Single Women Don’t Vote Enough?

I’m a member of One Million Pissed Off Women on facebook. Their mission statement is thus:

“Founded in April of 2011, OMPOW’s Goal is to take action to bring about equality for all women. OMPOW plans to bring the Public Spotlight on Elected Officials and our Political Parties through accountability for their actions directly impacting women. We intend to work to eliminate discrimination and harassment against all women, in the workplace, schools, the justice system, and all other sectors of society; secure abortion, birth control and reproductive rights for all women; end all forms of violence against women; eradicate racism, sexism and homophobia; and promote equality and justice in our society.”

Today, OMPOW has pissed me off. This graphic was posted:

Turnout of Single Women graph

 

Ahem.

I have a problem with this graphic. It has a very “don’t like the war on women? It’s your fault, bitchez!” tone to it. That kind of victim blaming bullshit has no place on a feminist page.

I have a bigger problem, however, with some of the responses in the comment section. There’s a whole load of “there’s no excuse for not voting! Ever!” and “If you don’t vote you deserve what you get!” sentiments flooding the comment section.

Again, this bullshit has no place on a feminist page.

Victim blaming much?

First, the obvious: attacking single women for their failure to vote, and telling them that they deserve what they get is the very height of stupidity. We’re all in this together. “We” get what “they” get. Where does this division of “us” and “them” get us? Nowhere. Divided. Defensive. And not paying attention to the war on women. It zaps our energy as activists. And for what? For some “I’m not that girl!” validation. Whoopee.

Secondly, this broad-scale attack ignores the myriad of issues that keep single women away from the polls. A few examples:

  • The GOP’s attack on voting rights–including voter ID laws, purges of registered voter rolls, shortened early voting, student residency challenges, requirements for proof of citizenship before registration, and more. All of these things affect women–as a class, we’re poorer, we’re the majority of university students, we’re immigrants, we have several jobs. Make it harder to register and vote, fewer people vote.
  • Women are more likely to be poor. When you’re struggling to survive, your focus is on your multiple part-time jobs, your bills, the sad excuse of a clunker you call a car, and hoping beyond hope that nothing goes wrong, because you will be fucked. Taking time off work to vote is a luxury when your boss can fire you whenever, for whatever, and there are fifty applications sitting in the office for people that can replace you just like that. And oh, look! From the link: “Only a quarter of all adult women (age 18 and older) with incomes below the poverty line are single mothers. Over half of all poor adult women—54 percent—are single with no dependent children.
  • Poor women are also less likely to have a state-issued ID. If you don’t have one, and you want to vote? The link has a nice mathematical equation that demonstrates just how many hoops a young woman would have to jump through: “1 person
    + 1 birth certificate
    + 1 marriage license
    + 1 utility bill
    + 1 trip to the DMV
    = 1 vote”

If you don’t have those? Welp, guess you don’t get to exercise your duty as an American! Just sayin’.

Third, let’s come back to the whole division thing. This graphic, and the ensuing comments, is yet another verse in the “kids these days!” song. It’s old. It’s tired. Young (aka unmarried) women vs. older women. Third wave feminists vs. millennials. This shit is a strawman, set up to degenerate young women and to set us against one another. Did anyone wondering at the source actually attempt to find where these numbers came from? Judging from the comments, I’m guessing not.

Check out the note at the bottom. VoterParticipation.org. Let’s check it out, shall we? The organization is called the Voter Participation Center, formerly known as Women’s Voices, Women Vote. I found, on the website, a fact sheet where it appears the statistics in the graphics came from. It does not appear, to note, that the graphic originated from VPC.

Remember: statistics are not the full story–they can be misrepresented depending on the agenda of the presenter. Whatever douchebag created this graphic wanted to project a message that young (unmarried) women are ruining America for women (fucking bitchez, ALL YOUR FAULT!). Looking at the rest of the statistics, however, it doesn’t seem so much like we are Ruining America, after all:

 In 2010, unmarried women lagged 11 percentage points below married women in voter registration, which translated into lower turnout by 15 percentage points.
o In 2010, 72% of married women were registered to vote (40.5 million), compared to 61% of unmarried women (32.4 million).
o In 2010, 54% of married women voted (30.2 million), compared to 38% of unmarried women (20.3 million).
o Had unmarried women voted at the same rate as married women in 2010, an additional 7.8 million voters would have participated.

Let’s remember the points I made earlier in this post, about women being poorer, especially single women, and all the barriers that poor women have to overcome in order to vote.

Not so bad, I don’t think. These numbers aren’t far off from participation rates in the general population. They’re better, actually.

It’s too bad that we can’t see the raw data. Check out the note at the bottom of the VPC factsheet. “Voter Participation Center and Democracy Corps post-election survey used for 2010 results. Results for other elections come from Edison/Mitosfky/CNN exit polls.”

Hmm. A news media outlet poll. Very credible. And so very carefully selected, with minimal error margins, I’m sure.

Let me issue a challenge to OMPOW members:

If you want higher turnout for young (unmarried) women, then I challenge each member that commented on the graphic to personally register five women. That’s not all–register five women to vote, ensure that they have a ride to their polling place on Election Day, and help them get all the documentation they need.

Stop the degeneration. Stop the attacks. You see a problem? Get out there and do something about it.

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How I Left Christianity Part Four: Poverty

My family wasn’t rich.

For the most part, as a child, I didn’t realize it. So sometimes the electricity was shut off. During the summer, that meant open windows letting the fresh breeze in at night. In the winter, it meant evenings spent around the fire, roasting marshmallows and playing boardgames by candlelight. Cool! It meant getting to go to work with Papa Beemer on Saturdays, playing with my brother in the steelyard, or drawing buildings on HUGE pieces on paper, just like Daddy.

No big deal, right? Other kids didn’t get to do that stuff with their parents. But wait–they got to go on vacations. Photos of beaches in Florida. Hiking in Gatlinburg, Tennessee. Why didn’t we get to do that? How come my friend’s parents aren’t inviting me? They’ve invited all the other girls. That was only every once in a while though.

My best friend’s family was like mine–they weren’t rich, either. She had lots of siblings. At one point, they were having a hard time. Momma Beemer took my brother and I to the grocery, and we filled up two carts of food. Later that day, my best friend, her siblings, and her mother came over to pick up the food. Us kids enjoyed the visit–dashing back and forth from my kitchen to their van, running around the front yard. But I noticed the expression on my mom’s face–and the expression on my best friend’s mother’s. Understanding on one, and relief on the other. I couldn’t name the expressions at the time–I only noticed that the two women seemed very close at that moment, closer than they’d ever been before. It confused me.

That day repeated itself a couple of times a month for a while, and then without any remarkable event marking it, it stopped.

It wasn’t long before it started again–only in reverse. My best friend and her family were bringing food to us. The children were bounding back and forth with bulging white bags, while the two women spoke together. I saw the expressions on their faces, and was drawn to them. As I got closer, I got that feeling from Momma Beemer that children get from their parents sometimes: this is an adult conversation. Go away. I went.

Sometimes, at church, the pastor would speak after the worship service about a family in need. A relative was sick, and needed to pay for surgery. A man was laid off, and he needed help to feed his family and pay the bills while he looked for another job.

I wondered a bit why the pastor never asked the congregation for help when my family needed it. But my family didn’t go to church–only me. I wondered more why the church never helped my best friend and her family. Every time the doors were open, my best friend’s family was there. Her mother, and all the children attended faithfully–every Sunday morning, Sunday night, Wednesday night–for choir, for musicals, for Vacation Bible School, for all the other fellowships and Bible studies, they were there. They worked hard for the church–to learn and grow spiritually, to help spread the Word–they did it all. It made me angry.

What was so different about my best friend’s family? Why didn’t our brothers and sisters in Christ help them?

Was it because her dad wasn’t a deacon? Was it because her dad didn’t come to church very much?

Why?

At the time, I couldn’t answer that question. Years later, I can.

Fauxressives: Stealing is ‘rong You Evil Poor Person!

So, there are some commenters on Dan’s post at Womanist Musings that are pissing me off with their self-righteous indignant ranting.

Basically, the theme is this: “OMG you awful moral-less poor person! You’re RUINING society by stealing food to live!”

Then, after their disgusting moralistic rants, they then offer alternatives.

Sigh.

1. “Go to church! Churches feed poor people!” I would really, really like to know what churches these people are talking about, because by and large, they don’t. The church I attended as a child certainly never did–and none of the others I visited ever did, either. Christian churches do not hold Jesus’ teachings to feed and clothe the poor, and ‘treat the least of these’ as you would Christ himself as their prime sacrament and mission. No. Churches are concerned with getting butts to warm the pews and cash to fill the offering plates. That money never goes to feeding the least of these–it goes to buying shiny new equipment, furniture, or renovations–and paying the staff.

1a. Churches don’t much care for LGBTs, or anyone, really, that come and go “as they are.” They’re only interested in those families who make them look good, and can give a big fat tithe. They’re only interested in minorities, however that may manifest itself, to “save” them and hold them up as a posterchild (aka testimony) of how awesome and godly they are.

2. “Just go to a food bank!” Food banks aren’t available in every town and rural area. In fact, unless it’s a large city, I doubt they exist at all–and the food banks in the cities serve so many people you’re lucky to get any. (The one in my city runs out of food by 10:00am. If they have enough supplies for a “full day.” If.)

3. “Discrimation! Sue!” The legal system isn’t open for everyone. (Seriously, one commenter’s solution to Dan’s poverty was to sue the company that fired him for being trans. WUT.) As another commenter pointed out, discrimination cases are hard to win. See: Wal*mart. AND, even if you can find a lawyer to help you, litigation drags out for a long ass time. Suing your former employer isn’t going to get you grocery money that week. And it’s not guaranteed. (Again, see Wal*mart.) It may also make it pretty damn hard to find a job if everyone knows you’re the guy suing a former employer. In this economy, companies can be picky, and you don’t want to do anything that may prompt a potential job offer to go sour.

4. “Just try harder!” IS NOT A FUCKING TIP. Way to go buying into the whole Social Darwinism thing, you jackass.

5. “Think of the children!” Um. Is this like “spread your legs and think of England”? ’cause I don’t know about you, but when I’m starving, I’m definitely NOT thinking about hypothetical children I’m setting a bad example for.

5a. “Think of your COMMUNITY! And that store owner! And those poor employees! And the other customers!” Second verse, same as the first. Also: Maslow’s hierarchy of needs.

6. “Shop here! It’s cheaper! Use these websites! You can get free stuff!” Good suggestions…for people who live in largely enough populated areas that those stores have a presence in, or that enough locals use sites like freecycle and Craigslist to make them useful on a continuing basis.

6a. There’s also the assumption that people have functioning cars, with money to put in the tank. Or a good public transit system, with money to pay for that. Or a bicycle, and being able-bodied enough to do that. Or have enough money to have the internet at all! (I know. “But he’s writing on a BLOG! He must have internets!” No…One could be using a friend’s laptop, or the public library’s, etc etc.)

Oh, and this is just rich:

“Most of the independents have actually fallen by the wayside,
1.) Because large chains can buy in such huge volumes that the “little guys” can’t compete with the ridiculously low profit margins and the low wages that they pay their employees ( more and more work for less and less pay).
2.) Because dishonest people do things like dent perfectly good cans of food and steal everything they can get their hands on with no regard for the people who actually work hard to keep that store (and all of it’s employees), afloat.

So when you see an article about food deserts and you wonder “Why does that happen? I can see why a large chain might not feel a need to open a store in an economically depressed area, but why doesn’t some independent grocery store go in there and set up shop so that those people have a nice place to purchase decent food?” You can thank yourself and people like you who make it impossible to make a living in some of these neighborhoods because you steal their profits one penny at a time and justify it because you need to have money to dye your hair purple. “

Summary: People have nowhere to buy food because of large chains and you! But mostly you, you can-denting poopy-face!

My eye: it is twitching.

Nope, food deserts don’t happen because a combination of forces, it’s because teh evil purple-haired man stole food so he could fill his belly. Congrats, Dan. That’s a mighty superpower you have there. Now you just need a catchphrase.

 

Nickel and Dimed: Introduction, Part Two

This is the second half of my breakdown of the Introductory chapter of Nickel and Dimed: on Not Getting by in America, by Barbara Ehrenreich. The first part is here.

The next paragraph is her “cred,” the litany of others lives near to her, who were poor, to demonstrate that “the low-wage way of life had never been many degrees of separation away.” You know—the class version of “I have a black friend.” Twitch. Also, way of life? What? She makes it sound like a lifestyle choice.

For all her cred, Ehrenreich admits she has little knowledge of the ways that the poor survive. As she prepares to begin her experiment, she writes,

“Maybe when I got into this project, I would discover some hidden economies in the world of the low-wage worker. After all, if almost thirty percent of the workforce toils for eight dollars an hour or less, as the Washington-based Economic Policy Institute reported in 1998, they may have found some tricks as yet unknown to me. Maybe I would even be able to detect in myself the bracing psychological effects of getting out of the house, as promised by the wonks who brought us welfare reform. On the other hand, maybe there would be unexpected costs—physical, financial, emotional—to throw off all my calculations. The only way to find out was to get out there and get my hands dirty.”

Here, she treats it as a world completely separate from the world she knows. Her turn of phrase, “hidden economies,” indicates her impression of some kind of black market or underworld economy that the poor use—because it seems impossible to survive in the world she sees on such low pay. But that’s the kick—there’s no secret. We all inhabit the same world, we all use the same economy. Though she names them “wonks” she gives legitimacy to their bigoted claims about the poor—wondering if perhaps she will feel the motivation-turned-profit that those bootstraps are supposed to provide.

She goes on to say “I am, of course, very different from the people who normally fill America’s least attractive jobs, and in way that both helped and limited me.” Different, of course. Inherently. Because she is unique and “the poor” are a completely homogenous group? Let’s go on: “Most obviously, I was only visiting a world that others inhabit full-time, often for most of their lives.” There goes that “world” thing again. “With all the real-life assets I’ve built up in middle age…[list of all her awesome assets here]…waiting indulgently in the background, there was no way I was going to “experience poverty” or find out how it “really feels…”  No, she wouldn’t, would she? She’s set herself up believing that living in poverty is a different world from the one she inhabits, not a different position, experience, not a lower rung in the same ladder as the one she stands on. She’s set herself up as the awkwardly-dressed tourist gawking at the strange foreigners, trying to mimic the “customs” but doomed to only make of herself a fool.

She acknowledges to some degree her privileges of being a native English speaker and white. She tells us of how those privileges affected her in Key West, where she “originally sought what [she] assumed would be a relatively easy job in hotel housekeeping and found [her]self steered instead into waitressing, no doubt because of [her] ethnicity and [her] English skills.”

Next comes a weak half-acknowledgement of her abled-body privilege:

“In addition to being mobile and unencumbered, I am probably in a lot better health than most members of the long term low-wage workforce.”

Indeed—her class privilege gives her access to healthy food and health care, and her being able-bodied doesn’t restrict her ability to choose her place of employment, nor does it mean she’s more likely to be a part of the “low-wage workforce” because of an ailment or being differently abled.

Next, the awkward, gawky tourist tries to figure out how to blend in with these strange, foreign exotics:

“There was also the problem of how to present myself to potential employers…When, on one occasion, an exceptionally chatty interviewer asked about hobbies, I said “writing” and she seemed to find nothing strange about this, although the job she was offering could have been performed perfectly well by an illiterate.”

Hmm. Why did she say this? Does she assume that the “low-wage worker” has no interest in books, reading, or writing? That she thinks they’re all there because they’re uneducated, ignorant, and illiterate? Has she elevated writing back to the status of the past, where only the upper classes of society wrote “good” things? She muses more about why her coworkers weren’t stunned that she was a writer:

“In each setting, toward the end of my stay and after much anxious forethought, I “came out” to a few chosen coworkers. The result was always stunningly anticlimactic, my favorite response being, “Does this mean you’re not going to be back on the evening shift next week?” I’ve wondered a lot about why there wasn’t more astonishment or even indignation, and part of the answer probably lies in people’s notion of “writing.” Years ago, when I married my second husband, he proudly told his uncle, who was a valet parker at the time, that I was a writer. The uncle’s response: “Who isn’t?” Everyone literate “writes” and some low-wage workers I have known or met through this project write journals and poems—even, in one case, a lengthy science fiction novel.”

She seems surprised that writing isn’t put on this elevated level of the aristocracy, that the poor write—they just don’t get published. Initially, I assumed she wondered at the lack of indignation for her impersonating and appropriating the experience of the economically disadvantage for her own advantage. But since it’s sandwiched between these musings that the supposed lack of appropriate reverence for writers that exists in the working class, I have to wonder. As a “writer” myself, I can only roll my eyes at her arrogance, privilege, and self-importance. She’s really not setting herself up to be a sympathetic character here.

Next she tells us of her aristocratic, ahem, I mean, professional friends’ assumptions about their supposed superiority being obvious enough to “out” her:

“Several times since completing this project I have been asked by acquaintances whether the people I worked with couldn’t, uh, tell—the supposition being that an educated people is ineradicably different, and in a superior direction, from your workday drones. I wish I could say that some supervisor or coworker told me once that I was special in some enviable way—more intelligent, for example, or clearly better educated than most. But this never happened, I suspect because the only thing that really made me “special” was my inexperience. To state the proposition in reverse, low-wage workers are no more homogenous in personality or ability than people who write for a living, and no less likely to be funny or bright. Anyone in the educated classes who thinks otherwise ought to broaden their circle of friends.”

How nice of her to recognize the individuality of the poor sods, even as she admits she hoped that her education did make her obviously superior. Honestly, I can’t tell if she’s seriously trying to be aware of her privilege and failing painfully at it while being insufferable about the Writer Pedestal she’s set herself and other aristocratic professional writers on, or if she’s just a plain old privileged journalist, playing with an “experiment” for kudos that exploits and silences the poor.

Meanwhile, she closes the Introduction chapter with this:

“Just bear in mind, when I stumble, that this is in fact the best-case scenario: a person with every advantage that ethnicity and education, health and motivation can confer attempting, in a time of exuberant prosperity, to survive in the economy’s lowest depths.”

Right.

Nickel and Dimed: Introduction, Part One

Today, I started reading Nickel and Dimed, Barbara Ehrenreich’s book on her experiment on living in poverty. As I read, I’ll write, sharing my thoughts and reactions to her experience.

Introduction: Getting Ready

In this chapter, Barbara shares what inspired her to undergo this experiment, her apprehensions, and her parameters, or “rules” that she will follow throughout the experiment.

It all started with a lunch with the editor of Harper’s—she was discussing ideas for her next work with Lewis Lapham, and she “drifted to one of [her] more favorite themes—poverty.” Themes. You know, I didn’t have a good reaction to that word. “Issues” would have been my natural choice, or “problems.” Using themes makes it sound like she’s talking about creative writing or literature, not one of the most enduring dark sides of human society since the beginning of time. At the time, of course, all I did was squint and read on. The pair wondered how people managed to live off of minimum wage, and how the women being booted off of “welfare” (this was published in 2001) would be able to manage. Barbara said that someone should do some good-old-fashioned journalism and “try it themselves.” Not her. Someone who had time on their hands. Of course, the evil editor suggested she do it.

The next paragraph is thus:

“The last time anyone had urged me to forsake my normal life for a run-of-the-mill low-paid job had been in the seventies, when dozens, perhaps hundreds, of sixties radicals started going into the factories to ‘proletarianize’ themselves and organize the working class in the process. Not this girl. I felt sorry for the parents who had paid college tuition for these blue collar wannabes and sorry, too, for the people they intended to uplift.”

Not this girl. She wasn’t going to do anything like that. The irony being, of course, that excluding the save the poor part, she was about to undertake the exact same thing.

Let me break from my analysis from a moment. I didn’t buy this book with the intention of writing about it. But after reading this chapter (and the introduction is as far as I’ve read as I’m writing) I realized that I had to write about it. While she recognized and acknowledged some of her privilege from the beginning (or at least acknowledges it at the beginning of the book), she doesn’t get the extent of it. Of course, that’s the privilege of being privileged—you don’t see exactly how much of an advantage you have. Her privilege started showing with “themes” on the very first page, and the paragraph quoted above is on the second page. I have no doubt it will continue to show itself.

Ehrenreich wrote this book with the intention of showing the masses exactly what poverty is like—as a reasonably well-off, straight, white, abled-bodied, cis-gendered woman experiences it as an experiment. She does acknowledge that she’s only experiencing it temporarily, as an experiment. She doesn’t recognize, at least at this point, that for poverty to be written about—and published—that someone from “outside” that sphere must swoop in and get a taste. The poor don’t get to tell this story for themselves, to have it published, to sell more than 1.5 million copies. It’s the rich benefactor tale all over again. And this bothers me.