poverty

Not Just a "Rich Girl" Problem

Phoebe Maltz Bovy at The Atlantic explains how unpaid internships negatively affect all workers, not just young women from wealthy families who can afford to work for no pay:

Unpaid work exists, of course, well beyond creative fields and coastal glamor. One can be an unpaid intern with a Nebraska police department, or at a Minnesota restaurant. Young adults in general, particularly students and post–2008 college graduates, face a “job” market that doesn’t necessarily promise an ability to pay one’s own bills. But if unpaid internships continue to be so closely associated with Carrie Bradshaw wannabes, it’s understandable that the issue would be ignored in favor of the plight of tomato farmers.

The majority of unpaid internship positions do go to women, but those women aren’t always rich. The entertainment business is rife with this sort of thing, and I can testify firsthand that many of the people trying to break into the industry barely scrape by.

The Demographics of Abortion

One thing that hasn’t changed since 1973 is the public image of what a typical abortion patient looks like: A middle-class, white high-school or college student with no children whose bright future could be derailed by motherhood. Hollywood portrayals of abortion patients are few and far between, but largely reinforce this understanding; Juno, Friday Night Lights, and Parenthood all focused on characters from this demographic. But these images, while they were closer to reality once, don’t say much about the typical abortion patient of today.

If you want to know why feminists keep rattling on about how the key to reducing abortions is free contraception, this will tell you.

Via A Place of Greater Safety.

Afghanistan's First Female Rapper

Sami Yousafzai and Ron Moreau at The Daily Beast profile Susan Feroz, a young woman who took to hip-hop and acting when a language barrier prevented her from studying to become a doctor or engineer, as she originally planned.

Born in Afghanistan and raised in neighboring Iran, Feroz—who speaks Farsi—began rapping a year ago to express the suffering that her family and fellow Afghan refugees experienced during their exile in Iran and Pakistan. Her first recording, “Our Neighbors,” details the difficulties of immigrant life. The song quickly became popular, as well as controversial—conservative Afghans were opposed to the idea of a girl rapping, while others protested against her comments on Iran. “I’m surprised how famous I became with one song,” she says.

In “Our Neighbors,” Feroz recalls the insults and humiliation she endured abroad. In Iran, where she lived with her family for seven years, she was rarely allowed to go to school. Some bureaucratic excuse always surfaced to prevent her and other refugees from registering, she says. The daily trip to the bakery to buy bread was often a harrowing ordeal. More than once, men would take her by the ear and pull her to the back of the queue, telling her, “The place for you dirty Afghans is at the end of the line.” She says she always shot back at them: “We are working in your country and not begging.”

Sound familiar?

Kenya Hospital Imprisons New Mothers With No Money

Two mothers who live in a mud-wall and tin-roof slum a short walk from the maternity hospital, which is affiliated with the Nairobi City Council, told The Associated Press that Pumwani [Hospital] wouldn’t let them leave after delivering their babies. The bills the mothers couldn’t afford were $60 and $160. Guards would beat mothers with sticks who tried to leave without paying, one of the women said.

Margaret Anyoso, the woman who owed $160, typically earns $5 or less a day. You don’t have to believe in universal health care to see how wrong this is. We abolished debtor’s prisons for a reason.

Via Jezebel.

Poor Students Struggle as Class Plays a Greater Role in Success

The New York Times follows three low-income students whose strong academic performance in high school failed to compensate for their other disadvantages when they entered college:

Four years later, their story seems less like a tribute to upward mobility than a study of obstacles in an age of soaring economic inequality. Not one of them has a four-year degree. Only one is still studying full time, and two have crushing debts. Angelica, who left Emory owing more than $60,000, is a clerk in a Galveston furniture store.

Each showed the ability to do college work, even excel at it. But the need to earn money brought one set of strains, campus alienation brought others, and ties to boyfriends not in school added complications. With little guidance from family or school officials, college became a leap that they braved without a safety net.

The demise of the current higher education system can’t come soon enough for me.

Via Blue Milk.

♀ Jesus & Venus & Paul Ryan

Transient

Since the announcement of Paul Ryan as Mitt Romney’s choice for vice-presidential candidate, feminist websites have spewed considerable vitriol in Ryan’s direction, potraying him as anti-woman, anti-poor/pro-rich, anti-environment, and anti-immigrant.

All these things may be true. I have no idea.

The evidence offered is weak, though. I’ll give two examples.

On Monday, Feministing reported the announcement of Romney’s pick by listing reasons “Why Paul Ryan is bad news for women (and everyone else). Among them:

He voted against the Lilly Ledbetter Fair Pay Act.[1] This isn’t a controversial issue, y’all. It simply protects women from being denied equal pay for equal work. I think we can all agree this is a no-brainer. (Except Paul Ryan.)

Then, earlier today, The Daily Beast covered Sister Simone Campbell, executive director of Network, a lobby advocating for the poor:

[Ryan] proposes reducing the federal budget deficit through substantial cuts in spending, which Sister Simone believes would hit low-income people hard. “In order to do what he says he is going to do, it takes drastic cuts,” she says, adding that Ryan does not generally go into detail about the specific programs for the poor that would be affected. “He’s trying to avoid enumerating them,” she says. “The truth is, there’s a shift of money to the top—tax cuts for the wealthy.” (Via Jezebel)

The clear intent of much of this coverage is to imply that Ryan wants women to receive discriminatory pay and poor people to continue suffering. Lest you think this exaggeration, the Feministing article precedes its list with this statement:

Paul Ryan is a potential Veep who has no interest except to disenfranchise most women — and basically everyone else except the super wealthy — in pretty astounding ways.

Now, to clarify: I will not be voting for Mitt Romney, so I don’t have to care whether Paul Ryan’s views align with my own. From the little I know of Ryan’s budget it seems at least somewhat misguided, and in his position I probably would have voted for the Ledbetter Act, but I object to the increasing tendency, even among journalists, to equate disagreement about methodology with hatred for a cause.

I’m a libertarian, and therefore not much of a fan of either major party; I can find something to disagree with about nearly everything done by our current Congress and President. I attribute no ill motives to our politicians, though. By and large, I think they are probably patriotic, well-motivated individuals who want the best for our country but disagree about the right way to achieve their mostly-laudable goals. Lacking evidence to the contrary, I’m going to assume that Paul Ryan voted against the Ledbetter Act because he thought it outside the scope of the federal government’s powers and drafted his budget proposal using principles he thought would secure the greatest properity possible for everyone. Anyone may think him incorrect, but only the small-minded assume that those who disagree with them about the best way to govern a country are selfish, hateful, or evil.

With regard to many core feminist issues I find myself in a difficult position, caught between my human, civil, and political ideals. I want employers to treat women and men equally, but I am unwilling to legislate a quota for female executives. I think women should be able to easily access contraception so they have control over their own fertility, but I don’t like federally-funded social services, even the ones that provide free birth control. Even on more peripheral issues that most feminists care about I don’t fit in. For example, I want immigrating to the United States to be easy and therefore believe we need immigration policy reform, but because I also believe in the rule of law I have no problem with deporting people who didn’t follow the correct procedure. I also opposed the Affordable Care Act, partly because I believe that everyone would be better off if we went in the direction of less regulation, not more, but also because I don’t believe health care is a basic human right the government should provide, no matter what Jesus said.

And now we circle back around to Sister Simone. Despite her contention that Ryan’s budget doesn’t fit with Catholic principles, Jesus has nothing to say about how to govern a country. He lived and spoke in a period of extensive disenfranchisement, so his audience had no paradigm for representative government. Many Christians believe that if Jesus were alive today he would, for example, tell us to enact universal health care because he cared about the fate of the poor. But Jesus was non-political, and his sermons were delivered to individuals, not legislators. Personally, I believe that even if he were walking the earth today Jesus would be almost totally uninterested in the business of running our country, preferring to spend his energy and limited resources directly on people.

For this reason, the best way our faith can inform our governance is by saying that we should exercise wisdom in everything we do. And the tricky thing about that is: everyone’s version of wisdom looks different.


  1. The Act clarifies that the statute of limitations for equal-pay discrimination lawsuits resets with each discriminatory paycheck. (Wikipedia)  ↩