Remembering bell hooks

I didn’t discover bell hooks until I went to college in 2002. I majored in sociology and minored in history. Took two Women and Gender courses and it was then I was introduced to her works. And my life changed.

Her writings made me think deeply and I learned to fight for myself as a Black woman living in a white patriarchal society that despises all women but has placed the Black woman on a special rung in hell. Learned to fight for my dignity and autonomy in system that wasn’t set up for my advancement but my demise.

And as I’m getting older, due to her works, I have learned to have grace for others who weren’t as fortunate as me to have access to her writings and the writings of Toni Morrison, Alice Walker, Assata Shakur and others. Black writers who reveled in their Blackness and wasn’t afraid to show it. Ignorance is cultivated in American culture these days so some people are doomed and all you can do is pity them and move on.

So Rest in Power bell hooks. Although you are no longer here in form, your works will continue to educate and transform, encouraging folks to improve their lives and elevate their minds. Folks like me.

Words that every woman needs to chant to herself

Tales of the Bodacious Boobs

Boobs

Ever since I graduated from college with a Bachelors degree in sociology 15 years ago, I have formulated several theories of my own about current American society. My main theory: most individuals in current American society have been driven insane from all the rules and expectations that are placed upon individuals. Women in particular have faced intense pressure trying to live up to the tired, white male patriarchal standard of beauty that has been in vogue for centuries. In order to be considered beautiful, a woman must be preferably white, young, tall, blond, blue-eyed, thin and large breasted. Very large breasted. If a woman does not possess these attributes, she is considered an ugly spinster who is unworthy of notice.

Because of this standard of beauty, women have a tendency to be spiteful towards women who have large breasts and I should know because I have large breasts. I have had breasts since I was nine years old and I am 51. It always amazes me because I am not young or thin but ever since I could remember, women have looked at me with envy and sometimes hatred because of my breast size and I am not exaggerating. There have been times I have walked down the street and noticed women placing their arms across their chests as if to ward off the evilness of my large breasts. Crazy.

A film I watched several years ago, Busting Out, discusses this madness with an eloquence that is both funny and sad. The narrator and filmmaker, Francine Strickwerda lost her mother to breast cancer as a child, was the first in her class to develop breasts and she has been haunted by “the boobs of doom” ever since. This film tells the story of how breasts are portrayed in our society and how men and women think of them. In American society, people are taught that breasts are for sexual pleasure, whereas in other cultures, the breast is not important. Many stereotypes about having large breasts exist such as being considered “easy” or “dumb.” These stereotypes are completely ridiculous because I know some small-breasted promiscuous women and there is no known correlation between intelligence and breast size.

Decades ago in China, mothers would bind the bottom of their daughters heels and toes so their feet would be only 3 inches long because that men had a fetish for small feet and pleasing men is everything, even at the risk of being crippled for life. In American society, lingerie is marketed towards little girls as young as three years old. At one time, Bratz dolls were very popular in American culture and they wore skimpy clothes, and had large heads and prominent boobs. These dolls actually outsold old fashioned Barbie dolls but Bratz have disappeared and Barbie is still reigning supreme.

This obsession with breasts has put American women in a catch-22 situation: those with large breasts have to deal with the stereotypes and women without large breasts feel like they have to resort to drastic measures such a surgical breast enhancement in order to feel “normal.” It seems to me that women are damned if they have them, damned if they do not.

This movie was very interesting, not just because I am a woman with large breasts but because it showcases how juvenile and archaic American society is when it comes to its obsession with women’s breasts. The thing I found most pathetic was the radio show hosted by Tom Leykis, who proclaimed Fridays as “Flash Fridays” and women are encouraged to flash any and all their breasts. Any woman so desperate for attention that she will put her naked breasts outside a car window needs to be locked up for insanity, not indecent exposure.

Overall, I feel that current society’s obsession with women’s’ breasts is ridiculous. Breasts are used to sell anything and everything including cars, cigarettes and many other things. They are seen as objects that men can fondle and suckle and have no other use. Forget about the newborn babies; it is all about men’s pleasure. Lawd these folks are unhappy.

The Real Reason Why Men Hate & Fear Perfectly Content Single Women

Single Women Dancing With Pride

Men lose their minds at thought of a woman perfectly content with her own company. Because that means that they can’t hold a relationship and a possible marriage over her head along with a passel of brats.

They can’t constantly chant “that’s why you’re single!” to a woman who truly doesn’t give a fuck. Those types of scare tactics doesn’t work on a woman who’s secure in herself and knows that her womanhood doesn’t hinge upon saddling herself with a man not worth two dead flies and children with his fucked up DNA.

For centuries, women have been socialized to believe that their only purpose in life is to get married and spit out the next generation of dysfunctional, unhappy people but after three waves of feminism, women have been taking off the patriarchal blinders and seeing American culture for what it is: a system that hates women and children so many are opting out.

A culture that respected and revered women and children would make it easier for them to exist. It would have a better healthcare system so that women wouldn’t be still dying in childbirth in the year 2021.

A culture that respected and revered women and children would have a national and generous maternity leave for expectant mothers that would allow them to rest and bond with their babies.

A culture that respected and revered women and children would have a nationally funded childcare program in which families wouldn’t be charged college tuition for daycare.

And most importantly, a culture that respected and revered women and children wouldn’t be still trying to force women into having children that they do not want. It’s almost 2022 and certain states in this country are trying to reverse Roe versus Wade, Supreme Court decision that gave women the right to abortion. It’s mind boggling that women who live in a supposedly enlightened, so called superior country are still fighting for autonomy over their own bodies.

So that’s why men fear and despise a happy single woman. They know that these women are free and can’t be subjugated into taking on trash so they try through violence or legislation to keep them in their place as walking wombs.

A Short Silly Post About a Nasty Ass Bubble

The Dirty Bubble🤣🤣🤣🤣

I’m a big fan of the cartoon “SpongeBob SquarePants” and one of my favorite characters is The Dirty Bubble. He’s a villain on SpongeBob’s favorite cartoon show and he’s a nasty fucker as you can see from the picture above. The very name of this character makes me dissolve into laughter and lets me know that despite of my 51 years, I’m still a silly little girl at heart. Imagine being a villain because you refuse to wash your ass. Hell it’s a lot of Dirty Bubbles walking around in Chicago 😃😃😃😃😃

My Favorite Authors & Their Books

Books Are Fabulous!!!!

I’ve been reading books since I was a little girl. Before I was born, my mother had purchased a set of encyclopedias for my brothers that they never touched according to her. So they sat, unused and collecting dust until I was born.

Book of Knowledge Encyclopedias

Now I wasn’t born a genius and started reading at five months old but I was totally fascinated by those books. I would draw and scribble scrabble in the encyclopedias but when I finally learned how to read and comprehend, they became my friends,

My favorite two encyclopedias were the letter C and F. C because of the article on the cat species and F because of the article on the First Ladies. I love cats and I will always remember the first words of the article on cats: “cats remember those who were good to them and they remember those who were not.” Or something like that because it’s been over 30 years since I actually saw this passage and I’m not a spring chicken at all.

The article on the First Ladies was intriguing to me too because the set my mother owned was published when Lyndon B. Johnson was president so the article only discussed the ladies up until his presidency and she was the last one. Miss Lady Bird was her nickname and I thought that was so cool.

That set of encyclopedias purchased by my mother for my older brothers set off a thirst for knowledge that I’ve been trying to appease for almost 40 years and I’ve come to the realization that I will be always be searching for answers. Which is not a problem in a culture where the vast majority of people are dumb as a box of hair.

But I’m digressing as usual and let’s talk about my favorite books. Realistically, it’s too many to list because I will be writing until Juvember but what I’m going to do is list some of my favorite authors along with the books that they wrote that touched my soul.

These authors and their books aren’t going to be listed categorically but from memory because my mind is like a noodle these days and I will periodically update this blog when I think of more authors who impacted my life.

Margaret Mitchell and her novel Gone With the Wind. I read this book for the first time back in 1981 when I was almost 11 years old and it changed my life and taught me a lot about the Southern states. They ain’t going to change y’all.

Rhett Butler

Jackie Collins and all her books about the lives of the rich and famous. One of her most infamous characters is Lucky Santangelo, the daughter of a gangster and a bad ass chick in her own right.

Bertrice Small and all her romance novels, especially the World of Hetar series which is foreshadowing of what’s going to happen in this country if women don’t get off their asses and rebel.

All the celebrity biographies written by Kitty Kelley except the one about the Bush family because it’s dull as hell. But the books about Elizabeth Taylor, Jacqueline Kennedy, Frank Sinatra, Nancy Reagan, Oprah and House of Windsor?? Fire!!!

And lastly for now, all the books written by Candace Bushnell, including Sex and the City which was turned into a television series on HBO and became a cultural phenomenon. Any writer who can come up with a character name “Lord Skanky-Poo” is alright with me.

Carrie and Friends

A Village Without Love

There has been an ongoing war between the sexes in the Black community for decades and it is time for it to end because it is pathetic and the only people hurting are the children. 70% of Black children reside in a single parent household; usually the mother and Black children are highly over represented in the foster care system.  Black children are only 14% of the American population, but are in the foster care at the rate of 23% and that is a damn shame.

Some folks are so busy arguing amongst themselves about who is more trifling, Black men or Black women that they have absolved ourselves of all parental and community responsibility.  No one wants to look in the mirror and change themselves but would rather sit back and blame each other while making a slew of babies that will grow up confused and fucked up. Ladies its too much birth control out here to be having children you do not want to be bothered with. Motherhood is a tour of duty that never ends and if you really don’t want to be bothered with responsibility of children, don’t have any. Stop letting these dudes whisper sweet nothings in your ear when that coochie is on fire, trying put stupid shit in your heads about having babies but ain’t said shit about marriage.

And men, I have not forgotten about y’all: if you do not want children, strap your boy up or get a vasectomy. Any man who is stupid enough to put the fate of his unborn children in the hands of a possibly unstable and vindictive woman deserves to have the child support system hounding his dumb ass for the rest of his life.

In past five years, there has been a big movement online, encouraging Black women to date outside their race and it has been fascinating to read the comments from some Black women on various websites as to why they have decided to date interracially. Because ironically, they sound just like some of these Black dudes when they give their reasons for not dating within their race but I ain’t the one to gossip so you didn’t hear that from me. American culture is a patriarchal one in which all men, regardless of their race or ethnicity, has been socialized to believe that they are superior to women. So if a Black woman thinks she will be escape patriarchy by turning to another race, she needs a reality check. The same premise goes for those Black men who told themselves that if they get a White woman, they will be as good as the White man and history has shown that premise to be a complete and utter lie.

Stereotypes about Black men and women that were originally created by the dominant culture are now running amok and being perpetrated by Black people themselves. The community is on the edge of a precipice but instead of coming up with feasible solutions to the problems of a poor educational system, poverty, lack of economic opportunities in blighted areas, and the high murder rate in inner-city neighborhoods, some of us would rather discuss the lives of celebrities who wouldn’t piss on them if they were on fire.

All these stereotypes do is keep Black folks at each other’s throats and Black communities throughout America are on fire as a direct result. It takes a village to raise a child and what happens when the village is at war with each other? A generation of angry children without love and compassion, hence the state of current Black America.

Depression, Depression, Depression….

Depression is a terrible thing because it creeps up when you least expect it. You could be having a perfectly good day and memories from the past will swarm your brain and you will feel like crawling up in a corner and hiding. Hiding from the pain, the confusion, the chaos of your feelings.

My feelings are in turmoil these days because I have lost so many people in the last few years to death. My brother, the last of my original family. My boos Trena, Genial, and Mikki, my around the way girls from around the way. So many people I loved and cherished that I loved with all my fiery soul and now they are gone and its nothing I can do about it. Because you can fight many things in life, certain illnesses, job losses, relationships that should ended eons ago but death? You can’t fight that bitch. You just learn to cope and move on with your life the best you can but depression will always plague you.

And even if death hasn’t plagued your life, depression can slap you in the face and fuck up your life. American culture is a perfect example of the ills of depression.

I know that we live in America, the place of Horatio Alger tales where people come from humble backgrounds and somehow, someway through hard work and perseverance, manage to ride off into the sunset and that’s a beautiful tale. Unfortunately, for most people, their lives will be filled with obstacles on the path to greatness, and for some that greatness will never come. So they find themselves falling into the depths of hell which is called depression.

Americans are supposed to constantly happy and blowing sunshine out of their asses or they aren’t considered real “patriots.” So they walk around with fake smiles and harass complete strangers at grocery stores, parks, gas stations and various other public places. Looking like complete maniacs but hey its America though.

Photo by Renda Eko Riyadi on Pexels.com

Please don’t think I am making fun of people suffering from depression because I am not but I am tired of people taking out their issues on complete strangers. I have been through the bowels of hell in the past few years of my life but it never occurred to me to go outside of my home and show my entire ass to the world. I just coped and got some therapy.

Did it help? Yes it did. Did the depression go away? Not yet but I am hopeful because walking up sad and mad daily is not a good thing. And all I want is to be happy at least 98% of the time and that is I want for other folks. Just be happy, eat good every day and live their lives. Life is too short and precious to dwell in misery. Be happy my people.

Realization Is a Hard Pill to Swallow

It was a year in October that I was diagnosed with epilepsy and since then, I’ve worked two jobs. Both jobs I’ve walked away from because the medication I take to control the seizures makes me so tired and discombobulated that I’m useless. The medication I’m taking is levetiracetam and the side effects are loss of strength and energy, sleepiness amongst several others.

I’m always sleepy now and have taken more naps now than the three times I was pregnant. I’m clumsy as hell and feel generally lethargic most of the time. Which is not good in the field that I’m in which is clerical/administrative. To be in that line of work, one must be detailed oriented, attentive, and on point at all times because one little mistake can be costly. But it’s hard to be attentive when you are taking medication that makes you nod out like a dope friend.

There are some who will say that I should try another medication but when it comes to seizure medications, it’s not that simple. My neurologist would have to wean me off the levi shit and then put me on another medication that will also come with several side effects and that is too much. What few brain cells I have left will not be experimented on.

So today I finally came to the realization that working a traditional job will not be an option for me anymore and that realization makes me feel so sad and useless. I fought the welfare system to obtain a bachelors degree that would make me more desirable in the job field and now 15 years later at the age of 51, a medication has rendered me useless.

I know I can work from home but I like getting out and about, going to lunch, watching people, meeting new people, having social interactions with people. I’m only 51 and this is supposed to be my life now? This is some straight bullshit.

Some little girls wanted to grow up and be a housewife. I wanted to grow up and work in a fancy office and earn my own money. To not be dependent on anyone. I’ve applied for disability and was turned down but eventually I will get it but damn. All I wanted was my own economic autonomy but my body is not cooperating. And I’m pissed, sad, and numb.

The Legend of Sweetie Mae Brown – The Meanest Bitch in Town

In spite of her name, Sweetie Mae Brown was the meanest woman in Sugar Shack, Mississippi. She was big as a linebacker. She once picked Scooter Davis, who was six feet tall and two hundred pounds, up by the back of his neck like a mother cat would do to one of her kittens, and tossed him off her porch. She had beaten up on her last three husbands and was currently scouting for number four. The men in town lived in fear that she would put her roving eye upon them. The women in town gave her a wide berth because she had accused them of wanting her husbands when she had them.

Yeah, Sweetie Mae was a mean ass bitch. Mothers would use her name as a threat to keep wayward children in line. The religious would do the cross when she walked passed them. She lived in a raggedly shack on Dead End Lane. It didn’t matter how hard the sun was shining in town, there was no light on Dead End Lane. Spooky looking trees seemed to reach out and grab at you if you had the misfortune to walk pass surrounded her house. No one wanted to tangle with old Sweet Mae.

Every night, she would leave her shack and go to one the local juke joints and get her drink on. Her favorite drink was Jack Daniel’s, no chaser. After slugging down a few rounds, drunk and ignorant, she would proceed to harass anyone who took her fancy. One night it was poor Charlie Jones, whose only crime was to politely decline her request for a dance. Before Charlie knew what hit him, she had him trussed up like a hog for the slaughtering. Tossing him over her back, she threw him into the garbage can in the back of the joint. Everyone stared and then started drinking. Nobody in his or her right mind tangled with Sweetie Mae when she was drunk. They had come to think of Sweetie Mae as the nightly entertainment. Yes, this how Sweetie Mae rolled. She terrorized the citizens of Sugar Shack like this on a regular basis until the night she meet her match.

It was a typical night at Papa Charlie’s Bar & Grill, her favorite joint and Sweetie had just downed a pint of Jack Daniel’s when a stranger walked in. She was a pretty, petite thing with big brown eyes and a confident attitude so she immediately took everyone’s attention when she walked in and sat down. Especially Sweetie Mae. She hated women like her, with her womanly ways and little body. How dared that bitch come in her spot and take the spotlight! With Sweetie’s eye on her, the young lady sat down. A gentleman asked her if she wanted to dance. Since he was a cutie, she said yes, and to the small cramped dance floor they went. Sweetie Mae’s eyes got big. That bitch was dancing with Cletus Taylor, her future husband! Of course, Cletus had no clue about this, but that didn’t matter. She had marked him as her own and for that, that bitch was ‘bout to get beat down!

They were getting their juke on something serious when Sweetie Mae came up behind the girl, grabbing her by the arm. “Look ho, this is my man and no one fucks with Sweetie Mae Brown’s man!” she snarled down at the girl. There was complete silence in the bar. Cletus didn’t say a word. He didn’t want to be trussed up like poor Charlie. To everyone’s amazement, petite drew herself up and snapped back, “He told me he didn’t have no woman, and I know a man-looking bitch like you is not his woman!”The crowd watched in silent, thrilled amazement. Petite had game! Sweetie Mae’s mouth fell open. She couldn’t believe this little sawed off broad was talking crazy to her, Sweetie Mae Brown, the meanest bitch in town. With a quick move of her hand, she slapped the girl, knocking her against the bar.

With only survival on her mind, the girl grabbed the nearest bar stool and started to beat the shit out of Sweetie like she stole her last pair of panties. Old Sweetie was laid out on the floor, with drool running out her mouth. Making her way to the entrance, the girl ran out and jumped in her car, speeding off into the night, never understanding the magnitude of what happened. The patrons of the bar cheered like crazy. Sweetie Mae had finally gotten her ass kicked! Sweetie Mae slowly got up from the floor, tears of humiliation running down her face. Oh the shame of it all! Her ass kicked by a girl who was five feet tall and a hundred pounds soaking wet! She would never live it down! She slinked from the bar, with her head hanging down, never to be seen by the citizens of Sugar Shack again.

The Policing of Black Female Sexuality

Another graduate school paper written in 2015

Abstract
The current paradigm concerning black female sexuality has been constructed from beliefs about black women that began as a result of white patriarchal ideologies established during slavery. These stereotypes about black female sexuality in particular have been used to shape U.S. public policy concerning social welfare and because of these stereotypes, black women have been blamed for passing down a “culture of poverty” from one generation to the next. This paper will discuss the policing of black female sexuality and pose the question: Why is black female sexuality considered dangerous to the status quo?


The Policing of Black Female Sexuality
It is a strange lot to be a Black woman in American society. She was brought to this country to be an unpaid worker, a concubine and a broodmare. Her body and her sexuality has been reviled but from the various brilliant shades of brown Black people come in, is curiously loved. This paper will examine the reasons for the policing of black female sexuality and why even in 2015, black women are not allowed to embrace their sexuality in the way white women are.


The Beginnings
The policing of Black female sexuality began during slavery. White males who were attracted to their slaves had to justify their attraction to them by labeling Black women as deviant, sexually aggressive creatures and whose sexuality had to be regulated. It also had to do with white male views on female sexuality. “Barbara Omolade asserts that the sexual stereotyping of black women’s bodies is rooted in colonialism. She argues that European male colonists read African women’s sexuality “according to their own definitions of sex, nudity, and blackness as base, foul, and bestial.” (Maurer, 2000).


This narrative fit very nicely with the “Cult of True Womanhood” in which white women were considered pure, dainty, innocent, and deserving of protection while the Back female slave was considered “primitive and incapable of chastity, purity, and moral virtue.” (Maurer, 2000). White men could then have unrestrained sex with the female slaves with no responsibility for their actions while protecting the virtue of white women.


Thus, the degrading images of black women being less than human and not worthy of respect was born. The hyper sexualized stereotype of black women as a femme fatale was used during slavery justify sexual relations between white men and black women, especially sexual unions involving masters and their female slaves. The black woman was depicted as a woman with an insatiable appetite for sex. She was not satisfied with black men and needed.”


Slave women were considered chattel and legally they had no rights so they could be raped with impunity with no repercussions. Often white male plantation owners would give their sons the “gift” of a young slave girl to be his concubines. “Nevertheless, as John D’Emilio and Estelle B. Freedman state in Intimate Matters: A Sexual History of Sexuality in America, ‘the rape of a female slave was probably the most common form of interracial sex during that time’.” (Rhymes, 2007).


The idea that black women were more sexually immoral than white women was reinforced by slavery. “Slaves whether on the auction block or offered privately for sale, were often stripped naked and physically examined. This was done to ensure that they were healthy, able to reproduce, and, most importantly, to look for whipping scars – the presence of which implied that the slave was rebellious. In practice, the stripping and touching of slaves had a sexually exploitative, sometimes sadistic function. Nakedness, especially among women in the 18th and 19th centuries, implied a lack of civility, morality, and sexual restraint even when the nakedness was forced. Slaves, of both sexes and all ages, often wore few clothes or clothes so ragged that their legs, thighs, and chests were exposed. Conversely, whites, especially women, wore clothing over most of their bodies. The contrast between the clothing reinforced the belief that white women were civilized, modest, and sexually pure, whereas black women were crude, immodest, and sexually deviant.” (Rhymes, 2007).


The Exploitation of Black Female Sexuality in Advertising and Film
The portrayal of black women as amoral, sexual deviants had its beginnings in slavery, was used during the Jim Crow period, and was used in modern times to entertain and sell products and advertising was a great medium to do this. Although the Mammy stereotype was used to sell everything from food to soap, the depiction of black women as sexually free whores was a common theme in selling products. “A metal nutcracker from the 1930s depicts a topless black woman. The nut is placed under her skirt, in her crotch, and crushed. Were sexually explicit items such as these made in the image of white women? Yes. However, they were never mainstreamed like the objects that caricatured Black women. The seamy novelty objects depicting white women were sold on the down-low, the QT and always hush-hush. An analysis of these racist items also reveals that black female children were sexually objectified. Black girls, with the faces of pre-teenagers, were drawn with adult sized buttocks, which were exposed. They were naked, scantily clad, or hiding seductively behind towels, blankets, trees, or other objects.” (Rhymes, 2007).


As society entered the early 1970s, another way of exploiting the sexuality of black women was the image of the supersexualized black female protagonist and heroine in film with black female characters being portrayed as prostitutes or women using sex as a means to get revenge on those who wronged them or their families. These films are now called “blaxploitation” and were a very popular genre of film during this time period amongst black people. Although these films claimed to be about the black experience of living in the ghetto, these movies were produced and directed by predominantly white males. “Daniel J. Leab (1976), the movie historian, noted, “Whites packaged, financed, and sold these films, and they received the bulk of the big money. The world depicted in blaxploitation movies included corrupt police and politicians, pimps, drug dealers, violent criminals, prostitutes, and whores. In the main, these movies were low-budget, formulaic interpretations of black life by white producers, directors, and distributors. Black actors and actresses, many unable to find work in mainstream movies, found work in blaxploitation movies. Black patrons supported these movies because they showed blacks fighting the “white establishment,” resisting police corruption, acting assertively, and having sex lives.” (Pilgrim, 2002).


Public Policy and Black Female Sexuality
Stereotypes about black women’s sexuality were also used against them during the eugenics movement of the early 20th century. “Stereotypes about black women’s hyper-fertility fueled the call for government regulation of the reproduction of non-whites” (Maurer, 2000). Public policies and public management practices at both the state and federal level supported this movement and its policies lived on after its demise (Maurer, 2000). By 1970, “20 percent of all married black women in the United States had been sterilized and accounted for 43 percent of sterilizations funded by the U.S. government” (Maurer, 2000).


During this time period, the image of welfare changed from deserving white widows to black women who had children to get a check. This change was once again by the stereotyping of black women as promiscuous breeders whose fertility must be regulated. Single mothers, in particular, black women who have children and no husbands violate the patriarchal dominant sexual norms of American culture. Although massive changes in popular culture in the last fifty years have challenged the understanding of sexuality, the sexual morality of mothers without husbands is still suspect.
When single mothers find themselves in need of financial assistance from the state, the government is in a position to dictate changes in sexual behavior in exchange for financial aid.

Contemporary welfare policy explicitly aims to convince women to marry and not produce children out of wedlock. If receiving public assistance and pregnant, a mother-to- be is spoken to about future birth control options and whether or not does she wants to undergo tubal ligation (Weedon, 1999). Social welfare programs in this country have been used, since their inception, to control the sexual behavior of program recipients. Yet, people who apply for other types of government assistance such as unemployment compensation, are not faced with marriage incentives or family caps. Control of sexual behavior through financial assistance has only been attempted through welfare, the public assistance program intended for poor single mothers (Adair, 2000).


Public policy rarely acts completely independently from public opinion. Public opinion polls confirm that Americans are less supportive of spending on welfare than on other types of assistance to the poor, such as social security benefits. Many researchers have tried to discover the source of this disdain for welfare. Race clearly plays an important role in shaping public views about welfare. Jill Quadagno’s, The Color of Welfare (1994) solidly establishes race as a driving force in the history of US welfare politics. Racial inequality in the US has created an economic system in which America’s poor are disproportionately black and Hispanic. This in turn means that racial minorities are disproportionately likely to need welfare assistance. The history of welfare provision in the US is also a history of the governmental response to racial inequality.


Welfare was designed to keep deserving (widowed or abandoned) white mothers from entering the workforce. But after federal regulations limited state discretion in the 1960s, these same regulations were attacked for allowing morally suspect black women to remain out of the workforce. Welfare has a long history of being used as a tool to reward or punish impoverished single mothers regardless of race. While some policies seem to have been designed only to confer benefits in accordance with recipient race and immigration status, other welfare rules (midnight raids, for example) were used to control behavior of single mothers (Quadagno,1994).
An important change in welfare policy was made in 1996 when AFDC was replaced with TANF. Temporary Assistance to Needy Families introduced block grants, thus reintroducing significant state control over program administration. Strict time limits, family caps, permanent exclusion for even minor drug offenses, and work requirements were all presented as tools for the states to use in reducing their welfare rolls. Under TANF, the explicit primary goals of welfare are reducing welfare dependency and encouraging heterosexual marriage.


Sex and the Language of Welfare

The language used in the 1996 Personal Responsibility and Work Opportunity Reconciliation Act (PRWORA) that created TANF reveals its patriarchal, paternal intentions. Take the name of the act, for example. It states that welfare reform as primarily being about the failure of personal responsibilities of the women who receive welfare. A number of other explanations of the poverty of single mothers could have been entertained: women, on average, are paid less than men when they do engage in wage labor; women are more likely than men to take lower paying part-time or temporary work to accommodate family responsibilities; the cost of quality, reliable childcare makes low wage labor even less attractive to single mothers than it otherwise might be to employees without children; single mothers often do not get financial or emotional support from the fathers of their children (Abramovitz, 1996).

But welfare reform as it currently exists is not about ending the feminization of poverty, not about holding Corporate America accountable for failing to pay living wages, and the failure of society to help provide for the basic needs of its poorest citizens. It is about punishing and controlling the poorest segment of the American population for being poor and not adhering to traditional “moral” values.


“Personal responsibility” is a supposedly neutral phrase. Yet, the way that it is used in the PRWORA is distinctly biased against poor black women. The phrase pretends that poor single mothers have the same range of opportunities and choices as any other citizen (even though reality suggests otherwise). The use of this phrase implies that the misfortunes of poor black single mothers are the result of irresponsible choices. To use it in this fashion ignores the range of responsibilities that poor single mothers do have (protecting their children in impoverished and sometimes dangerous neighborhoods, nurturing their children emotionally often without help of a partner, providing for children’s educational needs despite impoverished school districts) and focuses instead on the ‘responsibility’ to take low wage labor.


Further, the title of PRWORA implies that work opportunities are being offered to welfare recipients. This is not true. In reality, the legislation calls for limits on the length of time recipients can receive welfare benefits, and mandated employment, and limits on educational opportunities for welfare recipients. Clearly, the lawmakers who crafted this legislation were not interested in simply providing work opportunities for the single mothers on welfare. PRWORA addresses welfare recipients as failed women in need of strict behavioral guidelines from the government (Abramovitz, 1996) and the assumptions underlying language are clear. Welfare recipients are poor because they have failed to marry (Abramovitz, 1996).

Character flaws, including sexual promiscuity and lack of devotion to the traditional institution of marriage, are to blame for the poverty of single mothers. The way to fix this problem is for the government to encourage poor women to get married. These “findings” presume that welfare mothers are heterosexual, that marrying the (probably also poor) father of her children will bring financial security, that the decision to depend on a man (husband) for financial support will bring financial security, and that the decision to depend on a man (husband) for financial support is morally superior to relying on the man (the state).


Why does welfare reform language begin with value laden statements about traditional marriage? The assumptions underlying language are clear. Welfare recipients are poor because they have failed to marry. Character flaws, including sexual promiscuity and a lack of devotion to the traditional institution of marriage, are to blame for the poverty of single black mothers. The way to fix the problem is for the government to encourage poor black women to get married. These “findings” presume that welfare mothers are heterosexual, that marrying the (probably also poor) father of her children will bring financial security, and that the decision to rely on a man (husband) for financial support is morally superior to relying on the man (the state) Abramovitz, 1996). Whether or not the single mother wants to be married is outside the realm of this discussion: that she should marry is a moral imperative. The public assistance programs designed for other poor populations (Unemployment Insurance, Disability Insurance, and Social Security) do not promote marriage as a way out of poverty. This solution is only presented as appropriate in a program designed with poor single women in mind.


The concern with the marital status of welfare recipients is deeply rooted in racial politics. Blacks are less likely to marry than whites. Black families often violate the normative white middle class nuclear family structure, and conservatives have long seen this violation as an indicator of moral failure and as a problem that needs to be solved with government intervention.


The “Purpose” section of PRWORA explains that the legislation is intended to “…end the dependence of needy parents on government benefits by promoting job preparation, work, and marriage” (“Personal responsibility and,” 1996). Lawmakers are aware that nearly all welfare recipients are single mothers. By using the gender neutral phrase “needy parents,” lawmakers willfully ignore reality, reinforcing the norm of the two parent heterosexual household. This willful ignorance allows lawmakers to pretend that “dependence” is not based on gender specific assumptions (Fraser and Gordon, 2002).


Controlling the reproductive behavior of poor women is a key part of this discourse about welfare. The purpose section of PRWORA continues, listing blatantly patriarchal goals: “to prevent and reduce the incidence of out-of-wedlock pregnancies (“Personal responsibility and,” 1996). There are no other federal public assistance programs in the US that promote abstinence and contraceptives as a way out of poverty. Middle class women are encouraged, through tax breaks, to reproduce. This language of controlling reproductive behavior is used only within the context of programs design for poor black women.


US welfare policy is based on the set of patriarchal assumptions that lawmakers hold about marriage, reproduction, and appropriate gender roles for poor black women. These patriarchal assumptions are evident in the history of US welfare policy, and in the language of current welfare policy. Sex has everything to do with welfare and the policing of black female sexuality.


Conclusion
The paradox of being a black woman in American society is a quandary in swirling emotions. From the moment they were brought here, they have been used to build up the image of white women from a certain economic class as inviolate: beyond reproach. Sexually, they are considered on the low end of the social and economic totem pole in American society, but from research and reality, they are the origins of mankind. Perhaps this is the reason for the stereotypes: the realization that if it was not for this woman, the world as society knows it, would not exist. That for all of the black woman’s lowly status, she is needed because societies would cease to exist if she disappeared. Black female sexuality is powerful; so much that American society has shaped social welfare policy because of them, for better or worse.

References
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Abramovitz, Mimi. (1996). Regulating the Lives of Women: Social Welfare Policy from Colonial Times to the Present. Boston, MA: South End Press.

Fraser, Nancy and Linda Gordon. (2002.) “A Genealogy of Dependence: Tracing a key word of the US welfare state.” The Subject of Care: Feminist Perspectives on Dependence. Eds. Eva Feder Kittay and Ellen Feder. Lanham, MD: Rowman and Littlefield Publishers.
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Quadagno, Jill. (1994). The Color of Welfare: How racism undermined the war on poverty. Oxford: Oxford University Press.
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