Exploring the Kyriarchy: Socially Liberal but Fiscally Conservative
Ableism is discrimination against or judgement of someone with a disability. For example, denying someone access to your restaurant because they are in a wheelchair is discrimination. But refusing to modify the entrance to your restaurant for safe access by someone in a wheelchair is also discrimination. Often, equality costs money.
Those costs can come at the front end, by creating access for marginalized groups; or they can come at the backend. A glance at the most recent settlement agreements on the website for the Americans with Disabilities Act reveals that state departments and municipalities are included. That means that citizen tax dollars could have been used to provide access to buildings and other resources, but instead tax dollars are spent on settlements. Either way, citizens are paying.
In 1968 Martin Luther King, Jr. argued for wealth inequality to be addressed on a national scale: “For we know now that it isn’t enough to integrate lunch counters. What does it profit a man to be able to eat at an integrated lunch counter if he doesn’t have enough money to buy a hamburger?”
As Eugene Robinson notes, the United States has since become even more economically unequal. In reporting from March 2018, the New York Times showed that black boys fare worse economically than white boys with similar backgrounds. Working for racial economic equality requires addressing the systemic issues that perpetuate inequality. Access to quality education is key. Every child must have access to opportunities to learn and grow.
Mass incarceration is also an important issue. People of color behind bars cannot earn a paycheck, and once a person is released, he or she has missed time for experience to earn more. Reforming our criminal justice system to actually work toward justice is essential. Also, we must expand educational and paid experience within prisons. Ban-the-box initiatives must also be expanded, so that applicants may access the interview part of the process to gaining employment, without being discarded immediately. Addressing systemic and institutional racism involves more than color-blindness in racial issues. It requires action on mass incarceration and access to employment and education.
Wage gaps for women are real, and they vary by race. Women of color earn less than white women. But also, girls and women are culturally pushed toward work that is undervalued - undervalued specifically because women do that work. And women are still responsible for more of the child care and house work than their male partners. Sometimes it is other women who perpetuate the problem. A recently elected female senator in Tennessee has said that women don’t want equal pay laws.
But it’s more than wage gaps. It’s part of the patriarchy to deny women access to life-saving healthcare that is specific to their gender – like birth control. Funding access to thorough, age-appropriate sex education is a part of working toward gender equality. That means teaching children about consent, how to protect themselves from STDs, and LGBTQ sexual health.
In our current kyriarchal system, poverty is extremely difficult to escape. Well funded and thorough assistance programs can help. Most people who receive financial aid do so for a limited period of time, as opposed to the imagery perpetuated by many politicians of the lifelong recipient. The loss of a job can put someone in need of assistance until they can find a new one. A woman who is escaping domestic violence may need some help to establish a new life for herself and her children. Cutting those benefits, or arguing that limitations should be placed on benefits under the assumption that people don’t know what they need or how to manage their funds, limits these individuals from accessing the opportunity to escape poverty.
Access to smartphones can be an essential lifeline for people on welfare programs. Smartphones can be a resource for accessing childcare, new job opportunities, training, and housing. A person with a smartphone may not otherwise have access to a computer, and may have a contract that cannot be escaped, even if the person lost their job.
We must also collectively address systemic problems that keep people in poverty. Losing a drivers license can lead to more fines from driving illegally or to losing a job, which severely limits a person’s ability to pay fines. Time in jail for not paying fines leads to losing a job as well. The cycle fuels poverty, and significantly impacts one’s ability to escape it.
LGBTQ equality is more than requiring equal access to marriage. We must also require coverage for LGBTQ healthcare, including services for those who are transitioning. We must collectively decide to publicly assist LGBTQ youth who are homeless because of homophobia, transphobia, and queerphobia in their families. We must fund LGBTQ-inclusive sex education and specifically LGBTQ anti-bullying programs in public schools.
It perpetuates wealth inequality to suggest that poor people should live on less. It is part of white supremacy to suggest that people of color don’t deserve welfare programs like food stamps; read: welfare queen. It is part of the patriarchy to suggest that women alone are responsible for the consequences of heterosexual sex. These are authoritarian sentiments, and they are part of the kyriarchy.
To be socially liberal but fiscally conservative is kyriarchal thinking. The money always seems to be stripped from the people with the most needs. Equality costs money. The argument that people should be equal but that we shouldn’t act to create that equality means that we shouldn’t actually be equal.