Wednesday, June 25, 2003

A Magazine for Women
A few weeks ago, I purchased a copy of the new Lifetime magazine. I love Lifetime TV - Television for Women - so why wouldn't I like the magazine? Overall, I did like it. The most noticeable and most positive thing that stood out was the type of advertising. Not a size 1 model in sight. Definitely not Cosmo or Glamour. But not frumpy Good Housekeeping-type ads, either. Ads for "Just My Size," Fruit of the Loom "Fit for Me," and Sears Apostrophe business clothes, plus the usual cosmetics and health & beauty aids. I found the content realistic and useful, even the fashion section, and read the entire issue from cover to cover.

However, I did have a problem with one article. The article was titled, "From Welfare Mom to Legal Eagle," and actually, I had more than one problem with the article. First, I think it was trying to do or say too much and the message was lost. It was supposed to be an article about a mother and housewife whose husband left her without any means of supporting herself. She had to go on welfare for a while to support her children, but eventually she succeeded by going back to school, getting a law degree and becoming a family law attorney to help women who were in the same situation as she was. But the article got bogged down in how her ex-husband was a deadbeat dad who didn't pay child support, which obviously made her situation worse, but could have been the topic of a separate article.

But most distracting was that I didn't feel the woman who was featured in the article, Pam Cave, was exactly the best role model to try and illustrate to other women how to succeed as a single mother. In the beginning of the article, when she's first down on her luck, she's described as the mother of three young children and nearly penniless. However, the subhead of the article and all of the photos show her with five children. As you read along, you discover the following:

"Pam and Eric had three kids in three years, but the marriage quickly disintegrated. 'Eric was unfaithful, couldn't keep a job and suffered from depression,' Pam says. In 1989, he moved out. Phillip was two and a half; April one; and Tricia just a couple of months old. Eventually, Eric came back. In 1990, with Pam pregnant again with their fourth child, he moved out for good - and in with another woman."

The next paragraph talks about how Eric stopped paying support after he moved out, then:
"Despite it all, Pam kept trying to help Eric. 'He was my children's father,' she says. 'I couldn't have him sleeping on the street.' (In 1992, she briefly reunited with Eric and conceived a fifth child, Thomas.)"

I'm sorry, but any sympathy I had for this woman went out the door when I read that paragraph. How could she be stupid enough to get pregnant by this guy, not once, but twice, when they were practically destitute and barely able to put food on the table? And when she knew what kind of man he was? He wasn't supporting his first three children - why would he support two more?

I also didn't like the fact that the article's writer just glossed over the fifth child by relegating him to a mention in parentheses. I think that this is a pretty big deal.

Before I get a bunch of e-mails about how unsympathetic or cold-hearted I am, let me just say that I do feel for women in this position. I know there are tens of thousands of deadbeat dads out there who owe millions in child support and they should have to pay in whatever way possible. And I don't think there should be a stigma attached to welfare if it is used the way it was intended - as a temporary solution, not a way of life. And people do make mistakes. But the fact that this specific woman was charmed and conned by her ex-husband, or not smart enough to use some kind of birth control, and had two more children in the midst of a desperate situation is, quite frankly, inexcusable. That's my opinion and I know there are some of you who won't agree with me. But this only happened in the early '90's, not the '60's, where women have choices about education, job training, working outside the home, and control over their own bodies. I think Lifetime Magazine could have found someone else to illustrate the point they were trying to make with this article.