Wednesday, 12 November 2014

Clarity About Poverty

Two things first of all:  no ad hominem attacks please - you can abstract the argument from the source and I'm not telling you what to think from a position where I see myself as having superior knowledge - and this is not motivated out of a sense of entitlement or a desire to blame anyone or society for this predicament.
I am going to use the term "lesbian couples" in this.  By this I mean couples living together both of whom identify as female, and I would make the observation that most of those would in fact be lesbian couples.  It does apply more widely.  This is not just about LGBT stuff, for instance it probably applies to any situation where socialisation or outside attitudes lead to both members of a couple being marginalised in some way.  A couple where both are deaf would be another example.

If you want statistics, there are some here (PDF warning), referring to the American situation.

Lesbian couples are more likely to be poor than either heterosexual couples or gay male couples.  Lesbian couples with children are even more likely to be poor.

This isn't going to take long to explain, so I'm just going to say it.  If you are female, you are more likely to find yourself supporting a so-called economically active person doing essential tasks which if they were factored into the economy would show a very different picture than what economic statistics normally show.  For instance, bearing and raising children is a sine qua non of the economy - if there is no future generation, there is no economy and if that generation doesn't use language, more or less the same applies.  That's women's work on the whole.  So is housework, food preparation and support for male partners in various ways.  This is less true than it was before but it is nonetheless still often true.  Even where it isn't, the stereotypical female gender role involves these activities and if men do them, it can disadvantage their career.  If a father takes a career break for parenting, he may not have been the victim of prejudice up until that point, but from that point onwards he is more likely to be.

Women are expected to be less assertive and where they do manage to generate an income, that income is likely to be lower, and traditionally female paid work is not as highly paid or taken as seriously as traditionally male paid work of the same degree of skill and utility.  They are less likely to advance because of that tendency towards unassertiveness.

Consequently, a woman is more likely to find herself in a relationship doing paid work to provide a supplementary income rather than a main income, and the work she does, paid or unpaid, is likely not to be as valued as "man's work".

Now apply this to a lesbian couple.  I would contend that if both members of a couple are marginalised in this way, they are more likely to be poor, and less likely to be able to climb out of poverty.

Add children to this and there is a further disadvantage.  The involvement in childcare reduces the opportunities to generate an income because these opportunities are likely to be missed and the paid work done will not be in the form of a nine-to-five job, because childcare by the parents themselves is less likely to be valued.

OK, so far so depressing.  However, am I blaming anyone for this?  Am I saying it's not them, it's the world and there is no way out of this?  Well, look at it this way.  Critical theory and social studies generally tend to be afflicted by a mindset where the problems are pointed out and studied more than the solutions are.  I've said this before, but it's like aeronautical engineering looking exclusively at plane crashes and poor fuel economy without learning from them and making practical suggestions as to how to build good aircraft.  There are of course structural problems with society which make all this harder over which there may be limited personal control.  However, there are also structural problems with one's approach to life and psychology which can be addressed, centred around things like noticing and creating opportunities through positivity, confidence, assertiveness and capitalising on so-called weaknesses rather than seeing them as essentially problematic.

You might form your own opinion about why I've posted this.  I couldn't possibly comment.