Feral Parents: austerity parenting under neoliberalism
Sara de Benedictis
Sara De Benedictis is currently undertaking an ESRC funded PhD in Culture, Media and Creative Industries at King's College London. Sara's thesis explores the representation of birth in British popular culture. Her research interests include the maternal, birth, postfeminism, reality television, audience studies and media studies. Sara has been a dissertation supervisor for the Graduate Diploma in Humanities and Academic English at King's, and is also a member of Gender Matters. In addition to her academic interests, Sara is involved in feminist activism and is a research associate for the Women's Resource Centre, London.
This article explores the discourse of 'feral' parenting that emerged during and in the direct aftermath of the UK riots of 2011 from an austerity perspective. Despite the riots occurring amidst a global economic downturn, a diversification of Britain's political landscape and great social unrest, this discourse positioned the culpability for the riots on a class of 'feral' children borne of 'feral' parents. More precisely, this blame was centred upon the lone, working-class mother. The 'feral' parent discourse created these parents in opposition to the 'austere' parent citizen inscribed as the norm within the current economic climate. Whilst this vilification has a substantial history and draws upon pre-existing notions of value, this discourse was simultaneously imbued with contemporary meaning to aid novel socio-economic and political incentives under austerity. Through analysing news media and political rhetoric, I argue that austerity parenting is a significant component of neoliberal governmentality whereby social norms around parenting, marriage and employment are naturalised.