Monday, June 7, 2010

Feminism: Life on the Streets

In one of scenes during the series finale of the HBO television show, “The Wire," a young man named Duquan “Dukie” Weems, as played by Jermaine Crawford, is seen in a dark alley, surrounded by streets of run-down and deserted houses, carefully handling the vials of heroin he is about to use.

“Dukie” is an African-American teenage boy who hasn’t quite grown into his long, slender body. He has the face of a hardened man, and the mannerisms of a curious, affection-seeking child.

While Dukie is a smart, caring boy who once excelled at school, he has become a drug-user who resorts to lying in order to obtain money for drugs. The product of an impoverished and drug-addicted home, Dukie’s family was evicted before he went to live independently with a friend and dropped out of school.

And what does this have to do with feminism?

Well, it has everything to do with a system of limited choice.

The HBO television show “The Wire” depicts the realistic, albeit complex dynamics of inner-city Baltimore Street life in its perpetual cycle of crime, drug abuse, and institutional neglect. Dukie exemplifies the effects of this cycle-- while he was born with redeemable characteristics like kindness and intelligence; external circumstances limited his choices and helped lead him to a life of drugs and destitution.

As I avidly watched all five seasons of “the Wire” over the course of the past year, I thought about the social structure that allows for such a cycle to take course. One factor is poor sex education and insufficient healthcare coverage.

I, personally, do not know Dukie’s fictional mother or the circumstances surrounding his birth (after all, he’s just a character on TV). However, I contend that better sex education programs, combined with elimination of the Hyde Amendment, would help break down a little part of the brutal cycle that has contributed to 38,052,000 people, like the fictional Dukie, living below the poverty line as of 2007.

The Hyde Amendment, which became effective in 1977, limits federal funding for abortion. The language of the Hyde Amendment was incorporated into the recent healthcare bill in the form of an Executive Order. The order maintained current laws limiting federal funding for abortion.

The Hyde Amendment has had a tremendous affect on the 12% of women of reproductive age who use the federally-funded Medicaid as health insurance. According to the National Abortion Federation, “the Guttmacher Institute has found that 20-35% of Medicaid-eligible women who would choose abortion carry their pregnancies to term when public funds are not available,” and, according to the Prevention First Action of 2009, “a poor woman in the United States is now nearly four times as likely as a more affluent woman to have an unplanned pregnancy.” This means that more poor women are having unintended pregnancies and being forced to carry them to term due to lack of funds. Moreover, a child from an unintended pregnancy is more likely to be victim of abuse, neglect and not receive sufficient resources for a healthy development.

Thereby, as a result of a woman’s lack of choices, a child is born into a cycle where they are likely to lack choices as well. And so it goes.

Elimination of the Hyde amendment as well as more comprehensive sex education help expand women’s choices and help cause a fracture in the ever concrete cycle of poverty. Perhaps, in an alternate reality, it could improve the lives of fictional characters like Dukie as well.
Photo Credit: Pni on

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