Just yesterday, the UK’s Guardian news site published a video in which actor Libby Liburd poses the question above, and proceeds to talk about society’s demonisation of women who parent their children alone. In the video she notes, importantly, that much of what we take for granted and most of our assumptions about single motherhood are not only incorrect, but are in fact way off the mark.
In addition to the Guardian video (which is extremely timely), there is also the new anthology Single Mothers Speak on Patriarchy, in which 45 single mothers from all over the world contribute a variety of different types of writing and art in order to articulate their experiences of being abused and abandoned by the men in their lives, and marginalised and silenced by society as a whole. I, for one, know the experience acutely and can testify to the general large-scale social abandonment and marginalisation that single mothers endure from all sectors. It is unrelenting, and it is everywhere. If being abandoned and abused by the fathers of our children weren’t enough, it is sometimes even more painful to then also be shut out and stigmatised by people who unconsciously/consciously subscribe to society’s misogynist whims and preconceived notions about what it means to be a single mother. Many other people (sometimes even other women – yes, I’m looking at you, my feminist sisters) – family members, even our friends, unwittingly treat us as though we are somehow at fault for our often exhausting and shitty predicament; we must’ve done something wrong, in their minds, to end up with a child who’s father wants nothing to do with us. Or we must, at some level, be generally shitty people who are broken (sadly, for whatever reason), and cannot function normally in society. We must be sluts, unable to keep our legs closed, and our predisposition to this behaviour probably the result of poverty or, more likely, an inherent gold-digger mentality that is itself the result of poverty. We are assumed to be poor. It is widely acknowledged that we are the largest recipients of welfare benefits, that we are fat, and lazy, and can’t be bothered to do much except occasionally get our fat asses up off the couch to buy more food or turn the TV channel. We have been painted by politicians all over the world as the poster children for a poorly functioning society, as it is assumed and often suggested that we are the ‘takers’. According to neoliberal capitalist white male political thought, we (no matter our race, we are united by our biological womanhood) are a dis-ease upon the fabric of a supposedly well-oiled capitalist machine. We and our innocent children are, according to them, what is holding the world back from ‘progress’. If we’d stop just being so lazy and dumb and poor, if we’d just go get a job and stop sucking the system dry, if we’d just keep our fucking legs shut, then our city councils would have the funds it needs to do… things… that need to be… done. We are blamed for our own poverty.
But we’re not just poor; we are assumed to be REALLY, REALLY poor. And in some cases, we are. You see, we are women. But what is more, is that we are perceived to be fundamentally flawed women. This is why the fathers of our children cannot bring themselves to participate in our lives or our children’s lives at any level or with any kind of meaning. This is the reason behind why so many men leave, it is the excuse so many men use to tell themselves and the courts and everyone else around them that their neglect to financially support their children is ‘rational’.
So ‘What is Our Problem With Single Mothers?’ Our problem with single mothers is that we not only continue to erroneously see them as the ‘problem’, but we refer to and treat them as such on a massive scale, and unfairly so. In fact, our problem with single mothers is actually not a problem with them at all, but a problem with the irresponsible, usually narcissistic, misogynistic and more often than not, slutty men who run around fathering children with women they’ve gaslighted because they think their duty in life is to fuck and use as many women as they possibly can and they know they can get away with it. The accessibility and proliferation of pornography exacerbates this (an inconvenient truth for many of you, I know). Never mind that though. And never mind the innocent victims (children) either. Don’t worry about that. I digress.
The combination of what is perceived to be our fundamentally flawed character and biology, our often extreme poverty, our very real oppression in the family court and criminal justice system, and our stress, not only get us painted as the butt of many jokes in popular culture (always at our own expense, of course), but these things also provide the rationalities behind predatory male behaviour – either in their wish to use us or to psychologically or sexually abuse the children of single mothers. You see, in this environment, we are a target. Actually, in this environment, in this disgustingly paedophilic and pornographic culture that is largely driven and certainly controlled by men, our children are targets too. But never mind that, right? WE women are at fault. WE women are blamed for the abuse we (and our children) have endured from men, and from the ongoing misogyny in society as a whole. We are fundamentally flawed, lazy, poor, the whole bit. According to pretty much everyone. Maybe even according to YOU. According to the papers, to the politicians, to the journalists and comics, YOU use us as your tool to achieve your own political ends. So many of us suffer in silence without a voice. Our children are statistically more at risk for a host of things that upper class children rarely have to worry about. Statistics and all that. Hmph. Yeah.
You know, statistically speaking, if we pause for a minute and take a look at what is ACTUALLY happening here, if we turn the issue of single motherhood on its head and see it from a different, more truthy angle, it becomes even clearer that:
MEN ARE THE ROOT OF THE PROBLEM.
Not women, not our innocent children, not poverty. MEN.
Sounds like man-hating garbage, you say. Yeah. Tell yourself whatever you need to to make yourself feel better at night, bro. Whatever. All I know is what I’ve personally experienced with the men in my life, and what I’ve witnessed in the lives of my female friends and family members. The fact is that our society normalises men’s bad behaviour. Society gives men a ‘get out of jail free’ card (this is a reference to the game Monopoly for all you non-native English readers/speakers) for almost everything. Men consume women’s bodies, minds, labor, and emotional resources for their own benefit all while maintaining their oppressive power hegemony in society. Is it a shock then when a woman says she did everything right and doesn’t understand why her male partner left her alone with a child and refuses to pay child support? No. It’s not a shock at all. It literally happens all the time. It’s especially not shocking because male justices and politicians and administrators and CEOs and etc dominate everything around us and continue to victim blame us for the abuse and violence we suffer at their hands? Is what I am writing here still ‘man-hating garbage’ when most of the men we know literally do nothing to hold their brothers, fathers, sons, friends and fellow citizens to account for their poor behaviour and violence against women and children? Why don’t more ‘good’ men speak up for women and children when they see injustice done against them? Why are men silent? Why do they continue to go about their lives in the face of all this despite the fact that it’s in their face everywhere they go? Surely they are not blind? Is it that they aren’t seeing our oppression? Or is it that they simply don’t care, or are too confortable to act?
Why don’t men do kindness more?
Don’t even think of commenting on this post with some NAMALT bullshit because your comment will go right into the trash can. The reality is that as long as we continue buying into this narrative – the narrative of weakness and lack that society and misogynists frame us with and want us to endure (because it serves them) – as long as we accept this label and conduct our lives as women in society in an unquestioning way, then they will continue to have the upper hand and our liberation from the oppression and tyranny of male supremacy will endure.
Fuck that shit.
RISE UP MY SISTERS!!! Let your voice be heard!!! Write. Demonstrate. Petition. Separate yourself from the fray. Separate yourself from this system and unite with other like-minded and like-spirited women. Our children are our gold. They are the future of this world. We owe them so much more than to be silent and complacent within this corrupt misogynistic system of governance!