Blue Stocking Salon on Women in Poverty Summary – 1/27/18

Fayetteville NOW’s Young Feminist Committee hosted their 3rd Blue Stocking Salon on January 27th, 2018. The topic of women in poverty drew the largest group yet! We discussed various studies and their results, personal experiences with social safety nets and anti-poverty activism as well as what we could do after the salon to act on what we learned.

The first point discussed was an analysis that estimated that if the wage gap was resolved, the number of women in poverty would decrease by half, what an astounding possibility asserted by the Institute for Women’s Policy Research! We wondered if they studied the wage gap by comparing men and women in the exact same job or if they compared across similar job responsibilities, and concluded that while comparing the exact same job would yield more exact results, using the undervaluing of ‘women’s work’ instead of individual discrimination as a comparison tool is still effective.

Women In Poverty In America Data from National Women’s Law Center, Picture from Equal Means Equal

We also discussed what while women are always more likely to be impoverished than men, the gap widens during childbearing years and in old age. Naturally, we then debated how much the wage gap played into that, as well as lack of support for moms of young children. We briefly touched on issues raised in the previous Salon on birth rights and the dearth of attention to physical and mental post-partum needs. We voiced that if raising children takes a village, then why don’t we consider quality, affordable childcare as a public good? And while such childcare is prohibitively expensive for many women, the providers are still among the lowest paid workforce due to other high costs, such as physical space and liability insurance. Is the only way to make this work tied to government subsidized care, as in many other countries? And how can we encourage paid family leave to also be seen as a public good?

As the afternoon wore on, we floated ideas on how to reconcile the influences of the good intentioned but economically privileged with what the underprivileged say they need to be successful, and action steps we could take to amplify the latter’s voices. There seems to be a pervasive cautious optimism with anti-poverty activism, such as the Pathways 4 Prosperity currently underway in Cumberland County, that while we hope real change happens, too often there is focus on what leaders THINK the disadvantaged need without (or with minimal) regard to what those people have said they need.

So where do we go from here? Some resources mentioned were Family Promise of Fayetteville (previously known as the Cumberland Interfaith Hospitality Network), the Poor People’s Economic Human Rights Campaign, Truth Commissions, and NPR’s podcast ‘Busted: America’s Poverty Myths’. We advocated that in working with activism already mentioned, we need to also hold the leadership accountable should they skew away from addressing the real issues and/or don’t keep those directly affected at the forefront of the movement’s decision-making. A few wanted to create an awareness campaign by using photography to tell the stories of Fayetteville poverty!

I’m excited to see where this group of motivated individuals continues to contribute to problem solving initiatives.

-Jenn Alexander, Fayetteville NOW 

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