Low-income people are often criticised for making ‘poor decisions’ in the eyes of observers who think they have a better understanding of how poor people should live their lives, prioritise their spending, and live within their own communities. Yet, these criticisms are often made with a lack of understanding about how income levels influence decisionmaking, and how certain habits can become ingrained even after years; if you have lived with insecurity at some point, you are likely to continue to retain habits that reflect the experience of financial insecurity, even if those habits are actually detrimental to saving money, developing more independence, and living securely.
The thing about being poor is that it requires a radically different approach to life, and one that often doesn’t involve a long-term view, because you can’t afford to take such a view. When poor people are criticised for ‘bad decisions,’ it’s often for things like not buying in bulk (the econopack problem rides again), not renting more affordable housing (yes, because people choose to live in expensive rentals), not buying things that are more expensive in the short term but pay off in the long term (‘why keep buying crappy $20 shoes when you could buy a $100 pair of long-lasting shoes?’). So many of these judgments involve how poor people use their money, and they betray a fundamental lack of understanding about some basic facts of being poor.
When you are poor, you do not have savings, money in reserve, or a safety cushion in your bank account. It’s not that you’re being cheap and refusing to buy those $100 shoes, it’s that you have $35 in your bank account until next pay day, and your child needs shoes today. You don’t have access to credit, and if you did and chose to put those better shoes on a credit card, you wouldn’t be able to pay them off anyway, because most of your next paycheque is already allocated to expenses like rent and utilities that must be paid immediately (and in some cases are overdue).
When you are poor, there is no safety net, and this is something many middle class people do not understand. They confuse broke and poor, and don’t understand the genuine difference between their way of life and that of others. Those who retain cushions of hundreds or thousands of dollars start getting nervous about ‘not having enough money’ when they still have more in their accounts than poor people make in a month—and while one might argue that savings and maintaining such cushions is an example of good financial planning and a good idea, it’s only accessible to people who make enough money to do it.
And who have trained themselves to have the habit of doing it. One of the facts of poverty is that you become accustomed to spending money when you have it, and it becomes hard to check your spending habits in the unlikely event you do start making more money; consequently, it becomes very hard to save money, or to use your funds on practical things. Thus, a poor person might buy something like a television instead of bulk foods for the pantry, attracting disdain from critics, simply because she wants a television, and she has the money. Next month, when her income fluctuates and an emergency eats up her extra cash, she’s right back where she started, but at least she still has that television (for now, until she’s forced to sell it to pay the water bill three months in the future).
Decision making is complicated when you’re poor, and you have a very different rubric for decisions that other members of society do. Being poor isn’t mysterious and noble, but it’s not the fault of people who are poor, either; and it’s not necessarily something that people can magic their way out of just by making ‘the right choices’ as deemed by other members of society.
Decision making while poor can involve being forced to choose between two important expenses with the knowledge that you can only cover one. Food or electricity? Rent or garbage bill? Water or phone? Copay for the doctor’s office or transit pass so you can get to work? Car insurance or parking tickets? While many people are familiar with constant demands on their finances, people in the middle classes can generally handle these needs routinely as they come up; pay it off, move forward, maybe shift the budget around a little to accommodate unexpected expenses. When you are poor, even five dollars more or less can make a huge difference in your life.
The role that poverty plays as a looming shadow in the lives of many people is often discounted. To be poor is to make decisions solely on the basis of money, sometimes in the active knowledge that they are bad decisions but that they are also the only choice; this raises questions about the nature of whether they are truly decisions, or could be more accurately termed forced sacrificial moves. And to have been poor is to fear poverty again, to attempt to pull yourself out of harmful set habits that you recognise, but don’t necessarily know how to address, because you’ve never known anything but finance-induced decision making.
Is the money there? Spend it, quickly, before it slips away. Address immediate needs as they arise, because everything is a right-now crisis, and try not to think about the future. If the car breaks down, hope that it’s an easy fix, because the thought of buying a new one is insurmountable right now. If you can’t fix it, buy another old clunker even though you know it’ll break down too, because it’s all you can afford. Or search for a new job that will let you take transit, and hope that you don’t end up short on bus fare at the end of the month in that awkward period when all the money’s gone out and nothing has come in yet.By S.E Smith (via belcanta)
YouTube comments aren’t “just the Internet.” They’re not the product of a group of otherwise nice guys who suddenly become evil when they wear a veil of anonymity. YouTube comments are actually a nightmarish glimpse into the sexist attitudes that define the fabric of our own existence in the “real world,” a world that, like YouTube, is owned and dominated by men. The most terrifying gift that the Internet has given us is that it’s shown us how men honestly perceive the world: as a place where women exist exclusively for their sexual pleasure.
In the wake of VidCon, and as more and more women start speaking up about the harassment they face online, it’s time to start realizing that our narrative of progress is deeply flawed. Things aren’t getting better for women on the Internet; they’re deteriorating and ignoring the problem amounts to being complicit in it.By
"For women on the Internet, it doesn’t get better" by Samantha Allen (via femfreq)
If there are any psychology / sociology grad students looking for research projects, I bet it would be very easy to find a bunch of internet douchebags who would gladly spew their effed up world views onto your carefully designed surveys.
I would really like to know more about these people…whether they’re “otherwise nice guys” IRL, or whether they have no friends because everyone has figured out how much they suck, or whether they have a social group where it’s acceptable to be, like, a terrible person.
That would be simple and useful research to do, and also probably pretty easy to get published.
I personally often find myself assuming very specific things about people who leave these kinds of comments, but up to this point I’ve never seen anyone do any actual research on what sorts of people they are. My assumptions could be entirely incorrect…and, indeed, probably are (since, in my experience, an individuals assumptions about sociological phenomena have a very low chance of matching with the complicated reality of culture.)
If anyone does this…put me in the acknowledgements!
i hope the superabundance of question marks is an indication that you’re aware on some level of how utterly wrong you are.
[trigger warning: discussion of genitalia and internal organs]
first of all, when you say “sex” i assume you’re talking about what is called “biological sex”, “sexual dimorphism”, or “sexual difference.” specifically what you are trying to state or imply here is the material existence of two categories of bodies: male and female. i’m gonna guess you’re starting with chromosomes since that’s been considered the ‘most fundamental’ basis of sex by transmisogynists since at least 1979.
a sex chromosome is a particular-appearing blob that shows up on a karyotype, or a test involving dyeing and microscopically viewing chromosomes. chromosomes are little blobs of folded up goop that if you spooled it out long enough you would find to be a chain of DNA—which is to say a chain of base pairs (guanine and cytosine, adenine and thymine). what you’re also gonna find in there are histones that the chromatin (the material of somewhat spooled DNA) is wrapped around. In addition, you’re gonna find methylation, and all other sorts of little chemicals and particles in there because guess what? DNA is not a linear coding system. DNA codes in chunks—usually triplets that are usually read as certain amino acids, which then come together to form the building blocks of proteins. but the thing about triplet coding is that it can be very complex. so
can for example simultaneously code as
AGG CTT ATT AGG CTC ta
a GGC TTA TTA GGC TCT a
ag GCT TAT TAG GCT CTA
like just to give you an example. now there are signals indicating how that coding should start, but those signals can move around, or be turned on or off. that’s one of the things methylation is for—it can turn on or off the signals of where to start the coding chain. methylation for any given part of a DNA strand can be triggered by all sorts of things. one study found a linkage between rates of diabetes and levels of stress in the grandmothers of those with diabetes—i.e. the stress was linked to diabetes in the grandchildren. that’s just to give you some idea of the level of complexity of coding.
and the complexities continue at every level. the proteins that are formed by those DNA sequences may come together in different ways depending on the chemical composition of their environment. the DNA itself—a three-dimensional object in the same environment—may physically interact with the proteins or with itself. but also remember that we are talking about chemical goop subject to environmental conditions, which include all sorts of mutagens. sometimes shit just goes weird (not gonna say ‘wrong’ because that presumes that mutations are ‘bad’ which is bullshit given the necessity of mutation for genetic adaptability—also it means applying anthropocentric notions of functionality, of ‘good’ and ‘bad’ behavior, to goop) and AGG CTT ATT loses a letter and becomes AGC TTA tt (this is what’s called a frameshift mutation—you can also have other stuff like point mutations). also, things can just go weird when the DNA is being replicated—it’s not a perfect reading process, it’s a bunch of chemical reactions floating in goop. and it’s happening millions of times, so the likelihood that things will go wrong in various ways is high.
but even above the level of the DNA coding, on the level of the chromosomes, things are confusing. because the chromosomes come together out of more loosely distributed goop when the cell is splitting, and things can go wrong in that process—get misplaced, get shuffled over to the other side, etc. likewise, there’s a process called crossing-over that occurs at cell replication during metaphase (while the chromosomes are paired at the center of the cell prior to the nucleus dividing) where chromosomes just swap shit around for the heck of it. and it’s pretty random where this happens too, which can mean that important codes just get cut in half, or new codes get created.
all of which is leading to say that it’s incredibly unlikely to expect any sort of meaningful fifty-fifty split between “XX chromosomes” and “XY chromosomes”. which works with reality, because in reality we observe all kinds of variations, exactly as we would expect. now, what happens when there’s variation? for the most part, things just happen. it’s all just cells. they do their thing, make little organs, replicate so the organs get bigger and more specific, etc. so maybe now you can begin to see why expecting them to neatly behave in two sets of patterns is completely inaccurate? or why it is that in the real world we observe a wide range of human bodies rather than just XX Barbies and XY Kens? but even looking beyond that, what’s actually going on with the so-called reproductive system? well, some of these cells have the ability to generate gametes—sorta like half-cells—which can get together with other gametes to grow into another big blob of organs. that’s what fertilization and pregnancy is. that’s all that’s involved. generally speaking, one type of gametes will appear in the bodies of people whose cells tend to have goop that shows up a certain way on a karyotype, while another type of gametes will appear in the bodies of people whose cells tend to have goop that shows up a different way in a karyotype, with a whole lot of variation and possibilities for things to be disrupted. so why does that even matter to us? why am I sitting here at 4am on christmas night with a box of cheezits and a glass of wine answering shitty anons about this? [note: i wrote this a couple days ago and am only now posting it] because out of those general tendencies of bodies, people have constructed the notion of sex.
patriarchy, at its basis, is a system of economic exploitation that consists of one group of people being assigned to do work which is valued, and another group of people being assigned to do work which is not valued. this was mapped onto two general groupings of people, those who tended to have one type of gamete and those who tended to have another, and the ones who pushed the idea that their own work was valuable were ‘males’, ‘men’, etc, while those who were forced to be the object of exploitation and violence were ‘females’, ‘women’, etc. as part of the process of valuing male work, men constructed an explanation for the inequality that they claimed derived from the nature of physical reality. specifically, the notion of ‘sexual difference’, or the tendencies of people to produce different sorts of gametes. in order to better justify and value their exploitation of women, men constructed a whole notion of selfhood around this, an ideal which for them happened to be contained in the organ that most of them used to distribute the gametes. and in order to justify the violence that they were doing, they argued that there were naturally only two categories of people, grouped based on labor done/positions during sex/gamete production/etc (all these things were conflated and differently emphasized over time, helping to mystify the falsity of the distinction).
the notion that certain types of organs map to certain types of behavior, certain economic patterns, etc, is a product of a social system of oppression. it is NOT founded in any sort of ‘biological fact’ because first and foremost ‘biological fact’ does not exist. an organ is not a signifier except in the context of a socially constructed ‘biology’ which is specifically constructed as a justification of patriarchy. quite literally. i’ve worked with biologists (yeah, anon, turns out i may have in fact opened a biology textbook a few times in my life) and one thing i can say definitively is that like most scientists they don’t tend to think deeply about how the sorts of questions they ask and the ways they interpret data are structured by the world. at best they’ve taken a required bioethics class or two while an undergrad. so when they’re going to interpret mathematical data, they’re doing it in a way that already presumes the real question as answered. they find sexual dimorphism not because it’s in the results of their data but because it was assumed by the way they asked their questions—if you ask ‘which sex is better at math?’ you’re never going to find evidence that ‘sex’ is a meaningless construct. this is what a lot of ‘scientific truth’ is, in fact—the things that were already accepted when people went to ask more complicated questions, and which were only torn down, if ever, when all the answers to all the complicated questions continually revealed something which undermined the previous model (which, by the way, is happening right now with the notion of sex—that’s right, even patriarchal scientists are coming to an awareness of how utterly bullshit it is, albeit by the most roundabout way possible and still doing as much harm as they can on the way).
But what we can see from all this is that gender precedes sex. gender is a way of organizing the social sphere, and biological data is organized off of that. gender, in other words, is the fundamental category of sex under patriarchy. now, one might say that we live in a social world, that our subjectivities are socially constructed, and thus for us an organ is a signifier. this is of course true, but one has to recognize the socially constructed nature in order to realize first and foremost that we are not looking at a rigid system here. it is not simply a matter of saying that under biological reality a certain chromosome or a certain organ leads to a certain place within patriarchy, and likewise it is not simply a matter of saying that under social construction a certain chromosome or a certain organ leads to a certain place within patriarchy. if one is aware of the complexity involved in socially constituting what is basically a blob of goo (cells) that does or does not more goo (babies, people, etc) as belonging to a somehow binary and rigid category, one can more easily see how that social construction may at times slip, and result in a person who, for example, has one sort of organ, and yet has had their identity socially constructed within the category for a person with a “different” (within patriarchal notions of ‘sexual difference’) type of organ. in fact, one can only fail to recognize this if one begins from the disingenuous place of assuming a priori that the person in question is being deceptive or being deceived, rather than reporting reality as closely as it can be reported in this language. and the use of inversions of this language to report closer realities is an effort to redirect and gain control of biopower as it has enacted itself on us. it is no more or less legitimate than the language of patriarchy, except if one finds legitimacy either in supporting patriarchy (arguing for sex as ‘real’) or disrupting patriarchy.
what, then, is sex? it’s the way people talk about blobs of goop, and specifically the way that blobs of goop have been categorized into two types, in broad defiance of reality, for the express purpose of perpetuating the patriarchy.
so yes, sex is biological, in the sense that the terms of sex are coded into the discourse of ‘biology’, which is itself socially constructed by patriarchy.
sex is a social construct. this is my final fucking word on this shit.
do NOT bring this ignorant shit into my inbox again.
this is long but you should read it
Every woman knows the word slut has power. Whether you love it or hate it, the word “slut” is an evocation of a gender double standard used to control women and no woman alive hasn’t thought about what it means to be labeled in this way. In some cultures, where honor killings take place, it is a matter of life or death.
If you’re a “good” woman, don’t kid yourself. It means you’ve spent your life and will continue to spend your life calibrating your appearance, speech and behaviour so that you are not a slut. By not acknowledging how the word is used you are embracing its power over you and other girls and women. And you will pass that corrupt and misguided abuse of power on to your daughters and mine. That’s because you know, deep down, that at any point that word can be used against you. Every woman is a slut waiting to happen. Women who abhor the word, find it vulgar, and fear it, the ones who slut-shame others, gain a little bit of power by participating in a system that denigrates them.
Other women, and their male allies, reject the power of the word and the social structures that perpetuate its harm. These women and men know it for what it is - a word used to control women and their bodies, and it is useless as a weapon against them.By Soraya Chemaly, The Slut Manifesto (via approximation)