Skewering the singlism in mainstream publications is one of my missions. It is bad enough when some random blog or website engages in stereotyping or stigmatizing of single people, but when high profile places do it, they should never get a pass.
Sometimes, though, someone beats me to it and does such an awesome job that all I can do is stand back and applaud. So it is with L. V. Anderson’s take-down of an Associated Press story about a woman who fell to her death from the balcony of a New York City apartment. Anderson described the AP story as an example of sexism, but I think it is also an instance of singlism.
The title of Anderson’s piece at Slate is “Woman falls 17 stories to her death; AP implies she deserves it.” Anderson begins by noting that the woman who died, Jennifer Rosoff, was an accomplished media executive with a sparkling resume, and that outrage would be appropriately aimed at the owners of the building who did not bother to maintain the safety of the balconies.
Here’s how the AP introduced the story:
“A 35-year-old media executive on a first date plunged to her death Thursday after the railing on her 17th-floor New York City balcony gave way, police said.
“Jennifer Rosoff went outside for a cigarette around 12:50 a.m. when she either sat on the railing or leaned on it. Her date told her that she probably shouldn’t do it, and then moments later, she apparently fell backward and landed on construction scaffolding at the first floor, authorities said. Police spoke to the man and no foul play was suspected.”
Now take a look at Anderson’s critique:
“Let’s break this down. According to the AP, the crucial facts you need to know about Rosoff right off the bat are that:
1. She was 35 and single.
2. She was a smoker.
3. She invited a man back to her apartment late at night on a first date.
4. The man warned her not to lean against the balcony, but she did it anyway.
“The implication being that this smoking slut totally had it coming. A reader is left with the distinct impression that if Rosoff hadn’t invited her date inside, hadn’t gone outside to smoke a cigarette, and hadn’t defied the advice of the wise and logical man she was with, she would still be alive. According to the AP story’s subtext, the problem wasn’t that Rosoff’s balcony railing was shoddy and unsafe—it was that Rosoff defied gender norms by being unmarried at 35, by being sexually liberal, and by insisting on making her own decisions instead of deferring to men’s logic.”
Yes, Anderson knows she is going to get attacked for her analysis, and she addresses the arguments she anticipates. Read the end of her article if you want to see how she would have written the lead to the story.
As always, I welcome your examples and analyses of singlism in the media and elsewhere.
[Note: Thanks to my sister, Lisa DePaulo, for the heads-up about the Slate article.]
Man reading newspaper image available from Shutterstock.
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Last reviewed: 9 Aug 2013