Wednesday, May 13, 2009

Judgment and Discrimination

Some say obesity discrimination is "accepted' when no other forms of prejudice are tolerated. Big and beautiful organizations strive to counter the snickering, snide looks large and rude comments large people endure, and help rebuild their self-esteem and dignity.

It appears however acceptable to launch public tirades of judgment against "unwed mothers" - aka mother who bear children"out-of-wedlock" (per the NY Times) and even to suggest that stigmatizing them for their marital status is not only fair game and justified, but should be increased! How about stoning or tar and feathering, perhaps being shackled in the public square or the wearing of a letter around the neck would be helpful...while, of course the men who impregnate them walk scott free!

Karen Gail Lewis, ACSW, Ed.D., wrote "With or Without a Man: Single women taking control of their lives" in which she states:

A single woman is "unmarried." The negative prefix implies a deviation from the norm - marriage. A single woman, then, is often described by who she isn't. Yet, if we extended this to its logical conclusion, this means a woman is a "non-man"; a short person is "non-tall" [ed: or "untall", as compared to unwed unwed].

Lewis points out that when checking boxes on forms, a woman who lives with her partner must check the "single" box while a woman who is separated for years but not divorced must check "married."

When we extend the topic to single moms, not just single women, the same label applies to divorced as well widowed women, and those who are single moms by choice and even have adopted.

It all leaves me to ponder:

- Why are some women "unwed" and other never marrieds, single mothers? Seems of a bit of age- and classism makes the determination of nomenclature.

- Why is it that the same people who proclaim a child is not a choice prior to birth, want mothers "chose" adoption and support adoption as a nobler, brave "choice."

(Pondering a bit off the topic: Why is that that when animals are in danger of extinction, we work to improve their environment and protect them in their habitat. We do NOT "rescue" them and put them into zoos or relocate them to other parts of the world.)

Back on track...we know that a good part of the prejudice against so-called "unwed mothers" - which is not so subtle code for young and poor mothers - is financial. After ll, the vast majority of hullabaloo about Nadya Sulman (the OctoMom) was not about her poor decsion-making, or the welfare of her children, but about the possibility of her being a "drain" on tax payers.

Does stigmatizing the poor end poverty?

Does labeling children born "out of wedlock" to their "unwed mothers" bastards or illegitimate help by stigmatizing them?

Note that despite all the hype about rising rates of babies born to unmarried women in the United States, it's way behind Northern European countries, where it also far more accepted and tax benefits aren't dependent on marriage.

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