Friday, October 04, 2013

Don't Knock Single Mothers Down

(Chris Powell, managing editor of the Connecticut-based The Journal-Inquirer, recently blamed single mothers for the decline of the newspaper industry. Here is my open letter to him.) 

Dear Mr Chris Powell,

I don’t suppose you’ll ever get around to reading my blog, particularly if you use up all your time thinking of fallacious theories and writing columns, based on those erroneous beliefs. Whether you see this or not, I wanted to write this to you. I wanted to make my point clear to you. In recent times, we, women, have been told by numerous men in positions of authority and influence that we are to blame for sundry evils in the world. 

A number of our venerable elected leaders, too many to name here, and the honourable members of the Khaps have gone on record to say that women (with chow mein, running a close second) are to blame for rapes, for the lowering of morality, for the ills of society. It seems no matter what the evil in question, the blame for it can be squarely laid outside our doorstep.

Now here you are, eager to shove your foot in your mouth and follow in this illustrious tradition. Surely you realized that in this day and age, no foolishness stays hidden for long. Or were you trying to get your 15 minutes of fame?

In one of your columns, you have put the blame for the decline of the newspaper industry upon single mothers. Let me quote you. You say: “Even in a supposedly prosperous and well-educated state like Connecticut, how strong can demand for those things (newspapers) be now that half the children are being raised without two parents at home and thus acquiring developmental handicaps; 70 percent of community college and state university freshmen have not mastered what used to be considered basic high school skills; poverty has risen steadily even as government appropriations in the name of remediating poverty have risen steadily; and democracy has sunk so much that half the eligible population isn't voting in presidential elections, 65 percent isn't voting in state elections, and 85 percent isn't voting in municipal elections?

You went on to say: Indeed, newspapers still can sell themselves to traditional households -- two-parent families involved with their children, schools, churches, sports, civic groups, and such. But newspapers cannot sell themselves to households headed by single women who have several children by different fathers, survive on welfare stipends, can hardly speak or read English, move every few months to cheat their landlords, barely know what town they're living in, and couldn't afford a newspaper subscription even if they could read. And such households constitute a rising share of the population.

What a surprise! In the background, I can hear the Internet exhale with relief. The clamour is deafening. How thrilling to not be considered the sole villain for the decline of print journalism!

And all this while studies were indicating (how wrong they were, right, Mr Powell?) that the Internet was to blame for the drop in the number of newspapers sold and bought.

Today we have technology at our fingertips. With the proliferation and easy availability of devices such as home computers, laptops, tablets and mobile phones, not to mention websites like Facebook and Twitter, among millions of others, we no longer have to wait for the crisply starched newspaper to tell us what has been happening in the world while we were busy doing the things that human beings do.

I’m not a single mother, so I cannot even begin to explain how mean spirited your statements have been. As a happily married woman, and a mother of two children, I know how hard and fast I run just to stay in the same place. As a working woman, I know how life seems so overwhelming at times. But I have the comfort of knowing that I have my husband to rely on to pick up the responsibilities that slip out of my fingers, or those that I just cannot begin to manage. I also have a strong support structure consisting of my parents, in-laws and close family members.

Few single mothers have access to that kind of a support structure. Most are bravely, even valiantly, cooking, cleaning and keeping house, while striving to raise their kids, teaching them the values that are worth teaching, preserving and passing on, and working outside the home to ensure that the bills are paid and the home fires burn bright and warm.

Despite the heroism they exhibit every moment of their lives, day after day, month after month and year after year, they are subjected to unspoken and spoken questions (“Where’s the father?”), and lewd advances by those who think they are easy prey. Whether they are divorced, widowed, deserted, abused or single, single mothers bear the brunt of unrelenting scrutiny and criticism on the part of society.

I have had the privilege of knowing a single mother closely. She was my colleague. I have been witness to the dedication and conscientiousness with which she performed her duties at work, never asking for concessions or time offs unnecessarily, always reporting in to work 30 minutes before opening time. No deadline ever slipped out of her grasp, and no job was done shoddily. Looking at her, you might think that her home life was a breeze. But it wasn’t like that.

She looked after her son’s studies, made sure he ate nutritious, home cooked meals. She strove hard to pay the bills on time, and to ensure that the groceries were stocked, that her son was never in need of anything. In her struggle to raise him, she often put her own needs last, often striking them off her ever-burgeoning list of things to do. Whether it was a bulb that needed to be changed or a fuse that needed fixing, or whether the house needed to be cleaned of insects, she did it herself.

Single mothers achieve more in a single day than you would manage to do in a month. So don’t knock single mothers down. Life does a pretty good job of that. They don’t need your prejudices and your insecurities and inadequacies to tear them down further.

I have a high regard for the profession of journalism, and for newspapermen too. So I shan’t look down upon the entire industry for the rantings of one smelly egg. Of course, the industry is not without its shortcomings. Hailing from a nation which still relies on the newspaper, more than the Internet or the electronic media for its news, I have seen the rot in your industry. I have seen newspapers selling their news to the highest bidder, and I have seen news copy expressing the very imbalanced opinions of advertisers.

If your newspaper’s circulation figures are down, look within. Try to keep up with the times. And be more honest and true to your calling. Don’t cook up stories to shelter your inadequacies and sell more copies.

By the way, I just realized that your objection to single parent families does not mention single dads.

(This post has been written for the Ultimate Blog Challenge, October 2013.)


  1. Well-done Cynthia! bravely taking cudgels . Its very easy to blame women ( single or otherwise) but the men are not ready to look within for their own faults.

  2. GREAT letter and thank you for writing it. I was a single mom for many years. Four children - one father - I received no welfare OR child support and SURPRISE! I actually did have a newspaper subscription. My kids were honor roll students and are all now either in college or graduated from, leading wonderful lives as productive citizens of society. So Mr. Powell - Suck it!

  3. Thank you, Kalpana, for stopping by. I read about this man in the newspaper this morning. I just had to get this out of my system.

  4. Thank you, Magical Mystical MiMi, for sharing your story with me. Your kids must be so proud of you, for the contribution that you have made to their lives. God bless you. Reading your story makes me doubly pleased that I actually put my indignation aside to type out this post. That Powell had no right to talk such nonsense.

  5. I am surprised that a person in such an influential position can have such a narrow opinion of Single Mothers! Your open letter was most appropriate. Kudos.

  6. I cant believe a journalist could have said such things !
    Well done Cynthia. I wish he reads it !

  7. This is a great response to a truly insensitive and irresponsible article.

  8. Brave and powerful article. You supported your arguments with facts and can't be truer than that. Being a journo myself, I stand with what you say. Print media will stay and the joy of reading, TOI, for example cannot be substituted by its online version.

  9. Well done Cynthia...just today I was discussing how single women are looked at in the society and this came up at the appropriate time....

    Good that you got it out of your system :)

  10. Well written Post, Single mothers are great even my dad's mom was a single mother and she brought up 10 children in those days :)

  11. I am surprised at the bias and the arrogance of his supposed intelligent analysis . He seemed to have reduced all single mothers to non thinking unintelligent tribe . A very well thought out rejoinder. Couldn't agree with you more. Loved the last line :)

  12. Very powerfully written, Cynthia! I'm so outraged at that ignoramus' comment! I hope he gets thrown out of his position!

  13. Why do all the evils of the world fall on the dainty shoulders of women? From Mahabharata to decline of newspapers, we women are capable of so much yet a whole lot of us are being beaten, raped and killed. :(

  14. Very well written post Cynthia.

  15. Thanks Cynthia for sticking up for us single moms. Only the Lord knows the strength we need to get us through life day after day.

  16. I really hope he reads this.

    There are families for whom newspapers are not a priority. It has nothing to do with whether they are single parent families or not. It is life choice some people make. And then to generalize like this! How very stupid!

  17. These people make these statements only to grab eyeballs trust me. For them being outrageous means they are in news all the time. But yet what you have written is quite an enraging post, i wonder if it will ever reach the man.....




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