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Obese diabetic woman dies early death–AmProspect says it’s ‘cuz she didn’t have a job

November 3, 2015

From my latest blog post for the Independent Women’s Forum:

Crystal Wilson with husband and granddaughter: He wasn’t the problem

In The American Prospect, freelance writer Monica Potts tells the sad story of Crystal Wilson of rural Cave City, Ark., a high-school dropout and 38-year-old grandmother who in 2012 died suddenly in her trailer-home after an evening of babysitting her 17-year-old daughter’s newborn.

For me, it was a story of a cascade of personal misfortunes, some under Wilson’s control, some not. She was seriously overweight (more than 200 pounds) and had been diagnosed as diabetic. She wasn’t the brightest bulb in the box (by ninth grade, Potts reports, Wilson was “struggling” in school, and her younger sister was helping her with her homework). She dropped out of high school with two years to go shortly after meeting the 28-year-old man she married–who soon developed a raft of medical problems of his own that prevented him from working. Dropping out of high school was a family pattern for Crystal Wilson; not one her five siblings possessed a diploma.

A series of miscarriages preceded and followed the birth of Wilson’s daughter, Megan, an only child on whom Wilson lavished an enormous array of material goods for a woman whose main source of income was her husband’s disability check: “any new toy she wanted and, later, name-brand clothes, a four-wheeler, a laptop, and a phone.” Megan, pregnant at age 17 and living off and on with her boyfriend and his parents in their trailer, seemed poised to repeat her mother’s lifestyle pattern (after her mother’s death, however, she married her boyfriend, finished high school, and enrolled in community college.)…

That was Crystal Wilson’s story for me. But to Monica Potts, it was a story about how all could have been different if only Crystal Wilson had a job:

“In May, Jennifer Karas Montez of the Harvard University Center for Population and Development Studies co-authored the first paper investigating why white women without high-school diplomas might be dying. Most research has looked at which diseases are the cause of death, but Montez and her co-author wanted to tease out quality of life: economic indicators like employment and income, whether women were married and how educated their spouses were, and health behaviors like smoking and alcohol abuse. It is well known that smoking shortens life; in fact, smoking led to the early deaths of both of Crystal’s parents and her sister and brother. Crystal, though, never smoke or drank. But the researchers discovered something else that was driving women like her to early graves: Whether the women had a job mattered, and it mattered more than income or other signs of financial stability, like homeownership. In fact, smoking and employment were the only two factors of any significance.”

Furthermore, Wilson had a husband, and in the progressive world of The American Prospect, that means oppression:

“In low-income white communities of the South, it is still women who are responsible for the home and for raising children, but increasingly they are also raising their husbands. A husband is a burden and an occasional heartache rather than a helpmate, but one women are told they cannot do without. More and more, data show that poor women are working the hardest and earning the most in their families but can’t take the credit for being the breadwinners. Women do the emotional work for their families, while men reap the most benefits from marriage”

Actually, it struck me that Crystal’s relationship with Possum, like her relationship with her daughter and other family members, was a source of rich emotional benefit for her. Let’s face it: Crystal Wilson, barely making it through tenth grade, wasn’t a brain trust. She had terrible health, and she didn’t have the wherewithal to mind her health in the first place. What kind of job could she ever have hoped to hold? Surely not a job as a writer for The American Prospect.

Read the whole thing here.

Posted by Charlotte Allen

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