Structural Inequality: A Disturbance in the Force


Ok. Here is an article I found today that (I think) is a good example of the nuances in the experiences of single motherhood that can, if misunderstood or reacted to in haste, serve to divide the sisterhood rather than grow our ranks in solidarity (doing this and enduring for the last seven years. The undertone of her article really hones in on the exhaustion and isolating struggle that accompanies the experience of single motherhood for so many of us. Bradford is clearly annoyed by the attempts of rich white women to claim public stake in what is, for the vast majority of us, an experience that is far from easy:

“In an interview with the Telegraph, she [Myleene Klaas] claimed she ‘owned’ being a single mother, and made the decision early on to ‘challenge the stereotype’. She said: ‘I’m like a cockroach. Stamp on me, but you won’t destroy me, I’ll keep coming back. I don’t know any other way to be. And if you have children and you are the one who is the breadwinner, the tooth-brusher, the dinner-maker, the bag-packer, you just have to keep on going.’

I’m all for keeping going and challenging the stereotype – people do expect you to be a certain type of person and live a certain type of life when you reveal you are on your own with your child.

The comment I get most often from strangers is ‘have you really only got one?’ as though I’d ruined their mental image of Little Britain’s Vicky Pollard struggling with a six-baby pushchair and bursting out of a pair of tracksuit bottoms.”

(My emphasis in italics).

I have a few thoughts on this.

First, I take issue with the title of the article (‘No Mum Really Likes Raising Her Children Alone’). Well… yes and no. Do I wish I had more help? Yes. Absolutely. No doubt about it. I live in a foreign country completely removed from all of my family and friends, I receive no government support, no support from the father of my child, and I technically fall under the poverty line with my annual income. I’ll be the first one to tell you – It’s not fucking easy. However. Would I rather be with some guy, who may or may not enjoy parenting as much as I, or may not love me and my child? Nope. I’d rather be alone with my child than with someone who, to put it nicely, doesn’t make me (or my child) happy. There is a joy and a beauty in the experience of single motherhood. It’s a profound thing, once you find it. I started this site to try and articulate that last point.

Second, I personally don’t see anything wrong with Klaas ‘owning’ the experience of being a single mom. She’s actually cool for coming out publicly and radically calling into question the long-held patriarchal stereotypes that have plagued single mothers for literally thousands of fucking years. Personally I think it’s pretty badass that she’s using her fame for these purposes. She could be doing something completely unrelated and different, something that doesn’t help the cause (our feminist path toward the total liberation of women), but here she is, owning it like a boss and simultaneously getting the message across to millions of women around the world that it’s ok for them to own their experience too, no matter who shames them – something that we all should do because we all deserve that spiritual/mental/emotional freedom from social patriarchal violence and general asshattery. Yeah. Klaas has money. Yeah. There are obvious structural inequalities and it is obviously way easier for her to do a LOT of things that many of us can’t do because we lack the same financial resources and freedoms that accompany those resources. But what’s the point of being angry at Klaas for having a lot of money? I would be lying if I said I didn’t wish I had the resources she has; but what use is it to draw lines in the sand between the haves and have nots in our community? Also, she’s a single mother with an £11 m fortune. Rewind the tape a few hundred years and the patriarchy would have a fit about someone like her. It wasn’t until very recently that women were allowed to participate in electoral processes much less control their own bank accounts. Good for her, I say. That being said, I get Bradford’s discontent and frustration – 100%. I get that she’s tired. I get that she’s angry about the injustice of the system and inequalities therein. I get that she’s lonely – I FEEL that. (Bradford if you are reading this, I FEEL YOU!!!). It is not easy for many of us. What is more, is that our society shames us if we express frustration and anger about our conditions and circumstances. So, for that, I think it’s cool that Bradford voiced her opinion as vocally as she did by publishing a piece in the Daily Mail. Right on. However.

Third, while I support Bradford and totally get it, reading this (from the same article quoted above) really pissed me off:

“I’m all for keeping going and challenging the stereotype – people do expect you to be a certain type of person and live a certain type of life when you reveal you are on your own with your child.

The comment I get most often from strangers is ‘have you really only got one?’ as though I’d ruined their mental image of Little Britain’s Vicky Pollard struggling with a six-baby pushchair and bursting out of a pair of tracksuit bottoms.”

(My emphasis in italics).

First of all, while I am aware that the single mother is a ‘stereotype’ I was not aware that people assume single moms to have broods of children because they are… what…? Are they assumed to be constantly having sex? Presumably unprotected sex, and with different men? And they are all… fat asses, sucking taxpayer money out of the welfare pool and apparently eating it all? I guess when I thought of the single mother ‘stereotype’ prior to reading Bradford’s article, my understanding of it was mostly lots of assumptions made about a woman’s economic condition and that in which she raises her child(ren). I wasn’t aware that people also assume that we are all… basically lazy sluts? I’m personally offended by this assumption and statement because I’m about as far from a slut as you can get and am one of the hardest workers I know. If this is a strong stereotype in the minds of people everywhere then we have a lot of work to do.

Can you imagine what children of single mothers must feel like if their school friends are operating under these social assumptions, and they get the unfortunate hits in conversation? How heartbreaking. Especially for those of us that were coldly abandoned by men. After all we do, after all we are for our kids, after everything we give, and invest in our children and our families, this is what society thinks of us? It is so disheartening. It makes me feel so, so sad. These stereotypes are tools of patriarchal power that are meant to keep us disheartened. Meant to keep us down, shamed and silent.

Kudos to Klaas for standing up and using her voice to call attention to single motherhood and the imperative of owning your experience. This is so important. I’m glad Bradford wrote the article as well because hers is a perspective and frustration that many of us share. We are all so tired. But we cannot allow ourselves to be divided. The patriarchy wants us to be divided. We cannot give that to them. We must rise up from despair and loneliness; we can call inequalities out among each other while still respecting each other and moving in solidarity toward the shared goal of total liberation. We have to work together to lift each other up because the patriarchy and its minions certainly aren’t going to.

I invite all single mothers everywhere who need to express themselves and vent their frustrations and anger to join me here. This space is a space for you. Your words and feelings are welcome.


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