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?