“Children are poor men’s riches.” – English Proverb
In the Tantric Buddhist philosophy, the mother expresses love, kindliness, and the gentler side of nature. They instill more ethereal virtues. Teach us to care about one another. To think of the group. The father expresses the energy or driving force. He teaches survival, expansion, competition. If you type “Drama Queen Custody Hearing” into the search bar on YouTube, you will see a woman who is fighting for her life. The channel that posted the video uploads a variety of court hearings where defendants make fools of themselves.
The hearing was through Zoom. The referee is on one feed with the Michigan state seal on the office wall behind him. The second feed shows the father, Jacob, seated beside his attorney in his attorney’s office. He is awkwardly hunched over in his chair staring uncomfortably at the camera lens. The third feed is an elderly woman who is joining the hearing from outside of her place of work. The referee asks the elderly woman why her daughter, Kristin, is not on the call. She tells him that Kristin worked the third shift and probably fell asleep. Moments later, Kristin appears on the screen. She is morbidly obese, with milky skin. Her makeup is on and loud. Short maroon hair frames her swollen cheeks. She confirms the excuse her mother gave for her tardiness. They immediately get to the issue at hand. Jacob is trying to take custody of his daughter, Emma, away from Kristin. The reason being that Kristin sent Emma to live with her mother in Florida.
The referee notifies Kristin that she has violated the custody agreement by relinquishing custody to a third party without the consent of the father. Kristin responds by running through a laundry list of complaints regarding Jacob’s parenting skills in a series of overdramatic shrieks. The referee tries to calm her down by informing her that she is “going a bit off the rails”. They move on to a timeline of her custodial history with Emma. After the breakup, Kristin had a difficult time finding a place to live. Jacob allowed her to move in with him and his parents. A couple of years later, Jacob moved in with his new girlfriend and has supervised visits. Kristin has rented a house with a friend. Kristin calls Jacob late one night and says that she can’t handle the stresses of her life anymore and plans to commit suicide. Jacob picks up Emma and moves her in with him and his girlfriend. Kristin takes Emma back for a while and finally ships her off to Florida. These breaks in custodial responsibilities provide additional evidence regarding her inability to consistently take care of Emma.
The referee begins to adjudicate. Kristin senses the inevitable and reverts to her histrionic outbursts. She claims that a medical condition forced her to relinquish custody of Emma to her mother. “Do you want me to die?!”, she bellows out to the confused faces on the screen. When asked what the medical condition is, she replies with “It’s none of your business!”
In between her crocodile tears are the shrieking accusations of Jacob’s parental absenteeism and excuses as to why her daughter needs to remain in Florida. Many channels have pilfered this footage for a niche genre of “anti-feminist” schadenfreude content. One video advertises the fact that Kristin has four kids with three different men by writing it in a large neon font on the thumbnail. She had already lost, or given away, custody of a child, before Emma. Kristin is obviously struggling psychologically and has been for a while. She could not afford her second child, much less her third or fourth. This is a major source of stress on her mental health, but she made the choice to keep having children. Why? The periods of pregnancy are the only times she feels rewarded by society for her femininity. Just like males at her hierarchical levels only have violence to display their masculinity.
One can, and usually does, blame reckless unplanned pregnancies on hormone induced impulsivity and a lack of intelligence. But the unconscious mind is always operating on a cost-benefit analysis. Whether the conscious rationalization of that analysis is erroneous is irrelevant. They are searching for an existential meaning to their femininity. Something that is not tied to the consumerist propaganda that defines the modern woman. When you are born in poverty, you realize that everything is tied to the economic system. Female empowerment is all about success in the corporatist landscape. Marriage is based on the partner’s ability to provide material goods, and in today’s society this includes shelter. Almost all of the female experience is tied to abject consumerism. At this level of the sexual, intellectual, and economic hierarchies, marriage rarely works out because the marriage is between two broken individualists. If she can’t deal with the hardships of life as an impoverished wife. If she can’t look like the ideal woman. And if she lacks the skills to excel in the labor market. At least she can find meaning in being a mother. She can be doted over by those around her during those nine special months. Culminating with the momentary universal forgiveness of circumstances throughout the immediate hierarchy for the collective celebration of new life. The problem is this has nothing to do with the future of the child. It is all about filling the emptiness created by a utilitarian society.
In an article on zippia.com called 24 powerful cosmetic industry statistics, Chris Kolmar notes that American women spend, on average, $313 a month on cosmetics, or $3,756 a year. This includes haircare products, perfumes, and deodorants. Gabrielle Olya, for yahoo.com, points out that women pay $526k more than men in their lifetime. Beauty products, clothes, and personal care products are more expensive for women. And women, more than men, are expected to maintain extensive wardrobes and rigorous aesthetic and hygienic standards no matter where they are in socioeconomic ladder. Add these expenses to the modern materialistic values that our society equates with status and happiness.
As Ralph Nater noted in the introduction to his book Breaking Through Power:
“Over the past fifty years Americans have suffered the relentless commercialization of everyday life. Their privacy and their childhoods. Their parks and prisons. Their public budgets and foreign policy. Their schools and religious institutions. Their elections and governments. And the most basic societal institution of them all, the family.
Consider all the family functions that have been outsourced to business. Eating, cleaning, childcare, counseling, therapy, entertainment… Have been increasingly commercialized, commodified, packaged, and marketed back to us as products of luxury and convenience. Even mother’s breast milk has been displaced by infant formula. In a plutocracy commercialism dominates far beyond the realm of economics and business. Everything is for sale, and money is power.”
Women living in poverty are being crushed under the weight of societal expectations and economic exploitation. The complete subjugation by the plutocracy has made it necessary for women to become harsher and more ruthless in their fight to secure resources. And in this rancor and misery live the next generation of Americans. Kristin was hit with an onslaught of righteous indignation from the YouTube community. In this algorithmic bubble of content there was also the posthumous verbal lynching of a thirty-five-year-old mother in Michigan who died after the birth of her twelfth child and left the kids in the care of her impoverished elderly mother. To the viewers, these stories are no different than the hundreds-of-thousands of videos displaying so-called “public freakouts” and “fails”. Social media has become a mecca for public shaming and stripped away all empathy from this virtual world obsessed with the image of success.
I mentioned that Kristin was fighting for her life. But what kind of life is she fighting for? One where her daughter lives away from her mom and dad so she can continue to focus on herself and the thousands of trivial things she concerns herself with. Sure, she has a full-time job. She worries about the rent. Food, fuel, and utilities. Cooking and cleaning. Everybody does. But she can probably change her habits in the remaining hours of the week. I’m not being facetious. She probably can. She can learn to develop more positive and productive values. Learn to prioritize her health, education, frugality, and ambition. Learn to transform the terrible inclinations she developed to cope with society’s vicissitudes. Learn to stop finding safety in self-pity, laziness, and indulgences. Develop positive habits. Find a peaceful and productive mindset. But there will be hundreds-of-thousands, possibly millions of girls like Kristin. I think the problem is deeper than self-accountability. It’s a natural malformation in these girl’s cognitive perception of sexuality. One inherent in the systems we have developed to condition our sexual programs to the present culture. These behaviors are the incarnations of the corruptibility of our system.
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