Friday, April 25, 2008

Implications for Single Mothers, Social Class, and African American Women

Donavon Baldwin

WMST 2010

Dr. McCauliff


Implications for Single Mothers, Social Class, and African American Women

Prior to this assignment I had given little thought about the role and stereotypes surrounding single mothers; but in interviewing a peer who was raised in this type of environment, I realized that “Many of these women go through inordinate struggles just to get by, working against single mother, class, and race-based stereotypes” (Sidel, 42). Even though we have only known one another since this past summer, my friend Shiri’ self-disclosed to me about her life. I feel that we knew a lot about one another, and I felt that we shared a lot in common. We were both raised in a single- parent household, which seems to be a more common, occurrence. Throughout our friendship we have talked about our childhoods and the impact that those experiences have left upon our lives. Upon receiving this assignment I decided to interview Shiri’ and ask her about her personal experiences being raised by a single African American woman; this media text, combined with feminist theory, will help to further this discussion concerning single motherhood, social class and African American women in today’s society.

Single mothers face many issues: there is the typically implied lower household income per capital, increased responsibility on the mother for raising her children and working more hours to pay for all of her children’ needs. For Shiri’, there were positive effects of her mom being a single parent: her Mom served as a positive role model for independent women. Even though she was independent, she still ran into problems generally associated with single mothers who have problems in the work force: “The devaluation of mothers’ work permeates virtually every major institution. Not only is caregiving not rewarded, it is penalized” (Crittenden 191). In other words, the role of mother and caregiver is often overpowered by the single mother’s need to provide for her family.

Social Class is always an issue with single-parent homes. Due to the lower household incomes that single parents face due to their role as the only provider, they usually fall within a lower socioeconomic status. Women have had it harder than men in terms of earning money: “Of women working full-time in 2004, 20.1% earned less than $15,000 for the year; the figure is 22.3% for African American women, 32.2% for Latinas” (Bravo, 180). In addition, “Women are disproportionately represented among minimum-wage earners, accounting for more than 3/5 of all those in this category. Of these women in 2004, more than three-quarters were adults and working more than 20 hours a week; the largest share (41.6%) work full time” (Bravo, 180). From these numbers we see that social class is always an issue for single mothers.

Stereotypes, such as the welfare queen, are placed upon minority single mothers and more specifically; African American mothers. According to the welfare queen stereotype, women that receive financial aid from the government are perceived to be lazy and are lower class women. These women mostly live in neighborhoods where they struggle and have a hard time raising their kids. During the interview Shiri’ mentioned that her mother, being a single parent, struggled at times and had a hard time raising her children. She also stated that there was a time when there was not enough food to supply for everyone in the household. These are the stereotypes surrounding African American women as single mothers.

According to the matrix of domination, which “interlock[s] race, class, and gender oppression [and] expands the focus of analysis from merely describing the similarities and differences distinguishing these systems of oppression and focuses greater attention on how they interconnect” (Collins 221). There is an undeniable link in the negative associations of single mother’s social class and African American women. Stereotypes impact the majority of society’s negative view, which can adversely affect people.

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