[Bella’s intro: Well over 100 million Americans are single, yet as a group, they are not really taken all that seriously. What they contribute to society is mostly overlooked, and the ways in which they are stereotyped, stigmatized, discriminated against, and ignored (what I call singlism) is mostly, well, ignored. There is a week devoted to changing that, a national Singles Week, in late September. I always blog about it when it comes around. Others do, too. Yet the occasion has never really taken off.
Karen Reed (you can read more about her at the end of this post) thought there should be a Singles Day, like the wildly successful one in China, only without all the awful matrimanical mate-seeking themes. I have to admit that I was skeptical – Singles Week has never made a splash and it has been promoted since 2001, and around even longer than that. Karen, though, was undeterred. In a short time, she managed to create a very successful Singles Day celebration.
With the War on Poverty marking its 50th anniversary, the scolds are out in force. Their target? Single mothers – especially the poor ones. The preachy ones are reviving an old argument – that if you are a single mother and you are poor, there is a clear solution for you – just get married. There is a blaming quality to the argument, an implication that if you are poor it is your own fault.
To bolster their argument, the just-get-married crowd says that two can live more cheaply than one and that married people have more money than single people do. It is important to recognize the ways in which these claims are true and the ways in which they are misleading.
[Bella’s intro: The previous article here at “Single at Heart” was a guest post by scholar Laura Dales, “Single Women in Japan, Part I: Getting Called Loser Dogs and Parasites.” This is Part 2.]
Guest Post by Laura Dales
[Bella’s intro: There has been so much in the media lately about single people in Japan, much of it sensational. Have they given up on sex? Do they hide out in their rooms and never come out? When I read stories about single people in Japan, I always wonder what people who actually study single people in Japan have to say. So I was delighted when the very smart and thoughtful scholar Professor Laura Dales agreed to tell us what she has learned about single women in Japan. This is Part 1. Thanks, Laura!]
I don’t know when we first started referring to a spouse or a serious romantic partner as a “significant other,” but I do know that the once-narrow criterion for who counts as a significant other has expanded. In contemporary American society (and beyond), we get to decide for ourselves who counts as significant to us. It no longer has to be just one person, and it does not need to be someone we are having sex with.
It is almost unfathomable that such a thing could happen here in the matrimaniacal United States, but in Japan, it is the new normal: Young and youngish single people just are not all that interested in sex, romance, or marriage.
The headline at Slate was intriguing: “The Dutch don’t care about marriage.” So was the subheading: “Americans can learn a lot from their indifference.” A big picture of happy, relaxing single people was captioned, “Being single in the Netherlands is pretty great.”
I’m always interested in places where being single is great and marriage is met with a shrug so of course I was all over this article. Based on her brief visit to Amsterdam, Katie Roiphe (author of In Praise of Messy Lives) had this to say:
“The Dutch attitude, which I like, is that marriage is not for everyone; it is a personal choice, an option, a pleasant possibility, but not marrying is not a failure, a great blot on your achievements in life, a critical rite of passage you have missed. Sometimes people get around to getting married, and sometimes they don’t.”
I’ve been watching Grey’s Anatomy from the very first season. With regard to its treatment of issues around single life and marriage, it has been a mixed bag. I thought the early shows were the strongest in that regard. Two themes were central – the characters’ friendships with one another, and their total, utter devotion to and love of their work.
In the past two posts (here and here), I have been critiquing the latest study making claims about marital status and cancer survival rates. In this final post in the series, I will show you examples of how the New York Times and an editorial in an academic journal gave readers a misleading impression of what the study really did demonstrate.
At the end of my previous post, I challenged you to come up with other explanations for the study claiming that marriage results in better survival from cancer. How did you do? Some of my alternatives are below. I bet you came up with some others.