I recently presented some of my research on the myths surrounding some of the most popular misconceptions about ‘welfare fraud’ at a conference hosted at Carleton University. Plot spoiler: welfare fraud isn’t actually a ‘thing.’ The statistics reveal that it’s in fact a rare event, though you couldn’t be faulted for thinking otherwise, thanks to the media’s (mis)representation of welfare ‘cheats.’
Vehicule Press has just released it’s 45th anniversary Spring/Summer 2018 catalogue (pg 12), and I’m happy to announce that Punching and Kicking, the sequel to my first book With a Closed Fist, will be hitting shelves May 2018.
I think the claim that we’re all born equal is a particularly stupid one since of course it’s not true. A kid born into poverty is already at a different starting point than the kid born into a middle class family. And that’s just one obvious example.
People of colour, Canada’s Aboriginal population, and other members of marginal communities are already at a huge disadvantage as well when it comes to this idea about being born ‘equal.’
The problem then becomes that if we accept this notion about all of us being born ‘equal’ as some kind of absolute truth – which so many seem to – then we absolutely judge those who end up on social assistance, especially those who appear, at least to us, as being able-bodied.
That’s why I love this meme. Of course, this isn’t just true of our educational system. It’s also true of social class when we suggest or believe that all of us have ‘equal’ access to ‘success.’
What happens if you suddenly become disabled and unable to work and earn a living?
That’s what recently happened to 19-year-old ‘Jess’ after he was seriously injured in a cycling accident. With a concussion and broken collar bone, Jess, who was formerly healthy and fit, was suddenly forced to do something he never expected to have to.
I asked him to share what went into his decision about applying for social assistance, and whether it changed what he had previously thought about other people who are also on welfare.
As part of a new ongoing series, “The Poverty Report: Systems, Narratives, and People,” I recently sat down with two women, who have lived with poverty, and asked them two questions: What are some of the common misconceptions people seem to have about those living with poverty? What do you wish you could say to them?
Here’s what they had to say:
One of the most persistent myths about people living with poverty in Canada is that welfare fraud is a common occurrence among those receiving social assistance. This popular misconception about welfare recipients endures despite the fact that solid research has demonstrated time and time again that credible estimates of the rate of welfare fraud place it, in Ontario for example, at less than 1%.
I recently presented a research paper, “Welfare Fraud 2.0? Using Big Data to Surveil, Stigmatize and Criminalize the Poor,” at an international academic conference organized by Carleton and Sheffield Universities.
It was incredibly rewarding to be at a conference that focused on so many of my own research interests surrounding surveillance and governance of those living with poverty.
Here’s a link to some of the conference presentations, including my own, which is the first 17 minutes:
This week is Freedom to Read Week, an annual event that encourages Canadians to think about and reaffirm their commitment to freedom of expression and intellectual freedom, guaranteed under the Charter of Rights and Freedoms.
Carleton University has a series of events planned throughout the week; As the author of a challenged book, Kathy will be kicking off Carleton’s ‘Readings from Banned and Challenged Materials’ event by reading from her book With a Closed Fist. Members of the Carleton community will also be reading from other challenged and/or banned books.
Check it out Feb 24th, in the Main Floor Reading Room (lvl 2) of Carleton’s MacOdrum Library Main Reading Room @ 12:00pm.
Hope to see you there!
From Carleton’s School of Journalism and Communication News page:
“A book written by PhD student Kathy Dobson, in the School of Journalism and Communication, will be the focus of a panel at the How Class Works – 2016 conference at Stony Brook, New York, this coming June.
The panel, “Writing the Class Out of Poverty: Autobiography, Gender and Consciousness in With a Closed Fist: Growing up in Canada’s Toughest Neighbourhood,” was proposed by Dr. Herbert Pimlott, a professor in the department of communication at Wilfrid Laurier University in Waterloo.
The panel will be addressing the themes of class and culture, and race, gender, power, and social structure. Presentations will introduce and discuss Dobson’s 2011 memoir, which provides an account of the challenges facing a poor family headed by a single mother on welfare in Montréal in the late 1960s from the perspective of an eight-year-old child.
Dr. Pimlott says Dobson’s memoir is both an exemplar of the long tradition of the classic working-class cultural form, the autobiography or memoir, and a unique perspective of telling the story of growing up poor without judgment.
“This presentation will position Dobson’s memoir within the larger tradition of working-class writing in the Canadian context, and with reference to developments in working-class writing since the 1970s, including references to particular writers, such as Helen Potrebenko and her 1975 novel, Taxi,” says Dr. Pimlott.
The presentation will also argue that Dobson’s work is significant because it illustrates the issues that fuel divisions within the poor in a large city but also implicitly addresses the issue of whether the poor can be considered a separate category to or part of the working class, as Michael Zweig, Jack Metzgar and others have considered.
Kathy Dobson is looking forward to discussing her current research in an additional panel, where she will be presenting a paper on how people living in poverty are represented on social media.”
Kathy was a guest on CBC Ottawa Morning on November 9th (2015).
She was interviewed after she was awarded a Vanier Scholarship. The segment, How are Canada’s poor being misrepresented?, highlights the focus of her research as a PhD student at Carleton University.
Kathy discuses her research into ‘poor bashing’ and the narratives that are told about those living in poverty. Part of her research focus is on how the poor are portrayed in the news media, social media and government reports, and how these shape and influence the public’s perception of those living in poverty, as well as how these portrayals ‘shame and blame’ those who have lived or continue to live in poverty- the impact these portrayals have on the victims of poverty in Canada.