it possibly be that our social and economic structures heavily favor married parenting, and that’s what needs to be investigated, rather than ‘strengthening marriage’??

Two experts not connected to the study said such programs are of dubious merit and suggested that other investments — notably job creation — would be more effective in aiding all types of needy families.

…which is good, especially since I heard on NPR recently (I can’t find the show reference! aah!) that divorce and income are correlated (and ya know, ‘the sanctity of marriage’ etc. is of utmost important to preserving ‘traditional’ –read: patriarchal capitalist –values).

There’s more:

Scafidi’s calculations were based on the assumption that households headed by a single female have relatively high poverty rates, leading to higher spending on welfare, health care, criminal justice and education for those raised in the disadvantaged homes.

Right, because there’s a natural connection between single mothering and poverty, apparently, so we need to fix the ‘single mothering’ rather than, say, the ‘feminization of poverty’ or the socio-economic structure that perpetuates single-parent (mother) poverty.

See, there’s two problems here with our socio-economic structure:

  1. The assumption of two parents present and sharing a home. The model used to be male breadwinner/female domestic servant. Now, women are ‘allowed’ to have economic independence but continue to bear the homemaking burden.
  2. Women are paid less money, plain and simple.

So in a single-parent family where that single parent is a woman, she’s doubly screwed economically.

At the end of the day, the article–along with the study and those who commissioned it–assumes the natural and neutral center of American life (ought) to be marriage and specifically, married-parenting. Further, they conclude that we should tell people how they should structure their networks of association in their life because it would cost less in government expenditures and because they are deviating from some sort of arbitrary ‘normal’. Sure marriage is the norm in American society; that doesn’t make it natural. It’s still an arbitrary primary structure of social relations.

Sure sounds like life, liberty, and all that jazz to me!

cross-posted to The Reaction

see my part 1 here

April 15, 2008

Thoughts on the Tyrrany of Marriage at Tax Time

Posted in economics, heteronormative, marriage, queer, social justice, U.S. politics at 8:50 am by LB

I’ve seen a few articles over the last few days about taxes and inequality for lesbian and gay couples, due to the inability to get married, as well as straight couples who aren’t married. Mostly, they are addressing the economic inequality faced by cohabitating queer couples who are legally unable to marry (in 49/50 states). Also, any tax allowances made for couples in civil unions at the state level don’t apply to federal taxation.

I thought I would take this opportunity, then, to give a mention to what many times is overlooked in the Andrew Sullivan version of same-sex marriage advocacy (see his Virtually Normal): that economic dependencies and living arrangements are not internal to intimate relationships. In other words, just because the majority of economic relationships are intimate ones as well does not mean they have to be, and does not mean they are necessarily correlated conceptually. The way our social, economic, and legal policies have shaped the meaning of intimate and economic life informs the way that we think about structuring life. Take away those institutional expectations and rewards, and new possibilities are opened up for organizing the fulfillment of a variety of needs– and perhaps in more productive ways.

In full disclosure, my Master’s thesis involves gender norms as they are produced in marriage and through the interconnection of marriage, economics, legal decisions, liberal political theory of the founders, and citizenship, so my thoughts are referring to a body of research that cannot in any way be meaningfully replicated here.

I simply pose a few questions to chew on:

  • Why do we assume intimate relationships must also involve economic dependencies and domesticity? Or rather, that if they don’t, they are less socially valuable, are less fundamental to society than those who do.
  • Why do we assume that the skills and qualities of an intimate couple are what makes the best or proper parents? This is especially relevant when oftentimes it is friendships, not intimate relationships, that end up being the life-long ones.
  • What is marriage a (presumed) life-long relationship, characterized by economic dependency/support, cohabitation, emotional reliance, sexual fulfillment, and potential parenting partnership? Why do we assume that one person should be responsible to fulfill all these needs? And that we should assign civic identities and rights based on the collapse of these relationships into one?
  • In what ways does the emphasis on marriage and coupling, especially in the same-sex marriage rights movement, neglect and further marginalize those who espouse other arrangements than the life relationships collapsed into one?
  • Does the emphasis on same-sex marriage in LGBTQ advocacy render even more invisible and produce second-class citizens of queer folks who do not replicate heterosexual relationship norms of marriage/domestic partnerships?
  • Finally, what is the function of marriage as a civic identity?

This last one is actually the question my thesis addresses, and it is a complex one. But thinking about it, and the other questions I pose, should make us question why our society rewards structuring both “private” and “public” spheres of life in terms of marriage and coupling and their affiliated expectations.

Sure, same-sex couples should have the same rights as heterosexual couples. That’s not where my argument is centered. I’m just not convinced that so many rights should be allocated based on intimate coupling, and the assumptions that go along with it (see bullet #3). I personally advocate that civic identity should not be premised on intimate relationships or on the way one structures one’s relational life. I see a value in affording certain benefits for those who are in economic dependencies, but that those dependencies should be unrelated to intimate life.

Further, we can begin to think about the other possibilities for living than the only one provided to us when we shake the assumption that marital coupling is and should be the center of social organization. Hell, it may even allow us to think of ways to resist consumerism, financial strains, the emotional stresses of work-family balances. Sustainable living and embracing the Slow Movement become more practical and plausible ways to live. The dirty commie idea of communal living or intentional communities as a shared approach to solving certain daily needs can be more commonplace. But this is a threat to aggressive capitalism by solving problems and meeting needs outside of the capitalist marketplace and reducing consumption. This too, of course, threatens the tax base by creating fewer discreet households by redefining ‘household’. Shaking the emphasis on the individualistic and atomistic ideal of marriage and coupling as the ultimate conflation of relationship needs can indeed challenge ‘rugged individualism’ that has harmed values of community and shared responsibility. Indeed, for me, challenging the place of marriage as the civic identity par excellance is deeply politically progressive.

Thus, I argue that aggressively advocating (same-sex) marriage (or alternatively offering rights to “marriage like” relationships) tends to imply that the marriage-based structure of rights and privileges is just fine “as is” (and I’m not even going to broach the gender normativity still (re)produced in marriage). Instead, I’d like to advocate for different solutions, beyond marriage.

recommended reading: Michael Warner’s Trouble With Normal (on my amazon recommendations)

cross-posted to The Reaction

see my part 2 here

April 1, 2008

Check This Out: Economic Inequality @ The G-Spot blog

Posted in economics, social justice at 12:58 pm by LB

The G-Spot has had some really great posts over the last couple days about economic inequality, including the correlation between who does better economically under Democratic vs. Republican leadership that has nothing to do with who comes into power under what economic circumstance. Great reading.

Check them out!

(NOTE: nothing after the jump)