Please Stop Calling Poor People Weak   5 comments

I was going to say what I’m about to say in a comment at Corrente, but my login there isn’t working. Rather than spend another thirty minutes trying to figure out why their site says I’m logged in when I look at the homepage but logged out when I click on the post in question to comment, I thought I’d write a quick post on the matter on my own blog. Besides, Lambert is hardly the only lefty guilty of this offense.

The offense I’m referring to is calling poor people “weak” (as in, “the GOP wants to slash welfare programs because they don’t care about the weak,” or “both legacy parties want to kill the weak so 20% DISemployment suits them just fine”) or some variation thereof. Liberal KGO radio host Bernie Ward would always emphasize the importance of donating money to help “the least of us.” By that he meant the very poor, particularly the homeless, and especially individuals with mental health and/or substance abuse problems. I know he meant well and yes, I also know the phrase is from the bible. And yet it always rubbed me the wrong way to hear this extremely privileged man with his six-figure income refer to poor people in this manner. If the poor and homeless are “the least of us,” what does that make the wealthy?

Calling poor people “weak” is particularly problematic. I’d like to see some of those rich trust fund kids survive even 10% of the crap life has thrown my way. “The Poor” lack a lot of things: Opportunity. Justice. Health care. Affordable housing. One thing most of us don’t lack is strength. Or resilience. Or resourcefulness. We more or less have to have those qualities or we don’t survive. So to hear people call us “weak” because the odds are stacked against us, while those handed every advantage get to flatter themselves that they’re “strong” is pretty much the ultimate insult.


5 responses to “Please Stop Calling Poor People Weak

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  1. Sorry to hear about your login problems. I’ll see what I can do.

    I frame the legacy party assault on the poor as “Kill the weak” because as Social Darwinists that’s what they think and how they think. I don’t personally believe the poor are weak; it’s very hard work to be poor. I know, because I am.

  2. I know, Lambert, and like I said, it wasn’t my intention to single you out. I see this all the time, and it’s been bugging me for years.

    I agree that the legacy parties think of poor people as weak, but is that really a frame we want to perpetuate? One big difference between Western Europe and the US is the extent to which people believe an individual’s wealth is the result of privilege and luck versus hard work and character. In Europe, most people believe it’s mainly the former; in the US, the vast majority believe it’s primarily the latter. Cutting assistance for the poor becomes much more palatable when poverty can be framed as a personal failing. If only those poor people toughened up, stopped whining, and really applied themselves, they wouldn’t be in that position. Cue the example of some dude who was living in his car and became a millionaire.

    On the other hand, most Americans also fancy themselves as being fundamentally fair. That’s why I believe it’s so important that we never miss an opportunity to frame poverty as the result of systemic inequities and injustices as opposed to personal weakness.

    On top of that, I admit that seeing poor people described as weak just irks me on a personal level. I guess I’ve known way too many uber-privileged fools who were totally convinced that their success could be attributed entirely to their hard work, drive, and skills, while they felt entitled to sit in judgement of those less fortunate. This despite the fact that said fools wouldn’t be able to handle a fraction of the adversity some of us have encountered.

  3. Glad that you are still reading over there. Your post voicing your disgust with Strauss-Kahn thread is what inspired me to write my “bullying””faux feminist” “misogynistic” comment that got me in “trouble”.

  4. I actually haven’t been back to Corrente since my reply to the rape-is-just-sex-and-bitchez-are-liars post (too triggering), but I heard that you left some kick ass comments addressing the infuriating “I knew a woman who lied about being raped; therefore it’s reasonable to assume that any rape allegation is a likely lie” crap. There’s an epidemic of unreported rapes and of reported rapes not taken seriously, but by all means, let’s focus on the three false accusations out there. Do these people realize that when victims don’t report because they think (usually correctly) that they won’t be believed or they’ll be blamed or what was done to them will be trivialized, their rapists will, in most cases, go on to rape other women? And that’s partly the fault of all the people whose victim-blaming, rape-minimizing remarks create a climate that encourages rapists to think they’re doing nothing wrong (or at least nothing seriously wrong) and makes victims think that reporting a rape would be an exercise in futility. Or worse, get them locked up for filing a false report.

    It’s also important to point out, as I believe you did, that it’s not unusual for victims to recant their allegations. Reporting a rape is enormously difficult; if the reaction is disbelief, shaming, and badgering, some victims will eventually just say, “you know, you’re right; it didn’t happen.” There was a case recently where police and prosecutors were so certain a rape victim was lying, they charged her with filing a false report. And you know what? She pled guilty. Then they catch this serial rapist who had been taking trophy photos of all his victims, and there she is–the woman who pled guilty to making a false accusation–among the victims. This isn’t the first time something like this has happened. True false accusations are exceedingly rare. Rape, unfortunately, isn’t rare at all. Which is why I’m leery of anyone whose first reaction to a rape allegation is that there’s a good chance the victim is lying.

    • I’m so sorry that you had to go through that, it’s absolute garbage. This shit is so entrenched in our culture, that I hear it all the time, even from RAPE VICTIMS!! You can’t talk about a rape case, without somebody jumpin in with “BITCHEZ LIE!” But these people aren’t self proclaimed feminist, so even though I’m disheartened and saddened by it, it does not anywhere equal the rage I was feeling that evening.

      Also truly saddening that the thread got shut down because of her ad hominem attacks on me, cuz I was asking her to put up or shut when it happened(about what I said that was misogynist) and lambert, dear that he may be, actually tried to say she felt bullied cuz of “my tone” an argument that I have no patience with. I responded, that no the continuous repetition of hurtful things is bullying, and we know who it was that was doing that.

      And we won’t go into the continous reinforcement that “feminine” equals all things good and nurturing in this world.

      Anyways, followed this link from Red Queen’s place, so anytime you have anything brilliant and insightful to say, I’ll be here to read it!

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