Images of Mothers in Poverty Discourses
Martha Albertson Fineman
Emory University School of Law
Duke Law Journal, Vol. 1991, 1991
Emory Public Law Research Paper, Forthcoming
This essay focuses on the construction of the concept 'Mother' in poverty discourses. It addresses the role of patriarchical ideology in the process whereby a characteristic typical of a group of welfare recipients has been selected and identified as constituting the cause as well as the effect of poverty. Of particular interest are those political and professional discourses in which single Mother status is defined as one of the primary predictors of poverty. This association of characteristics with cause has fostered suggestions that an appropriate and fundamental goal of any proposed poverty program should be the eradication of the status and practice of single motherhood.
This goal is to be accomplished through appropriate coupling of the single mother with the child’s father – who would thereby assume his 'rightful' place in the family and fulfill his financial obligations. By his so doing, the paramount welfare reform objective – letting the state off the economic hook – will have been achieved.
Changes in behavior precipitated by alterations in divorce laws and women’s expanding economic security have required remodeling of patriarchy. The remodeling, however, has not substantially altered the core images of the ideology. Society may not be grudgingly forced to accept single-mother households as an unfortunate byproduct of the social and economic dislocations that characterize the latter part of this century, but they are seldom treated as an acceptable, let alone desirable family form.
Number of Pages in PDF File: 22
Keywords: single motherhood, patriarchy, feminism, legal feminism, discourses, poverty, welfare, cross-over discourses, mother, nuclear family, deviant familyAccepted Paper Series
Date posted: August 21, 2012
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