Who do these clowns think they are messing with?

i-9dc84d4d9156dccb30d5f62466b4219a-swblocks.jpgSome days the intertubes are not good for my blood pressure. Today was one of those days.

It started when my email contained a plea from the National Women's Law Center sent me an email with the title "Breaking News: Abortion at Risk in Health Care Reform"

"As you are reading this, there's language on the brink of being included in health care reform that will take away coverage of abortion that millions of women currently have. We must not let this happen because comprehensive reproductive health care is basic health care for women. Call and email your Senators and the White House TODAY. Tell them to protect women's coverage of abortion care in health care reform!"

A few hours later came a succession of stories with the message that if you or your mother was unfortunate enough to marry someone who you/she were better off without, then you are practically a whore who deserves to be beaten by your husband, all in the name of cheap health insurance.

A slightly less inflamed translation of those stories: If you were raised by a single mother, it's in your genes that you'll sleep around as a teenager; and, worse yet, getting assaulted by your husband is a pre-existing condition and a reasonable excuse for health insurance companies to drop your coverage, according to Republican senators and nine states.

Are you mad yet? I am. And I've got a couple of Senators who've been hearing from me today.

Fortunately, I'm not the only one getting worked up today. I absolutely adored this rant from the formiddable @nparmalee on Twitter:

Because cheap shots at single parents REALLY piss me off, and because it's a national past-time...I submit the following.
You won't find on this planet a harder working, more dedicated class of people, who daily rip their own hearts out over what's best for kids
And for career, home, life, generally putting themselves last. So while we may seem distracted at times, overall capacity is...stand back.
So when someone decides to take that cheap shot. Not only only it say so much about them. Given the overall intensity/skill/heart...
In my exp, if someone with that much capacity is forced to turn 100% of their attention to an asshat problem, the person who generated it...
Is so fucking fucked. So don't mess with us.

Hear, hear! As the perfectly functional daughter of a single mother, I won't put up with single parent bashing for even one minute. And I'm glad to know that despite the general asshattery of the day's news stories, I've got allies out there who are working amazingly hard to raise good kids, do good science, and/or make our world a better place.

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I used to run a daycare center. I learned I had to speak up around my in-laws, whose political opinions about single mothers (and worse, welfare mothers!) were apparently delivered as daily talking points from Rush or BillO; my daycare catered to single mothers who were getting college degrees (by law, they could not be getting welfare support if they were college students, no matter how poor they were, so we offered need-based scholarships to support them).

I know of no more dedicated parents than the single moms (and two single dads) that I met through my (our--collectively run) daycare. One mother lost some 20-25 pounds one summer, making sure that her son had enough to eat even if she did not. She was not too proud to fish through the items the university students left behind each summer, so that her son had some luxuries like a stereo, a set of (perfectly good!) bongo drums, a study desk and lamp... and she got her degree, and then a master's degree, and with hard work and dedication has ensured that her son never has to go through what she did.

Those of us who see faces instead of stereotypes know better.

the "welfare mom" lie persists to this day. let's take a moment to hurl a curse at st. ronnie raygun, the first guy to take baseless lies about the poor, downtrodden, striving masses and make jokes about them. i wish i believed in hell. it would be nice to think of reagan rotting in it.

For cryin' out loud. Why is everyone who is not ultra-left automatically also anti-single mom / evil / etc.? Sorry, but there are two sides to the story. A quote from a friend's girlfriend when she found out she was pregnant: "This kid'll get me an extra $35 a month". My niece hasn't worked a day in her life; baby's daddy is in and out of jail, and earns a living from welfare and dealing cocaine. She and her friends openly discuss "getting pregers" on myspace and how cute it'll be - and how much they love to party. Other side: My mom was a single mom who worked tirelessly and did everything for her kids future... and thousands of other similar stories. There are TWO sides to a story! The "lie" of the welfare mom is usually a lie, sometimes not. Anon: Yes, there are fantastic people out there giving it all for their kids, and I'll pitch in 24/7 to help if I can, and I would LOVE to celebrate their success somehow! But, the other side of the coin is there as well - somewhere, someone is uber-pissed at the quote above, and possibly blast me ... but she said it to me as she dropped her kid off at her mom's house because she was headed out to get stoned.

There is one single overriding problem with the health care debate: it is a huge problem with POLITICIANS (including extreme RIGHT and LEFT views) trying to solve it. Those senators hearing from you are going to propose & support whatever the hell will get them re-elected! Those who happen to go the way you want are brilliant, compassionate and "get it", the others are hate mongers for whom those preaching tolerance and goodness to all mankind will say things like "it would be nice to imagine reagan rotting in hell."

It's really too bad health care reform has become a polarizing, political mess, because so much good could come from meaningful reform! Can you imagine the good that would come from banning the idiotic pre-existing condition crap? Outstanding! This is such a great need, and such great things could be done, but the folks who bring you bloated, inefficient, ineffective gov't programs are not the people to fix it. Neither would I prefer Rush, Fox, BillO, the anchors of the Today Show, MSNBC, Keith Oberman, ACORN, the IRS, Anon, garth or myself to fix it... it's just too bad that this has so polarized the nation that people have lost an open mind, and know only "I am for / against whatever Obama says"... some ideas are great, some not so great...

Anon - you were part of a collectively-run daycare. Why not turn that over to the gov't? They had stupid rules that would have made it ineffective, or at least, hampered your ability to help the single parents you knew.

The system needs repaired (or redesigned), but the gov't has a dismal track record, wherever you are on the continuum between ultra-left to ultra-right.

By two sides (not verified) on 16 Sep 2009 #permalink

If I understand correctly, you believe anecdote represents data?

A quick google gives me this:

Non-parent Married Single All households
35,098 27,102 9,888 72,088
Welfare 2.7 1.1 16.9 4.1

So far from there being any "welfare mom" myth, it appears that single mothers are just over fifteen (15) times more likely to be on welfare than married mothers.

"Those of us who see faces instead of stereotypes know better."
Apparently not - you believe what you prefer to believe instead of gathering the relevant data before making up your mind.

As for insurance - this is a perfect example of why the delivery of medical services should be 100% socialised to ensure that those who need them the most (battered wives, poor welfare-dependent mothers...) are the ones who get them.
However, if you allow your system of delivery of medical care to be run - for profit - by private companies, I fail to see how you can object to the inevitable results of normal insurance-related risk-assessment: battered wives are not going to make you much money, so don't insure them. Logical. You need to destroy the entire evil system, not whine about trifling bits around the edges of it.

By Vince Whirlwind (not verified) on 16 Sep 2009 #permalink

Fortunately I got all these pieces of news quite a bit of time apart so I didn't quite have a stroke over it. Can we just start saying conservatives flat out hate women yet? We all know it's true and we have for quite a while now.

@two sides: Once again we discover there's no idea so accepted and no concept so universal that a libertarian won't wander in and crap all over it. Then proceed to smear the crap into an anarchy symbol on the wall and pretend they won the "debate" that no one was having in the first place.
If you want anecdotal evidence about how much the government sucks at things, you should hold yourself up as an example of the public school system. You do understand "Supporting whatever the people that elected you want so they'll vote for you again." is pretty much how a republic is supposed to work, right? What the hell is the other option, giving your supporters the finger and announcing mandatory Ebola Punch for everyone?
Government bad! Hulk smash!

By JThompson (not verified) on 16 Sep 2009 #permalink

Let's examine the data supplied by Vince Whirlwind a little more carefully:

Non-parent Married Single All households
35,098 27,102 9,888 72,088
Welfare 2.7 1.1 16.9 4.1

When I look at this dataset, I see 83.1% of single parent households working to support themselves and the kids. That data does nothing to disprove @nparmalee's point about single parents being dedicated, hardworking folks. In fact, those single parents are making it work with only half the possible income of married parents. Probably less than that, given that most single parents are women and women earn only 77 cents for every dollar that men earn.

This is not to say that there aren't some bad apples amongst single parents. There are some bad apples among married parents (cf. those wife beaters), among conservative ministers and politicians (who decry homosexuality and then have a homosexual affair), and among every class of people. But we don't routinely portray all married men as abusers because some are. Why do it for single parents?

And two sides - of course politicians are going to do what they think is going to get them re-elected. That's why I'm making sure they hear from me - so they know how their voters feel. It's how democracy works.

Finally, for now, nowhere have I ever said I'm against a single payer health care system. But even if I support one, that doesn't mean I can't work to make sure that women's reproductive health and domestic abuse are covered under all forms of health insurance.

Hear, hear ScienceWoman. Both your post and your follow-up comment to those knuckleheads are right on. You have allies everywhere, including right here.

And those ScienceWoman already said it best... Vince wrote "I fail to see how you can object to the inevitable results of normal insurance-related risk-assessment: battered wives are not going to make you much money, so don't insure them. Logical. You need to destroy the entire evil system, not whine about trifling bits around the edges of it."

Except that 1) we have been broadly attempting, as a society, to move away from a totally capitalist model *because it doesn't work,* and instead move towards a more humane model that takes, I don't know, ethics and morality into account. And 2) Trifling bits? Trifling? Are you kidding me? Because reproductive health isn't trifling, it's one of the biggest hotbutton issues in our country; further, considering domestic abuse to be a "preexisting condition" sounds to me like massive oppression of a class of women.

@JThompson: Of course that is how the republic works (in fact, I don't think I implied otherwise); exactly the reason why these are not the group of people to solve the problem. However, as Vince points out, there certainly seems to be a place for socialized medicine, but designing of the system is being done by people whose main goal is to please the person / organization / loudest group who will ensure their re-election. So, are the only options "government bad Hulk smash" (an awesome quote, btw) or "government good fix healthcare"? I think there is some middle ground between blind acceptance of whatever-the-side-you-agree-with-in-gov't tells you and ebola punch.

Now, a dose of reality: I work with a wonderful not-for-profit and I would love to see their staff given the task of designing the new system; (sorry drug companies, unions, AARP, special interest groups, etc. you are not invited). They would look at successful and not successful models and come back with their recommendation in one year, which would be as economical, humane, inclusive, etc. as the best possible system should be. Then, congress would adopt it. Yeah, right... reality: we'll get a highly partisan, politically explosive mix of stuff promised to be the best; the estimated cost will instantly go up 10x or more (because of the opposing party, of course), and we'll address it by instituting a massive new bureaucracy.

Let me try it this way: OK, congress, go for it: design it, implement it, tell us why we should love it. Then we'll pick one of the options you give us, and you & your family sign up for it.

By two sides (not verified) on 17 Sep 2009 #permalink

I appreciate the response to my tweets. I'm going to write a book. It's something several people have asked me to do over the years, but I didn't quite have the courage to write it for myself. Now that my children are grown, and it's evident that they came out more than intact, I feel I can raise my voice a little bit on behalf of the parents who are still in the midst of the struggle and need a little encouragement. Don't we all?

I'd like to say, what set me off was a tweet from a single mom about the way a particular story punched her in the gut emotionally. I remember that feeling all too well. I was doing policy work while the welfare system was being dismantled (I haven't kept up with the state of things, but I always wrinkle my forehead about the use of the term "welfare mom," since last I checked we don't have welfare anymore...). The stories in the press at the time were vicious. It's hard as a parent to be pouring everything you have into being a good human, and raising good humans, and open the New York Times to read that you are single-handedly responsible for crime, drug use, promiscuity, illiteracy, the hole in the ozone layer, and rising gas prices. I mean...wow. I always thought I was just trying to get a good deal on bargain meat at the supermarket, who knew I had such reach?

I've been wondering this morning about the ways lines get drawn around groups of people to define a group. I certainly have less in common with the woman dropping her kid off at mom's to go get stoned than I have with the half dozen PhDs I'm working with today. And that's always been true. But let me run out of gas money on the way to dropping the kids off at school, and...BOOM. Crack whore.

My close friends know that for years, that's been my code to mentally call out the narratives that I know don't apply to me, so that they don't slip by under the radar into my psyche. Just imagine what I could have done if I hadn't been constantly defending against these kinds of judgements?

What I'm rallying for is compassion. There are real human beings reading these comments, and reading the constant, incessant, vitriolic, venomous stream of accusations and stereotypes about who we are as human beings, based on nothing more than marital status. All while trying to get the kids ready for school, get to work, organize the carpool, balance the budget, AND deal with whatever unexpected life event brought on the single-parenthood in the first place. It's a bit much, folks.

I'm glad to hear from the children of single parents. I might ask some of you if you'd be willing to share your stories.

Thanks for listening. Now I need to get back to work. These days I'm working on finding cures for blindness.

Crack whore, indeed.

By nparmalee (not verified) on 17 Sep 2009 #permalink

nparmalee - terrific post! So true that people need more compassion, and there are so many single moms out there that are doing great and, with a little support - even emotional support - could do such great things!! It's too bad as a society we have people who just don't get it:

crack whores exist, some crack whores are single moms, therefore, single moms act like crack whores

... sorry, doesn't hold true. It's simply not fair to put you in the position to defend yourself as a single mom in any way.

We also should be careful: the story above showing the Republican senators, abuse and pre-existing conditions implies that this is a Republican characteristic. Jimmy Carter telling us that a formerly insignificant senator yelling "you lie" did it because of race ... why is this even a story? JThompson's "Can we just start saying conservatives flat out hate women yet?" So... it's OK to paint all Republicans, whites, conservatives, men, with the same brush? Do all conservatives hate women? Sorry, no. Are all Republicans "bad"? Sorry, no. Are all "liberals" tolerant? Sorry, no. ("i wish i believed in hell. it would be nice to think of reagan rotting in it."... garth) Are all soccer moms driving minivans? Sorry, no. Likewise, all single moms aren't welfare abusers or crack whores - and shouldn't even have to defend themselves against these implied accusations.

By two sides (not verified) on 17 Sep 2009 #permalink

I wasn't trying to disprove nparmalee's point - I was trying to point out that the use of anecdote in argument is not really what we expect in science.
And just why I'm a "knucklehead" for pointing out the utter incompatibility of capitalism with healthcare is beyond me - an insurance company has a legal duty to its shareholders to maximise profit - you *can't* force it to engage in charity or morality. This is the reason these amoral companies should have nothing to do with healthcare in the future, which is why I call "trifling" your calls for insurance companies to change the way they do business - you need to put them *out* of business so that our money can be spent on actual healthcare for those that need it instead of being used to buy yachts for shareholders and unnecessary medical over-servicing for the rich.

By Vince Whirlwind (not verified) on 17 Sep 2009 #permalink