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Stratified Reproduction and Poor Women's Resistance
Unformatted Document Text:  Stratified Reproduction and Poor Women’s Resistance The specter of the welfare mother loomed large in mid-1990s America and continues to be a symbol of the supposed irresponsible, sexually promiscuous, and immoral behavior of the poor. Embedded in the notion of the welfare mother are powerful ideologies of race, class and gender which blame the poor for their own poverty, portray women, particularly black and Hispanic women, as promiscuous and inadequate as mothers, and view alternative family forms as pathological (Mullings 2001; Collins 2001, Fraser and Gordon 1994). Taken together, these ideological threads construct the notion of the welfare mother as nonproductive citizens and poor mothers. My purpose in this paper is to examine how poor mothers receiving welfare resist these dominant constructions, and particularly how they appropriate meanings of motherhood to resist the stigma associated with welfare mothers. Poor mothers on welfare in America are most often engaged in a desperate struggle to procure the basic necessities for themselves and for their children. The difficulties of making ends meet with a welfare check or with a low-wage job (cf. Edin and Lein 1997; Newman 1999) have only been intensified following the passage of the 1996 Personal Responsibility and Work Opportunity Reconciliation Act. Compounded by the loss of jobs in between 2000 and 2003, poor women find themselves in an untenable position of meeting the conflicting demands of providing care for their young children, often in the absence of safe and reliable child care, while working at low-wage

Authors: McCormack, Karen.
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Stratified Reproduction and Poor Women’s Resistance
The specter of the welfare mother loomed large in mid-1990s America and continues to
be a symbol of the supposed irresponsible, sexually promiscuous, and immoral behavior
of the poor. Embedded in the notion of the welfare mother are powerful ideologies of
race, class and gender which blame the poor for their own poverty, portray women,
particularly black and Hispanic women, as promiscuous and inadequate as mothers, and
view alternative family forms as pathological (Mullings 2001; Collins 2001, Fraser and
Gordon 1994). Taken together, these ideological threads construct the notion of the
welfare mother as nonproductive citizens and poor mothers. My purpose in this paper is
to examine how poor mothers receiving welfare resist these dominant constructions, and
particularly how they appropriate meanings of motherhood to resist the stigma associated
with welfare mothers.
Poor mothers on welfare in America are most often engaged in a desperate
struggle to procure the basic necessities for themselves and for their children. The
difficulties of making ends meet with a welfare check or with a low-wage job (cf. Edin
and Lein 1997; Newman 1999) have only been intensified following the passage of the
1996 Personal Responsibility and Work Opportunity Reconciliation Act. Compounded
by the loss of jobs in between 2000 and 2003, poor women find themselves in an
untenable position of meeting the conflicting demands of providing care for their young
children, often in the absence of safe and reliable child care, while working at low-wage


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