Posted by: whitpdx | December 6, 2007

Super-Sexist-Marriage: Wellfare IS a Women’s Issue

Johnnie Tillmon’s article “Welfare Is a Woman’s Issue” discusses how the issue of poverty (specifically with welfare/government assistance) is simultaneously a women’s issue.  She conceptualizes her argument by characterizing the relationship between women on welfare and the state as an abusive relationship.  Tillmon addresses myths about welfare mothers that reinforce notions of as women lazy, sexually deviant, un-intelligent, un-employable, and prone to misusing welfare funds.  She describes how government aid systems like the Federal Assistance Plan (F.A.P.) control women’s bodies, occupation/wages, family size, and fail to provide adequate financial aid and child-care.  She concludes her examination of welfare as a gendered-issue by describing the visionary activism by the National Welfare rights Organization (N.W.R.O) and their plan to eliminate sexism from welfare and provide adequate assistance.  Tillmon encourages all women of varying socio-economic statuses, abilities, and races to actively inform themselves and others about the myths of welfare because welfare-reform is primarily a women’s issue.
According to Tillmon’s article (written in 1972), women headed forty-four percent of all poor families, and were the heads of ninety-nine percent of families aided through Aid to Families From Dependent Children (A.F.D.C.).  Tillmon’s analysis highlights sexism in the welfare system and calls it a super-sexist marriage that controls what women buy, their choices about reproductive health, and violates their privacy (176).   She states that above all, welfare is about dependency, and draws connections between the myths about people who depend on government aid with misogynistic views of women as sexually deviant, frivolous with money, unintelligent, and untrustworthy (178).
Tillmon describes government aid programs like the F.A.P as completely inadequate and prejudice against single women.  She criticizes how the plan implements a maximum number of family members to receive aid, which puts a cap on the amount of aid you can receive per child, requiring women to either use birth control, opt for sterilization, abortion, or other means to control family size.   Tillmon also attackss how the government differentiates aid for the “deserving poor” (the disabled, and aged) versus the “working poor” (women and children), and denies aid to women who are single with no children.  She adds that under the F.A.P, women have to purchase government recommended products and accept recommended jobs, despite the job’s ability to provide adequate child-care or wages (180).
In ending with a proposed vision of ending the “so-called welfare crisis,” Tillmon advocates wages for all working-women, weather they work in the home or in the public, giving all women financial agency, independent from men.  She describes her work with N.W.R.O and their proposal of the Guaranteed Adequate Income (G.A.I.), which would allot government aid according to need and family size only (179).  This would eliminate some of the sexism that encompasses the way welfare is currently operating and is understood in this country.  She urges all women to ask themselves questions about how they stand on the position of welfare, about what they would do if they found themselves in the position of requiring aid – because welfare is primarily a women’s issue.



  1. I agree with Tillmon on some accounts and I also disagree with some other things. Sometimes I feel that welfare is good and does help a lot of women in need, but on other times it makes me made because I feel that it was created by men, to “fix” the “problem”. I some times have a hard understanding of how women can allow men or any bodie else for that matter push them around. I also have a hard time understanding why women get themselves into dark enough places where they need to reley on mens money. If women are as strong as they say they are then step up and do something about their situations and try to get themselves out of the mess, that I sometimes think they got themselves into. Just a thought.

  2. Yes, I was glad to have read this article. I was unaware of the relationship welfare had with women. If you are not recongnized as a person you become a statistic which in results provides a poor life. Welfare is a women’s issue because women are expected to work to support their children in all motherly tasks. Tillmon compares Welfare to a marriage as mentioned in whitpdx’s post, a women is left to trade a man for “the man”, welfare.

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