Barbara Ehrenreich’s book, Nickel and Dimed falls into that category of book where you start reading it because you think it is an important book to read and you should therefore read it, and you finish reading it because it is so engrossing and affecting that you can’t put it down.
If you never got a chance to read Ehrenreich’s book or you’d like a reminder then this is a great sample of her writing on poverty. From her recent article in The Atlantic, “It is expensive to be poor”. And here is why maternal feminism is such a critical arm in feminism today..
Picking up on this theory, pundits and politicians have bemoaned the character failings and bad habits of the poor for at least the past 50 years. In their view, the poor are shiftless, irresponsible, and prone to addiction. They have too many children and fail to get married. So if they suffer from grievous material deprivation, if they run out of money between paychecks, if they do not always have food on their tables—then they have no one to blame but themselves.
In the 1990s, with a bipartisan attack on welfare, this kind of prejudice against the poor took a drastically misogynistic turn. Poor single mothers were identified as a key link in what was called “the cycle of poverty.” By staying at home and collecting welfare, they set a toxic example for their children, who—important policymakers came to believe—would be better off being cared for by paid child care workers or even, as Newt Gingrich proposed, in orphanages.
Welfare “reform” was the answer, and it was intended not only to end financial support for imperiled families, but also to cure the self-induced “culture of poverty” that was supposedly at the root of their misery. The original welfare reform bill—a bill, it should be recalled, which was signed by President Bill Clinton—included an allocation of $100 million for “chastity training” for low-income women.
Woah! Chastity training.