Tracy Mayor’s essay on current attitudes toward single moms in Brain, Child starts out with a barrage of misconceptions, falsehoods, double standards, and generalizations:
They’re slutty…They’re on welfare…They should work for a living, and, simultaneously, they should stay at home with their kids…They should have worked harder to keep their marriage together…Their kids are troubled, or troublemakers.
Reporting on a Pew Research Center survey from earlier this year where a majority of respondents ranked “single mothers” as bad for society, Mayor chastises the mainstream media for their oversimplified coverage of the topic—headlines such as “Single Mothers 'Bad For Society', Pew Research Center's Latest Poll Finds” (Huffington Post)—and points out the question’s ambiguity, which could lead to different answers depending on how a respondent read it.
The survey asked—quite ambiguously—what respondents thought about “more single women having children without a male partner to help raise them.”
Did the Pew Research Center intend the word “having” to mean “I have children and am currently their sole caretaker, regardless of whether I was partnered in the past”? Or did the center mean “having” in the sense of birthing—meaning women who, through intent or accident, were solo parents from the outset?
Through interviews with single mothers in different situations and a quick history of society’s negative view of single motherhood, Mayor attempts to answer an important question. Given that more and more women, for varying reasons, find themselves raising children alone,
Do seven out of ten of us disapprove of our own sisters, friends, and neighbors, our own selves? Or is there something more subtle going on? There is an almost infinite variety in the ways that women become and conduct themselves as single mothers, but when people are filling out surveys, do they revert to some kind of worst-case view of single moms?
Source: Brain, Child
Image by josette, licensed under Creative Commons.