Friday, November 18, 2005

When Do Single Mother's Count?

What does it take to be a single mom that Conservatives, such as George Will, pity?

I have been thinking about this question alot. Prior to the current budget cuts, images of welfare queens and sexually irresponsible young women paraded before us.

The face of much of the poverty in this country is a woman's face. Poverty is a feminist issue.

Many of these women are struggling to raise children with few resources. If they are on TANF, they now are forced to work rather than raise their children. Maternal labor doesn't seem to count as labor. Eva Kittay, in her book Love's Labor: Essays on Women, Equality, and Dependency points out that when we "revolutionized" AFDC, we created "a harsh policy insisting that women caring for children under conditions of dire poverty, with no other support available, are to sweep streets and take care of other people's children, rather than tend to their own."

Women who seek government assistance to raise future citizens are scorned and seen as "dependent" on a system. What is the solution to this policy: no more bastards. That is right, our current public policy has recreated illegitimacy. What happens to children who fall into this category?

To my question: under what conditions do we pity single mothers?

(1) If their husbands abandon them. Our public policies, organized around the presumption that patriarchy is the best family form, allow us to pity women whose husbands have failed in their duties to provide for the family.

(2) If their husbands died. It is even better if the husband died fighting for his country or in a terrorist attack, like 9-11. Moreover, a dead husband allows a single mother to get Social Security and perhaps private insurance.

I find it appalling that you have to satisfy these two conditions to be considered worthy of support networks and governmental assistance. Maternal labor is the bedrock of our entire country. (Just to stave off any comments that I am leaving out fathers, let me point out that I am saying something different that "mothers," i.e. women. I talking about what the work of mothering is).

Cutting programs that ensure we have the healthiest and brightest citizenry as possible is not only immoral and unChristian, but it is directly opposed to our nation's self-interest.