As Father’s up and down the country deciphered messages laboriously scrawled onto cards laden with egg boxes and glitter, David Cameron took the opportunity to send a strong Fathers Day message.
Runaway father’s are like drink drivers he said. They should be shunned by ‘decent’ society. Stigmatised, the full force of shame poured upon them. The hostile society his government is creating for women who don’t abandon their kids, is to be shared with the men he believes do. He restated his commitment to the married persons tax allowance. Shut the domestic violence services, and shame the feckless men who don’t stay married. Because they all should. Then they can only hurt themselves, their partners and their children. Not the taxpayer.
Later in the week, as those cards shuffled their way to keepsake boxes and bins and the Institute of Fiscal Studies and the Fawcett Society published more research showing that single women will lose more as a proportion of their income, than other households than any other group, as a result of the cuts. Mostly from the housing benefit and tax credit cuts that passed with a noisy complete lack of opposition. The research results were skewed by the enormity of the impact of of welfare cuts on predominantly female single parent households. Benefits that paid for housing, childcare, and ensured mothers could work, or their families could survive without it.
Turns out, the effect of this could have been predicted. Who knew? I gather from Yvette Cooper’s tone that our main opposition are at least aware of what has happened, but when it comes down to it, not that big a deal. Now those mothers are safely occupied with the impossible fight to keep their jobs and homes, while maintaining stability for their children, they are voiceless enough for our Prime Minister to describe them as ‘heroes’ for ‘battling the odds’ his government deliberately placed in their way. He leads the chorus blaming the father’s of their children. Since the Centre for Social Justice have long worried that welfare benefits encouraged women to stay single by not leaving them destitute, and there wasn’t a murmur to stop it, I am guessing he views this as a success.
As fathers have become more involved in their children’s lives and shared care arrangements become more common, fatherhood was slowly moving away from the role of sole breadwinner to something much more valuable.
What is a ‘dead beat dad’? Is it a man whose ex-partner now needs state support? Maintenance assessments of £10 and £20 a week are common even for working fathers in jobs well above the minimum wage. Is their fecklessness the reason their ex partners need state support? That doesn’t seem enough really, not with the gender pay gap, rent and childcare to cover. With so many working two parent families needing tax credits how many fathers are able to ensure the mother of his children needs no state support and escape the title ‘deadbeat’? Are we going to think up a new title for the ones who harm their families, not the taxpayer? Reading the Fawcett Society’s report, was like reading an inventory of the periods in your life that even 8 or 9 good full time, well paid, pre-reproduction working years wouldn’t allow you to save for. Am not sure have ever met a man, who would warrant being described as a deadbeat for not providing for this. And I don’t recall a financial health warning in my bounty pack.
Social policy based on an idea that children need their parents to be trapped together, or deliberately pushed into poverty while being shamed and pitted against each other is absurd. That in 2012, we are in an age of such political consensus it went unchallenged, is frightening.
It won’t have been that taxing for the Fawcett Society and the IFS to establish how women were hardest hit by the cuts,The welfare state has been placing money in women’s hands since it’s inception for the same reasons. While I am grateful that at least someone out there is still bothered, I think I would quite like to start asking WHY women are so disproportionately affected. Why is the welfare state still bridging inequality we were raised to believe had all but been eradicated? Why has the gender pay gap morphed into an enormous motherhood pay chasm. We were told this was changing, it clearly isn’t. Why? And why is the last remaining bridge for that inequality being kicked away as first priority by all parties?
Why all three parties agreed so easily that that was the first priority. Why the voices claiming to be leading the fight against cuts were so silent while women were pushed back into the home. Why did so many of those voices go out of their way to make sure the issue was omitted from their pages and columns, because it didn’t show Labour in a good light. Why did male leaders of unions populated by low paid women affected by these cuts, take their dues to campaign with the line of a political party, who went out of it’s way to ensure they never had a chance.
Where were the leading feminist so outraged by vajazzles and my shaven bikini line, when social policy sent women back to the home? Perhaps it is time for some feminists to stop being snooty about motherhood and those icky traditional gender roles, and start asking why it is acceptable the world over for motherhood to be the tool with which women are kept down, regardless of their aspirations. Instead of just talking about women making different choices, start asking why motherhood is still the great leveller, whenever it occurs
We know women are disproportionately affected by the cuts.The questions moved on when left, the right, and the bit in the middle started agreeing that women should fuck their way out of poverty, as long as they were working class, stayed home looking after the kids and relatives quietly, and were happy to be demonised while they absorb poverty’s effects in silence. Picking up the slack from the social care, and social work cuts. Where were the organisations who receive millions in government funding, the organisations with the £40k press officers speaking ‘for’ lone parents or their children?
And while the women affected are busy and quiet drowning, elite educated clever boys and those nice middle class types can exploit them for ‘right on’ points in articles, or to justify jostling for position within the party, movement, or union speaking out on ‘their’ behalf. No hierarchies required in ‘the movement’ because they all know each other, went to the same uni, meet regularly for drinks to discuss how they are going to run the world. Reassuring each other that their ability to articulate the concept of privilege, means they could never be abusing their own. A progressiv
e intetllectual creates a caricatures of the working class, which doesn’t really recognise these women’s existence, nor the threat that caricature poses, and our a Labour party headed by the same elite educated boys is rushing forward to base their new ideology on it.
Still, David Cameron telling our kids they should be ashamed of their fathers gives another opportunity for children to be used to rack up ‘tories are mean’ points, everyone can feign surprise at the sentiments the coalition was always quite clear underpinned their policies.