I don’t know if it is yet another of those weird synchronicities or just the fact that I read similar subjects on a regular basis, but for the past couple of days I have come across the expression “put food on the table” more often that usual. It is always in the context of discussions about poverty and what “the poor” (ugh, how I loath the collective dehumanization of “the poor”) struggle with (i.e. “putting food on the table").
This post is probably not going to be very articulate (for reasons that are obvious to everyone who reads my stuff semi regularly), but I am getting to really dislike this topic. Sure, food is one of the main survival issues at stake. We need food to live. But reducing the struggle of poverty to “putting food on the table” also sort of reduces poor people to an animalistic state; a state where they are viewed practically as predators only preoccupied by fulfilling the most basic instinct (not unlike a wild beast). It is privileged to reduce the plight of the poor to “putting food on the table” because it assumes that it is these basic functions (eating, and the least noble of bodily functions associated with it) that only deserve outrage.
But then, even for “the poor” (again, ugh!) who do manage to “put food on the table”, we have to hear the invective of criticism because their food choices are not appropriate, healthy, holly, clean, good for the environment. So, when we talk about “putting food on the table”, we are also implying the “good food”, the food that us privileged folks also consume, the food we approve of.
Enough of that nonsense. Enough of defining the terms of poverty as “food on the table”. Fuck that noise. If we do not elevate the discourse to include “books in the bookshelves”, “toys in the chest”, “computers in the living room”, “entertainment and leisure”, then we are allowing privilege to determine what is acceptable in terms of defining poverty and being poor. Because it is such an obvious truth that “not having food on the table” is poverty that we shouldn’t ONLY focus on such single issue. All of the above are almost equally bad and until we start to include them in discussions as worthy of being rights (human rights, to boot), we will continue being part of the problem, only allowing the poor to define their poverty in terms of what equates them to predators (eating). There is more to poverty than that. And I, for one, do not want to see the discussion reduced to the right to eat (which shouldn’t even be a discussion by now, for god’s sake). How about the right to a decent life, for once?
(This entry brought to you by Tramadol and outrage, in almost equal measures. Edited to add: the comments on this post at Sociological Images sent my head spinning, with lots of people discussing the right of folks living in poverty to “put food on the table” and even, brace yourself for this, have children).
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