Saturday, 3 November 2012

Single mom receipt: STFU already!

I woke up this morning to find the internet in a bit of an uproar over the “single mom receipt” (I’m not going to link the image, for a multitude of reasons, some of which are listed below.But let me google it for you.). Basically, it’s a Visa receipt that shows a bill for $138.35 and on the tip line, “single mom sorry” is written in, and at the bottom of the receipt it says “thank you it was great”.

When I first saw it, I thought, “ouch!” Followed by, “gosh that’s pretty rude... sucks to have been the server”.

Then I started reading the comments on social media.

There seems to be several immediately apparent categories of responses:

“If she couldn’t afford it, she shouldn’t have splurged. <insert follow-up statements about single mom’s being irresponsible, on welfare, think they’re entitled to whatever, blah blah blah>.” We know nothing about this situation. If the receipt is authentic (which I have significant doubts about), then sure, it’s rude, but people do assholy things all the time. (Like park in 4 parking spots, pick out all the shrimp from the seafood medley in the buffet, leave dog shit on the sidewalk, etc.) The amount of judgment being thrown around in this particular case seems over-the-top. Although, not really that surprising because single moms represent everything the purity myth is against in our society: "Women are out of control and have too much sex! Welfare queens! ZOMG! They need to get back in the kitchen and make me some pie!"

“I’m a single mom, and I’d never do that.” It makes me sad that this response is so common, because it’s obvious that single mom’s realize that society sees them not only negatively, but also that they’re all the same somehow. Of course, given all the nasty statements being made about this single mom in particular, and single moms in general, if I was a single mom, I’d feel pretty defensive too. I know plenty of single parents, and they are a diverse group of people; yet broad sweeping statements are being made about a significant population of women. This is no different than broad sweeping statements made about ethnic groups or sexual minorities or democrats and republicans. It’s prejudicial. 

“I can’t believe someone would do that to a server. Some of them only make like $2 an hour and depend on their tips to survive!” I find these type of statements the most interesting. I understand that in the U.S., minimum wage for wait staff is sometimes calculated with tips included, so that servers really are dependent on tipping in order to survive. What I don’t understand is, why are people so outraged over a single incident of an alleged single mother not tipping, but not outraged at the ridiculously low wages people are being paid in the service industry?

There is something deeply disturbing to me about the collective response to this meme. Whether this receipt is authentic or not, it seems to have unleashed a torrent of judgments and attacks on single mothers that extend far beyond this particular individual. 

We live in a world where men still make more money than women doing the same jobs; where gendered violence continue to affect the lives of a great number of girls and women; and where we continue to have to fight for basic human rights for all. Yet it seems to me that people are much more willing to be outraged by a receipt, which may or may not be real, and may or may not have been left by an actual single mom.  

Can we just shut the fuck up about this already, and start giving a shit about real issues?