The welfare queen stereotype


The welfare queen is a term coined by the former President Reagan in a speech made for his 1976 election campaign. Reagan imaged the welfare queen as a black woman driving a Cadillac (Hays, 23). From that time on the image of the welfare queen has been reproduced in the media. These three cartoons are an example of the reproduction of the stereotype.

The first two of them use image of the welfare queen as a way to conveniently criticize the welfare system in the United States. The women in these cartoons are depicted as lazy persons who take advantage of the wages given by the government by not working and staying at home to watch television or purchasing commodities like Cadillacs (making a direct reference to Reagan’s speech). Their apparent unwillingness to work and readiness to spend opposes American mainstream values on work and personal independence. The image of the welfare queen is vilified not only by her actions but also by her physical appearance. The women in the cartoons are both fat, not good looking and seem to lack interest in either hygiene (the first cartoons shows odor emanating from the welfare queen) or personal image. These characteristics show stereotypes based on class discriminations being used, assuming not only that poor people chose to neglect their own persona but also that their poverty is due their own negligence.

The last picture reprobates the views on the first two cartoons by commenting on the absurd vilification of mothers on welfare. The cartoon makes it clear that republicans hold the stereotype of the welfare queen by presenting an elephant mother telling a fairy tale story to her daughter. The villain of the story is a welfare queen with the power to ruin the economy by receiving a welfare check.

The welfare queen stereotype speaks not only about stereotypes of poor and the discrimination they suffer but also, the stereotype reflect the growing feminization of poverty and how women are the population who is being related the most with poverty. Ironically enough, with the entrance of women to the workforce poor mothers are expected to be self sufficient and to fulfill the necessities of the workplace and the home at same time.

Links to cartoons' websites: