Missing link Friday – Bad mother edition

This week we’re stealing a few links from the Profligate Promiscuous Strumpet before moving on to a couple of stories from the US blogosphere. The theme is motherhood.

So that’s what they’re for!

"Why does a woman breastfeeding in public cause such alarm among some people", asks Demelza at SAHM Feminist. "I would never comment to a woman bottle feeding her baby that its unhygienic or disgusting yet people do this to breastfeeding mothers a lot."

At Hoyden About Town Lauredhel writes that moral panics about women breast feeding in public "happen with dispiriting regularity":

Here in a Florida Sentinel comments section, for example, one commenter compares their discomfort on seeing breastfeeding to their discomfort on seeing fat or disabled people going out in public. Another compares it to public urination, defecation, and sexual intercourse. A nursing mother is accused of being a child molester, another diagnoses mothers as mentally ill. Another calls feeding a child “disgusting”, “wrong”, and “filthy”.

At On the Rocks and Straight Up, Angie complains about the pressure to breast feed: "For four and a half months, I tried to give my babies every drop of milk I could, and it damn near killed me."

Tiger mothers

On their own, children never want to work, writes Yale Law School professor Amy Chua. And that’s "why it is crucial to override their preferences. This often requires fortitude on the part of the parents because the child will resist; things are always hardest at the beginning, which is where Western parents tend to give up."

Chinese mothers can tell their daughters "Hey fatty—lose some weight" writes Chua. But Western parents tiptoe around the issue "and their kids still end up in therapy for eating disorders and negative self-image".

Chua’s new book, Battle Hymn of the Tiger Mother, ignited a huge controversy in the US media. When Stephen Colbert introduced her on his show he said: “Your book has both enraged and secretly threatened mothers across America — they think you’re wrong, but privately think maybe you’re right and doubt how they’re raising their own children. Did you achieve your goals?”

On her blog, May-Lee Chai argues that the debate isn’t really about ethnicity but about class. "Chua’s super-controlling style of parenting is not ‘traditional Chinese’ for many reasons, most obviously the fact that most Chinese have had no opportunity to parent the way Chua does", writes Chai. What nobody seems to be talking about is how much Chua’s wealthy background has shaped the lives of her two daughters. Chai continues:

We as a nation need to look for real solutions that will help ALL OF US as a society, not just a few of us. We need to stop blaming “indulgent Western parents” or unions or teachers or such-and-such ethnic group, and look at the lack of opportunity that a society increasingly segregated by class leads to as well as the declining state of our public school systems, for example. If you can put your kids in a $30,000/year private school, then of course the kids can get a good education and meet many children of influential people who will help them later in life.

At the Rush Limbaugh Report (not affiliated with Rush Limbaugh) Caroline has another interpretation:

… when this author was talking about and criticizing Western moms…which lousy parents was she talking about? It seems like its the parents of minorities who – statistically speaking – do not value education for their children. Usually because tehre’s 1 only one parent, the mom, and she never graduated from high school herself and is living just fine on welfare, thank you.

Stealing opportunity

Blue Milk links to this story about a mother from Akron Ohio who was tried, convicted and jailed when she bent the rules to get her daughters into a better school.

Akron Ohio woman Kelley Williams-Bolar and her children lived in a district with poorly performing schools. But right next door, the district of Copley-Fairlawn had schools rated “excellent with distinction” by the Ohio Department of Education. Since Williams-Bolar’s father lived in the Copley-Fairlawn district the two of them told the district that the girls were living with their grandfather and enrolled them in Copley-Fairlawn.

The school district hired a private investigator to follow Williams-Bolar as she drove her children from her home at Akron to a bus stop near her father’s house. They confronted her with the evidence and claimed she owed $30,000 for tuition. When she refused to cooperate, the case ended up in court where Williams-Bolar and her father were charged with multiple felony counts of tampering with records and grand theft. After being convicted on the tampering with records charges, Williams-Bolar went to jail. According to CNN:

Summit County Common Pleas Judge Patricia Cosgrove sentenced Williams-Bolar last week to five years in prison, but suspended all but 10 days. Williams-Bolar also must serve 80 hours of community service and will be on probation for three years.

The case has generated huge interest from bloggers in the US. Karoli at Odd time signatures compares data on the performance of schools in Akron and Copley-Fairlawn and concludes: "The numbers speak for themselves. Any parent evaluating school options for their child would be crazy to choose Akron over Copley-Fairlawn, assuming they had a choice."

The fact that Williams-Bolar is black is fueling outrage. "I’d love to see how they prosecute wealthy white women who commit the same offense" writes Dr Boyce Watkins. At This Week in Blackness, Elon James White writes:

My initial reaction to this was outrage. I sat at my computer, heart pounding, eyes tearing, because when you peel all of the layers off of it a woman, who works with special education children and was attending school for her teaching degree is being vilified because she wanted something better for her children. And we can’t possibly ignore the racial aspect of this situation. A poor BLACK woman on public assistance is being jailed for sending her kids to the rich white school. I’m not arguing whether this is how it should be looked at–I’m saying thats how it is looked at. It’s now questionable whether the teaching degree she’s been working towards will be allowed because she now has a felony charge against her. A family’s life is in virtual ruins because of this situation.

Bob Dyer at the Beacon Journal has a different reaction: "You are not entitled to steal just because you want a better life for your children. Period."

Much of the debate over theft hinges on the way American schools are funded. As this backgrounder from PBS explains, a large part of the funding for US schools comes from local taxes. There is constant pressure to reduce local taxes while at the same time maintaining a high quality school system. Not surprisingly, high performing school districts respond by policing residency rules.

In some discussion forums the debate has broadened. At Free Republic one commenter asks whether illegal immigrants are also stealing when they send their children to American schools. "They sure are" says TruthConquers. "Not only should the parents be jailed, they should be deported."

Other interesting stuff …

Poor Journalism nearly causes Road incident
Helen at Blogger on the Cast Iron Balcony

The Great Julia Gillard Endless Sexism Show
Kim at Larvatus Prodeo

Chinese mothers & Aussie women
Harry Clarke doesn’t like the way Australian women smell.

Sexy Lady News Anchors Are Rotting Your Brain!
Margaret Hartmann at Jezebel

Spoon fed
Mr Denmore at the Failed Estate

America’s Housing Shortfall
Matt Yglesias

Rajan, Levitin/Wachter on the Demand for Credit
Mike Konczal, Rortybomb

110 years of public sector hiring
Julie Kirsten Novak at Catallaxy

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13 years ago

Erk. I get a pingback and foolishly follow the link. This is a reminder why I no longer bother with Troppo. Poor, poor Harry Clarke; Australian women don’t give a shit how he sees them. From a guy who looks like Leonid Brezhnev’s uglier brother, that’s quite a bit of chutzpah.

13 years ago

It’s not just me Helen who recognizes the difficulty – the problem is that Australian women underinvest in themselves and have given up on the issue of appearance and dress.

Yes I won’t win many beauty contests. That does not bear on the underinvestment issue.

On the feeble attempted insult, fuck you.

13 years ago

Underinvest in appearance. It’s not an insult, it’s an externality loss of community asset value – of aesthetic utility. We get utility from looking at well-dressed others.

Are their ‘own’ losses? It depends. The hairy-chested feminist brigade probably see looking attractive as reflecting male oppression so they would not lose. Most would lose.

Probably true for men as well. A lot of Aussi men dress like children.

13 years ago


if you’re interested in gender differences between the amount people invest in themselves, then I imagine things like health and education are probably more important than appearance. In both of these things females are better off than men — they always have been in health, and they certainly will be as the gender differences in education get more entrenched (you might like to consider yourself in terms of health here also, as I believe you’re one of the 60% or so of males that could lose a bit of weight — you’re also in the highest risk category for strokes).

I also think that, in terms of appearance, things may have changed in the younger groups, where men now feel more obliged to look good — notice how all those young males you teach now look like gym bunnies and have expensive tattoos? The downside of this is that things like eating disorders, once largely confined to females and gay males, are now appearing more in the male population.

13 years ago

Like all externalities Don there is social under provision because of individual incentives not to adequately supply. The argument is that if we can all be motivated to supply the right community asset values -nice clothing or nice gardens – we will all be better off.

Moral suasion is probably the best way of addressing this issue.

I don’t know about investments in education and health Conrad. My guess is that Australians significantly underinvest in education – indeed that was the starting point of my post. On obesity there is a misallocation of investment resources and probably, underinvestment in costly self-control.

13 years ago

Don, you are saying that people’s clothing choices are off limits for discussion unless the discussion is positive. I don’t agree.

Nicely crafted insult by the way.

13 years ago

“I don’t know about investments in education and health Conrad. My guess is that Australians significantly underinvest in education – indeed that was the starting point of my post. On obesity there is a misallocation of investment resources and probably, underinvestment in costly self-control.”

You can look at high school outcomes, where females do better than males in almost all subjects, and university outcomes, where almost 60% of all graduates are now female (indeed, I think the only two areas where females do not outnumber males now are engineering and IT, and the female presence in engineering has been growing slowly across the years, and I don’t see why that will stop). At least the second of these suggests that females are investing more time in education than males. That may be true of the first also, but it is less definitive, as the differences may come from other sources. Informally, almost all of the university-is-useless comments come from dumb males who presumably can’t read outcome graphs, but they may just be a loud but small group.

“underinvestment in costly self-control”

Is it costly, or are people just cheap with their time? or do people simply incorrectly judge the probability of likely consequences?

13 years ago

Don @ 11

“When it comes to fashion and style I think it’s fine for people to talk about what they like and don’t like. But I worry when people turn it into a moral issue and try to use guilt to change other people’s behaviour.”

Using the garden example, when documentary teams visit some outback communities and want to make a moral point and try to use guilt, they will invariably use images of houses with front yards full of junked cars and rubbish. Similarly, during the times when missionaries ran several communities, the houses always had nice pretty gardens out front. A different moral message aimed at fostering the flow of funds to those organisations ‘doing good’.

The reasons for the lack of gardening are OT for this thread, but it is invariably an image used to reinforce a moral issue and try to use guilt to change other people’s behaviour.

Having said that, living in the NT, I deliberately underinvest in suits, ties and business clobber, and overinvest in thongs, tee shirts and stubbies.

13 years ago


So will we see a paper written on a clearly required Christian Audiger Trading Scheme (CATS)?

Kin, friends and other relations reinforce cultural expectations. In their study of a group of low-income single moms in the Philadelphia area, Kathryn Edin and Maria Kefalas observed a “norm of self-sacrifice” among the women they interviewed. Mothers, they report, “are harshly critical of other parents who buy…extras for themselves” rather than their children. Indeed, they found that a mother risked “social censure if she has nicer clothing than her children.

What about the revealed preference data, Don?