Tuesday, April 7, 2015
At USC School of Law, Reframing the Welfare Queen: Feminist and CRT Alternatives to Existing Poverty Discourse
This year marks the fiftieth anniversary of the Moynihan Report, a Senate report issued in 1965 that pathologized the creation of black, female single-parent households with long- term dependence on state assistance programs, and in this way laid the political foundation for the political construct known as the "welfare queen." The "welfare queen construct" has played a key role in political debates and facilitated the transformation of public assistance programs. For the past fifty years it has played a prominent role in presidential politics, shaping discussions of poverty during the Reagan, Clinton and even Obama presidencies. Moreover, the construct led to a spate of concrete policy changes in 1996, ones that transformed older open-ended welfare programs into TANF (Temporary Assistance for Needy Families). Many TANF features are direct responses to the threat of the welfare queen, including: family caps limiting benefit levels for families above a certain size; workfare programs requiring welfare recipients to work; and strict time limits that sunset welfare benefits after a set number of years.
Numerous scholars, activists and commentators have explored how the welfare queen construct is used to demonize poor women of color in need of state assistance programs. And while the critiques launched by these early conversations about the welfare queen have been important in opening a much-needed dialogue about the needs of the poor, this conference attempts to move us beyond discussions that isolate poor minority female welfare recipients as a special class. Instead the conference explores how the construct of the welfare queen imposes costs on us all, by revealing the hidden institutional norms naturalized by the construct and the cultural anxieties it creates that prevent people from seeking state assistance. Our project is to "reframe" the welfare queen - to challenge the ways in which claims of need are represented as pathological by the state; feminized and racialized in ways that marginalize and render invisible certain needy communities; and foreclose recognition of certain kinds of "need" and certain relationships of support between the individual and the State. By "reframing" the welfare queen have an opportunity to image new forms of governmental assistance that might better match up with the working poor's needs and lived experiences and with feminist values and anti-poverty advocates' goals and understandings.
Tuesday, January 13, 2015
Lani Guiner (Harvard), Ivy League's Meritocracy Lie: How Harvard and Yale Cook the Books for the 1 Percent. In this excerpt from Guiner's new book, she traces the elitest and anti-Jewish origins of standardize testing in law schools and discredits the alleged merit evalution of SAT and LSAT tests. Taking the "testocracy" to its ultimate result, she concludes we are admiting students based on a false sense of merit and failing to prepare students as future leaders and professionals.
The top career choices of many male Harvard students—whether it is 2007 or 2013—are severely lacking in any element of service. This is the damage that we are doing through our testocracy. We are credentializing a new elite by legitimizing people with an inflated sense of their own merit and little unwillingness to open up to new ways of problem solving. They exude an arrogance that says there’s only one way to answer a question—because the SAT only gives credit for the one right answer.
Friday, November 28, 2014
This is a deeply gendered issue, and not just because low-wage retail workers are disproportionately female. Holidays are a time when the domestic demands put on women escalate. While some families are more progressive, the fact remains that, in most families, women are expected to do almost all the cooking, cleaning, present-wrapping, decorating, and planning. ***
State Rep. Mike Foley is trying to attack this problem by pushing a bill in Ohio that would triple the minimum wage on Thanksgiving Day. It's a brilliant idea, and not just because it increases the compensation for people who are dragged into work that day. Since there's no increased profitability for being open on Thanksgiving, if employers have to pay more to make no more money, they might reconsider this ridiculous trend of forcing retail workers to work on what is supposed to be a national holiday.
Thursday, November 20, 2014
Thursday, November 13, 2014
The purpose of the workshop is to bring together researchers from different parts of the world to share their findings about the role of law in addressing some of the most challenging aspects of discrimination: those involving the intersection between gender, race and poverty. There were few opportunities of getting together researchers in Latin America, Africa, Europe and North America to work together on these issues. Despite the problems, the legal challenges and possibilities for reform are similar and closely related. The workshop will address the international and comparative law, and theory and practice.
The World Development Report 2012 identified substantive victories for women: there was an increase in their schooling, in their life expectancy and in their participation in the labor market. However, these gains were not reachable to poor women. Women in countries with low and middle income are more likely than men to die, they face unequal access to economic opportunities and are being marginalized in their homes and in society. This results in a cycle of discrimination and disempowerment. Women are responsible for a disproportionate share of care tasks in their homes, an activity that is not valued or remunerated, leading to lower levels of education and lack of preparation to seek financial independence in the formal labor market or to break with prejudices and stereotypes the role of women.
Whereas the World Development Report highlights that these gaps are more pronounced when gender and poverty are combined with other exclusion factors – ethnicity, caste, remoteness, age, race, disability and sexual orientation – there should have a critical study of forms of interaction between gender, race and poverty. While the feminization of poverty is a phenomenon long recognized, gender inequality, racial inequality and poverty are conceptualized as separate problems. Poverty is often approached from a neutral point of view with regard to gender, rather than adopting a comprehensive, integrated and holistic gender perspective. Likewise, racial discrimination is accessed by a neutral perspective regarding both gender and poverty. These approaches are not adequate to portray the various and intricate human rights violations experienced by poor women with multiple identities
Sunday, August 31, 2014
I received a request from Prof. Charlotte Garden at Seattle to post about the upcoming Lat Crit-SALT conference, which I am happy to do.
Twelfth Annual LatCrit-SALT Call for Participation Junior Faculty Development Workshop October 9, 2014 University of Nevada-Las Vegas Las Vegas, NV
LatCrit, Inc. and the Society of American Law Teachers (SALT) are pleased to invite interested participants to the Twelfth Annual Junior Faculty Development Workshop (FDW), immediately preceding the SALT Teaching Conference. This annual workshop is designed for critical, progressive, and social justice oriented pre-tenure professors, including clinicians and legal writing professors, as well as those who may be contemplating a teaching career. However, we also encourage more senior members of the profession to attend, share their experience, and serve as resources and mentors.
The FDW is designed to familiarize critical, progressive, and social justice oriented junior faculty with LatCrit and SALT principles and values and support them in the scholarship, teaching, and service aspects of professional success. In addition, the FDW seeks to foster scholarship in progressive, social justice, and critical outsider jurisprudence, including LatCrit theory, among new and junior faculty, students, and practitioners. Finally, the FDW aims to cultivate a community of scholars interested in the continuation of this and similar projects over the years.
To facilitate community building through shared experiences and the exchange of ideas, we strongly encourage all participants to attend the entire workshop.
If you have questions about the workshop or would like to attend, please email SALTLatCritFDW@gmail.com. Although we will make efforts to accommodate all interested participants, RSVPs are strongly suggested by September 30, 2014.
Registration for the SALT Biennial Teaching Conference is available at http://www.saltlaw.org/conference_registration/
Saturday, July 26, 2014
[T]he task of feeding children on an inadequate budget falls primarily to women. That women still do the majority of household labor is well known, but usually it’s discussed in the context of middle-class obsessions like leaning in and the mommy wars, not in the context of growing poverty.
McMillan shows just how heavily domestic duties weigh on food-insecure women—both the practical and menial labor of getting dinner on the table, and also the emotional labor required to negotiate with hungry kids.
Tuesday, May 13, 2014
Michele Gillman (Baltimore) has posted The Return of the Welfare Queen, 22 American J. Gender, Social Policy & Law (forthcoming).
- The “welfare queen” was shorthand for a lazy woman of color, with numerous children she cannot support, who is cheating taxpayers by abusing the system to collect government assistance.
- The good news is that dependency rhetoric did not work and may have backfired.
- The bad news is that the welfare queen still lurks behind repeated calls to cut government benefits and to criminalize poverty.
- This article explores the legacy of the welfare queen, her return in the 2012 presidential campaign, and the current inadequacies of TANF. The article concludes with suggestions to reform TANF in the hopes of burying the welfare queen once and for all
Thursday, May 1, 2014
Jill Engle (Penn State), Promoting the General Welfare: Legal Reform to Lift Women and Children in the US Out of Poverty, 16 Journal of Gender, Race and Justice (2013).
American women and children have been poor in exponentially greater numbers than men for decades. The problem has historic, institutional roots which provide a backdrop for this article’s introduction. English and early U.S. legal systems mandated a lesser economic status for women. Despite numerous legal changes aimed at combating the financial disadvantage of American women and children, the problem is worsening. American female workers, many in low-paying job sectors, earn roughly twenty percent less than their male counterparts. Nearly forty percent of single mothers and their children subsist below the poverty level. The recession exacerbated this problem, mostly because unemployment rates skyrocketed and then stagnated for years. Sadly, though, many women with jobs still find themselves living in poverty in modern America. Social trends loom large in the constellation of factors impacting poverty as well, and this article examines the twin phenomena of women and children 1) ending up poorer after divorce than men, and 2) living in poverty as single-headed-households much more often than men. I also stress the deleterious effects of domestic violence and its link to the perpetuation of women and children in poverty.
I argue our legal system is equipped to build the scaffolding to facilitate our collective climb up and out. I advocate changes to government policies, and family law reform. Recent changes to federal benefits programs have exacerbated the problem of women and children living in poverty. Welfare reform and “domestic violence” provide a natural segue between the article’s two main sections. Modern family law developments such as no-fault divorce and the attendant decline of alimony are also analyzed.
Saturday, March 29, 2014
From Reuters, White House Urges Higher Pay for Tipped Workers
The White House said on Wednesday raising the minimum wage for workers who receive tips would disproportionately benefit low-income women and help close the gender pay gap in which men earn higher pay than women.
The federal minimum wage for workers who receive tips is $2.13 an hour - well below the minimum wage of $7.25 an hour. Even though employers are required to make up any shortfall between the tipped minimum and the standard minimum if gratuities fall short, one in 10 workers earn less than the minimum wage, the White House said.
"This provision is difficult to enforce," the White House Council of Economic Advisers said in a report. The president has asked Congress for an 18 percent, $41 million increase in funding for Department of Labor Wage and Hour division investigators to hold employers to the law.
Wednesday, March 26, 2014
According to the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development, men apparently have more leisure time than do women.
“In virtually every country, men are able to fit in valuable extra minutes of leisure each day while women spend more time doing unpaid housework,” according to the OECD. But the sharper point was that gender inequality is most stark in India, where the average man spends just 19 minutes a day on “routine housework” and the average woman spends almost five hours on such duties.
Of course, stats must be taken with some qualification and skepticism. Somehow the claim that there is more leisure time for men seems apt for those who can afford not to work. There is this to consider as well:
Millions of Indian men do huge amounts of housework — but in single-man or all-male households. Three years ago, I spent a few weeks in Mumbai interviewing dozens of auto rickshaw drivers for a long essay about their lives. An overwhelming majority of them lived in all-male households, often sharing a single room and cooking for one another. It’s not just them. Millions of poor and lower-middle-class Indian men leave behind their villages and families every year to work in cities as daily wage laborers, construction workers, auto rickshaw or taxi drivers, security guards, fruit or vegetable sellers, waiters or domestics, transferring the small surplus incomes of their city lives into economic security for all of their dependents back in the village.
Such a man runs his own household expertly and sometimes with evident pleasure, shopping, chopping, cooking and cleaning at high speed, being ribbed by his mates all the while. On his annual visit back to the village, though, he puts his feet up and doesn’t do even the 20 minutes of routine housework that would make him above average.
Tuesday, March 11, 2014
This is an important piece of the puzzle over the future demand for lawyers. It's not just about what Wall St. is willing to pay for lawyers. There still is tremendous need for lawyers particularly in cases of family matters, landlord tenant, immigration, and cases with poor and minority plaintiffs. Such need that, as the article suggests, it constitutes an access to justice issue, if not an international human rights issue.