For quite some time, there has been a debate on where poor mothers should have the right to withdraw from their jobs and receive certain reimbursements from the government. Even though it was addressed by the US government several times, there was no united stance on the matter, which allowed for nonstop arguments pro and against poor mother welfare. Given that the process of combining domestic work and a paid job is extremely challenging, women’s family responsibilities quickly became the cornerstone of employment, forcing employers to make a quick decision on whether they would like to reimburse poor mothers or not. The lack of conditions welcoming the deployment of similar strategies made many authors argue for the elaboration of legislation that would support mother welfare and overcome the evidently conservative gender politics agenda. The current paper overviews two of the most vivid arguments on childcare written by Nancy Hirschmann and Theda Skocpol in order to define the possible advantages and flaws in their points of view.
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Aligning Welfare Benefits against Skocpol’s Arguments
One of the key facts mentioned by Skocpol in her article was that the similarities between pensions and other types of welfare did not provide women with enough rights to equality and exposed them to even more challenges than before (427). At the time when that article was written, it could only mean that the similarities between female and male occupations were overlooked and not taken seriously by the government. The new types of social spending were ignored by supervision representatives because they were not sure about the possible success of such initiatives on a long-term scale. Accordingly, the leadership that was later established by the National Welfare Rights Organization could have prevented women from being perceived as unable to support themselves. This argument is crucial because it draws the line between being economically immobile and being a mother, which also means that single parents are not impractical for the state either.
The fact that Skocpol also argued about the Congress and its relationship with the courts and probation officers leaves room for the claim that public funding is a reasonable investment that cannot be ignored by the government. According to her, the practical importance of single parents (especially mothers) cannot remain without supervision owing to the increasingly high chances of keeping families intact (450). As a matter of fact, this approach to welfare became prophecy-like over time, as women started getting recognized more, and the number of their educational and job-related opportunities started increasing drastically. The idea that an unemployed man could be a better fit for the organization than his identical female counterpart started fading and the movement for women’s rights took a breath of fresh air. With the demand playing a bigger role than a person’s gender, it became more evident that welfare is not the only way to support women (especially single mothers) and display awareness.
Hirschmann’s Opinion on Welfare as an Update to Skocpol’s Viewpoint
When Hirschmann updated Skocpol’s argument on the subject of welfare, she approached the question from a different angle and bashed the government for the reform that turned welfare into a form of dependency that should have been cured in order to make women look better in the eyes of the US society (144). The key to her position was that the concept of feminism should revolve around changing the world’s perception of females and their responsibilities within the framework of such aspects of human lives as familial construction, societal contribution, professional successes, and interpersonal interactions. The existence of family-life balance finally became a thing in the government’s eyes and allowed for further updates that could support the strength of industrial capitalism. Therefore, it may be concluded that the existence of welfare became a universal need for households where it takes more resources than usual to carry out all the responsibilities and care for children or adults.
Similarly, the subjective view of social construction mentioned by Hirschmann could also be viewed as an essential change due to the government’s biased viewpoint as well (155). The false distinction between the so-called dependent and independent families became the essential obstacle on the way to establishing a correct governmental system where welfare could be perceived as a necessary asset and not a begged competitive advantage available to women. The policy established to support the welfare initiative was one of the most successful stages in US history that allowed for multiple further improvements and helped many women to combine parenting and waged work in the most appropriate manner.
The fact that parental responsibilities remain a private asset and not a social liability makes it easier to conclude that the current extent of the influence of welfare is not broad enough to include poor mothers in the discussion. In addition to this, men still tend to earn higher incomes on average, which makes it harder for women to compete for an identical state of affairs. The division of labor based on gender does not seem to affect today’s world as much as in the times of Skocpol and Hirschmann, but it should be claimed that caregiving tasks cannot be accurately aligned against welfare and vice versa. In other words, parenting responsibilities should not serve as a marginal concept that may only be manipulated to help women earn money while not working at all. Families with a single earner are seriously disadvantaged due to the lack of opportunities related to finding a high-paying job that would take parenting into consideration. Therefore, the pioneering works written by Skocpol and Hirschmann unlocked the potential of welfare and came up with a response to the pressing needs established by the community.
Hirschmann, Nancy. The Subject of Liberty. Princeton University Press, 2003.
Skocpol, Theda. Protecting Soldiers and Mothers. Harvard University Press, 1995.