We don’t need to wonder whether single people are stereotyped. Years ago, my colleagues and I conducted a series of studies to see how people view single people. The results documented widespread singlism – people viewed singles more harshly than married people in many ways (for example, as less mature, more self-centered, more envious, and less well-adjusted). Both men and women perceived single people in more negative ways than they viewed married people. People who were in romantic relationships were critical of single people, but so were people who were not in such relationships.
Starting in the early 1800s, some of the young women in the Guangdong section of China made a most unusual decision – they committed to staying single for the rest of their lives. They are called zishunu — self-combed women. When they left their parents’ home, it was to work, not marry.
Writings about single life – both popular and academic – focus overwhelmingly on women. Because marriage, traditionally, is supposed to be more important to women than to men, in theory more central to their identities and their happiness, single life should be especially problematic for women. Research begs to disagree about the happiness presumption, but no matter. Angst-filled writings about women living single continue to proliferate.
Alongside the tired old tales of those “poor” single women is a counter-narrative. It is one of strength, fulfillment, and independence. That story is often told of single women who live alone.
In a world awash with matrimania and the easy story lines it suggests, it is startling to find something, even in the most prestigious of publications, that dispenses with the romantic clichés and tells a whole different story. So it was with the short story in the July 7 &14, 2014 issue of the New Yorker.
The author is Allegra Goodman, perhaps my favorite short story writer. A previous story, “La Vita Nuova,” is a masterpiece. It is about a wedding dress, but it is not the story anyone else would write about that.
[Bella's intro: Probably about once a year, someone asks me what I think of the idea of marrying yourself. I've never written about the topic. Happily, the very insightful Terri Trespicio has some smart ideas on the matter, and I was delighted that she was willing to share them with "Single at Heart" readers. Thanks, Terri! By the way, Terri was featured on the cover of a Boston Magazine story, "Single by choice: Why more of us than ever before are happy to never get married."]
How many times have you read a story in the media claiming that the children of married parents do better than the children of single parents, and therefore people should get married before they have kids, or they should refrain from divorcing? The claim about the children of married parents doing better is often exaggerated, a misrepresentation of the actual findings, or just plain wrong, as I have shown repeatedly. Nonetheless, the myths continue to get perpetuated, along with the self-righteous advice.
During difficult economic times, many people are stressed about money, but single people are likely to be especially so. For well over a decade, I’ve been trying to promote consciousness-raising about single people and their lives. It is a challenge, trying to nudge a matrimaniacal society into recognizing that not everyone is part of a couple or even wants to be. But as the number of single people continues to grow, closing in on half of all of the adult population, that will change.
One way it changes is when writers and pundits and opinion-leaders have single people in their lives who are so important to them and so close to them that they just can’t ignore their issues anymore. So it was over at Forbes, when Nancy Anderson, in the second paragraph of her article, acknowledged that all of her adult sons were single.
I first wrote about asexuality in 2009 after getting repeated requests to address the topic. At the time, there was very little scholarly research on the topic. Now, just five years later, a collection of scholarly essays on asexualities has been published – the first of its kind. Asexualities: Feminist and Queer Perspectives is edited by Karli June Cerankowski and Megan Milks.
I just found out about the book and I’ll have more to say about it after I’ve read it. For now, I want to let you know that the book is out there, and share some of what the authors had to say in an interview and how the publisher describes the book.
For years, I have been railing about the stereotyping, stigmatizing, and discrimination against single people that I call singlism. What bothers me is not just that it happens, but that the people who practice singlism do so without apology and often without any awareness that what they are doing is offensive.
Occasionally, though, those who try to stigmatize, stereotype, or shame single people actually get called on it. Here are two recent examples from the world of politics, one from Japan and the other from the U.S.
One of the most significant demographic revolutions has been the dramatic rise in the number of people who live alone. It is a phenomenon that is not limited to Western nations.
In their academic book, Living Alone: Globalization, Identity and Belonging, Lynn Jamieson and Roona Simpson offer the most comprehensive review and analysis of solo living to date. Just about every aspect of solo living that I have been discussing here and elsewhere for so long – and some other topics as well – get attention in the book.
Many writings on solo living focus on the US, but Jamieson and Simpson’s perspective reaches around the globe. In an early chapter on geographies of living alone, the authors provide a table showing the popularity of 1-person households in 42 nations. Data, when available, are presented for 1950, 1980, 1990, 2000, and 2010.