Guaranteed Living Income

“The Feminist Statement on Guaranteed Living Income” (FSGLI, 2004) written by Lakeman, Miles and Christiansen-Ruffman and Gwendolyn Mink’s “The Lady and the Tramp (II)” both protest the economic insecurity experienced by women and particularly by single mothers. Both articles recognize the social value of caretaking and both articles demand Guaranteed Living Income (welfare) as a means to value and protect the poor woman’s right to mother.

The Canadian FSLGI describes how measurements of market worth render women’s contribution in the home invisible (FSGLI, 2004). Because the wealth and survival of society has been deeply tied to women’s unpaid labour and the “gifts of nature” (FSGLI, 2004, p. 205), Mink explores the same issue through a criticism of American policy by describing the link between full citizenship and paid work (1998, p. 7).

Mink reminds us that feminist actions such as letter writing and media efforts have affected government policy in the past (1998, p. 3). The Journal of Canadian Women Studies/Les Cahiers de la Femme stands out as a publication where such efforts would be and are reflected. This is not enough for Mink. She feels that the loss of autonomy faced by poor mothers makes this issue a war against poor women (1998 p. 3). Being forced to disclose intimate details, loss of choice regarding relationships with their children’s biological fathers, and the obligation to work outside the home all put poor single women under attack with no support from middle class feminists who according to Mink do not always provide the action required to support statements like the FSGLI (1998, p. 3).

Economic dependence is linked with power in both the home and the public sphere and because women have traditionally been denied a role in economics they have been without the power to be heard and therefore affect policy decisions. Mink and the FSGLI both discuss the connection between power and economics (FSGLI, 2004, p. 205, Mink, 1998, p. 9). This financial dependence can lead to women staying in violent situations (Mink, 1998, p. 9). According to the preamble to the FSGLI, issues of entitlement, security, and autonomy are not central issues to government and policy makers (2004, p. 204). Both the FSGLI and Mink show the frustration faced by women because of the “lack of gender equality concerns in the welfare debate” (1998, p. 3).

Mink points out the dangers of statements like the FSGLI. Autonomy is linked to making one’s own choices. The feminist goal of access to paid employment must be tempered with each woman’s personal choice to work inside or outside the home. By imposing this goal on all women there is a lack of support, both social and economic for women who want to provide full-time care for their own children (Mink, 1998 p. 5). There is a difference between the right to work and the obligation to work; the latter being imposed on poor mothers (Mink, 1998, p. 8 ). The right to work outside the home has received greater attention than the political and economic rights of poor women (Mink, 1998, p. 7). The FSGLI steps precariously toward the danger Mink discusses: the line between self-proclaimed ‘experts’ and the actual experiencers. Mink assures her awareness of this issue by speaking with not for poor mothers (1998, p. 3). There is no reassurance of this type from the FSGLI.

The FSGLI briefly mentions the particular implications specific to indigenous and immigrant women. Given her greater available space, Mink is able to discuss this in greater detail (FSGLI, 2004, p. 235, Mink, 1998, p. 6). The “poor single mother” is a charged issue that is also impacted by an individual’s standpoint. The “racial mythology” that Mink discusses (1998, p. 6) places Black women as workers for other people not as the mothers of their own families (1998, p. 6). While middle class white women are fighting for their right to opportunities outside the home, Black women are fighting for the right to care for their own children. For them, paid work has not resulted in social equality (Mink, 1998, p. 7).

Mink says there is a need to value the caregiving performed by women and men (Mink, 1998, p. 9). This could be measured by considering the cost of employing someone to do the work of the caregiver (Mink, 1998, p. 9). The FSGLI concludes with an echo to Mink, calling on men to share in the “work of sustaining life” further than “monetary measures” (2004, p. 205).
Both articles state a need for public policy to protect individual rights to economic and physical security, autonomy, and a share in the common wealth of society (FSGLI, 2004, p. 204, 205). In this way the two articles work together to further the cause of all women’s right to equality and independence.

Works Cited

Lakeman, L., Miles, A., & Christiansen-Ruffman, L. (2004). “Feminist Statement on Guaranteed Living Income.” Canadian Woman’s Studies/Les Cahiers de la Femme, Vol. 23, No. 3/4. pp. 204-206.

Mink, G. (1998). “The Lady and the Tramp (II): Feminist Welfare Policies, Poor Single Mothers, and the Challenge of Welfare Justice”. Feminist Studies, Vol. 24, No. 1. pp. 55-61.

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