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The Mamafesto: Sorry, but feminism isn't to blame for family 'breakdown'

Avital Norman Nathman is a freelance writer whose work places a feminist lens on a variety of topics, including motherhood, maternal health, gender, and reproductive rights. Her work has been featured in Bitch magazine, Cosmopolitan.com,...

CPAC calls out single moms, and gets it wrong about feminism and family

It's no big secret that feminism gets a bad rap much of the time. From tired old stereotypes of man-hating, bra-burning, hairy-legged lesbians, to flat-out inaccuracies about what feminism is all about, it seems like a lot of people prefer to use feminism as something to blame societal woes on. This was made perfectly clear at last week's Conservative Political Action Conference (CPAC), which took place in Washington D.C. and included such speakers as Governor Sarah Palin, Donald Trump and Newt Gingrich.

The conference also included a panel on family, which included a lengthy discussion on single motherhood and how it's the root of many evils. And, just to make sure they included all the necessary buzzwords, all of the panelists blamed feminism for the breakdown of the traditional American family.

Panelists talked about all the problems that come out of single-mother led families, with one panelist calling single mothers the "frequent fliers of welfare programs." This sentiment is one favored by the Conservative Right, being trotted out frequently to help prove points about why traditional families are better — not only for kids, but for America. Unfortunately, it's a bit of a red herring, as the demographic group who receive the majority of "direct cash entitlements" are those over 65 years of age, followed by disabled people. Yet, information like that doesn't fit into the "Welfare Queen" narrative, so it's ignored.

The discussion was also incredibly insulting to the single mothers who are out there doing everything they can to support their families and raise their children, much of the time while working more than one job. I also wonder how much time was given to the fathers, as these mothers weren't made single all by themselves. But, instead, the blame was placed on the feet of feminism, for breaking down the supposed ideal, traditional family.

One panelist said that feminism has taught generations of girls that men are "inconsequential," and that calls for talking about diversity are actually a part of the "silencing agenda." I'm not even sure where to start with these ideas. First, feminism is not about destroying or feminizing men. Saying that feminists hate men is the oldest trope in the book and frankly, so overdone. Feminism isn't about women being better than men or men being "less than." It's about finding ways to put men and women on equal footing, especially when it comes to things like paychecks and treatment in the workforce. I'm raising a son, and you better believe I ensure he knows he's not inconsequential, but I also make sure he understands that he has a leg up in some instances because he's a boy, and to be aware of that.

Also, including much-needed conversations about diversity is the exact opposite of silencing. It's opening the doors to add more seats at the table. The conversations have been steered by the same types of people for far too long, leaving out many who are affected and impacted by policy and programs they have no voice in. Feminism wants all families — regardless of their structure — to be supported and do well. It's frustrating when feminism continues to be trotted out as an excuse for why things are failing instead of actually looking at systemic and societal issues that are actually impacting families.

More from The Mamafesto

The Mamafesto: Are we getting closer to equality in the home?
The Mamafesto: The shackling of women birthing in prison needs to end
The Mamafesto: Why race and class matter when it comes to parenting

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