We are presented as being subcultural, as if we are outside, the Other-- a tangent, a limb or something that if lost by the main body, life would not be threatened. . . . The collective psyche of this society is based on denying the existence of a society that is multi-cultural and composed of many peoples and classes, existing in a world that is very small and dominated by women, children, and peoples of color.
BERNICE JOHNSON REAGON ( 1990, p. 4)
FOUNDER, SWEET HONEY IN THE ROCK
All too often girls and women are stigmatized as Other--different, deficient, unworthy of being full participants in society, their interests subordinated to those in power. Women living in poverty, immigrant women, and women of color are likely to face additional, more extreme forms of prejudice as well.
As a demeaned outsider, the Other can become an easy target, blamed for the problems that society cannot or will not solve ( Allport, 1958; Gans, 1995; Katz, 1989). Increasingly the poor--especially mothers and people of color--are being scapegoated for causing poverty in the United States. More and more women from all walks of life are actually the victims of massive social and economic forces that are driving them and their children into poverty at unprecedented rates. Even before the recent dismantling of social programs that provided a safety net began, the percentage of mothers and children living in poverty in the United States was the highest among the developed nations of the world ( Sherman, 1994; Sidel, 1996).
Many women accept the demeaning stereotypes, silently withdrawing from the social life of their community. Others ignore the degrading preconceptions, live full lives, and develop a full range of their powers. Some become community leaders who devote themselves to drawing out the voices of the silenced and making communities more nurturing places to live. Because this form of women's leadership runs