I want to add something in the same vein as Jess Dafax's comment because I've been reading pieces by this writer and have had this on my mind for quite some time. I think the writer of this piece is right to condemn those who vilify people in need of food stamps, whether for needing them, or for not buying the 'right' kind of food with them. I also think she's right that, as a single mother of two struggling to make ends meet she should have access to welfare. That food stamps are a great and important resource for people in need and that we should fight for it is not at all the question, in my view at least.
What is actually objectionable to me is precisely what Dafax's comment points out, which is that the writer hasn't found herself at the convergence of unfortunate circumstances in great part out of her control like a lot of people who need food stamps are. What really is objectionable to me is the posturing, the appropriating of a narrative that isn't really hers and that I've seen her do in other articles, wallowing in her own story, making it other than what it is, telling stories about the story, stretching it out so she can become a spokesperson of sort for a cause that is worth fighting but that is not quite her personal plight, as she argues in almost every piece she writes. She wasn't born in Montana or in a state with little opportunities and economic possibilities. She wasn't a teenager who didn't know better and had kids she couldn't really support. She consciously chose to move to a state where it is notoriously difficult to find a job with the goal of becoming a writer, of all goals. She chose to have unprotected sex with someone who is now out of the picture and now has 2 children to support while trying to make money as a writer. She wasn't 21 but in her 30s. She chose to move to a state knowing full well it would be hard to make a living. I personally moved away because working 2 jobs I still needed food stamps to make it there. So I know. It's not that she is a single mom with two kids who needs help. She should get help without being judged for her choices. She should be allowed to go become a writer if she wants to, even though I think that once children are involved it's always more than about oneself and one's dreams and desires. God knows we all make crappy choices in our lives and have to deal with the consequences.
It's more that she is capitalizing, maybe not yet in money, but in other things - like people's approval/compassion/attention/what have you - on turning herself into a victim, on co-opting a narrative that isn't quite hers, because, like Dafax points out, she made a series of very conscious decisions (that are NOTHING like randomly breaking a tooth on that piece of rock that's found its way into her trail mix). The whole piece is about her determination and choices to, in a way, wallow in poverty. While I don't think it's any of our business how she leads her life, and I am not judging her for it - even though it sounds like am - she IS choosing to make it very public, but more than that, she is presenting it in a way that I find unethical and really problematic. Her writing at once presents her life as being self-determined and a series of purposeful choices while claiming the right to be looked at as a victim of circumstances, of the system. That's not quite how it works and I'm sorry so many people are buying into it.
So Stephanie Land, good on you for fighting for the poor and helpless. Shame on you for passing yourself as one.
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