February 1, 2009
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 »
September 26, 2008
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
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.
April 18, 2008
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