[From Bella: This is Part 2 from guest blogger Gabriela Denise Frank. Part 1 is here: Are You 'Other' If You Are Not a Mother? Part 1.]
Are You ‘Other’ If You Are Not a Mother? Part 2.
Guest Post by Gabriela Denise Frank
First, we must stop relegating single and childless women into a separate caste. (I hate to even write the word ‘childless’ as if this somehow means that’s we’re lacking, but what other word is there, child-free?) Point being, when half of females of child-bearing age today are actually childless, as the article states, we are no longer other. Yet, there is more.
[Bella's intro: In this first of a 2-part post, guest blogger Gabriela Denise Frank offers an enlightening, stereotype-smashing view of what it means to live alone. In this first part, she takes on the "othering" of people who do not fit into traditional categories, such as married mom. In the second, she offers suggestions for transcending the boxes popular culture tries to trap us in. Lots of travel and bold living is involved. I first came across Gabriela's insightful writing at her blog. Thanks, Gabriela, for sharing your smart perspective with us.]
In my last post, I described the three revolutions that have made our 21st century interpersonal worlds so powerful, so fraught, and so distinctive. As explained by Networked authors Lee Rainie and Barry Wellman, the three are the Social Network Revolution, the Internet Revolution, and the Mobile Revolution. Here I will share the authors’ tips for not just surviving in our new world, but thriving.
I like to stay in touch with the latest news from groups that work for social justice. Color of Change is one such group. They do good work and I usually look forward to receiving their emails. However, shortly after that horrible incident in which a Black man was choked by police officers until he died, the email I received had this subject line:
“Black husband and father choked to death by NYPD officers”
“Where would people go if given completely free choice?” That’s a question the eminent evolutionary biologist, E. O. Wilson, answered in his book, Biophilia: The Human Bond with Other Species. (I discussed biophilia in a previous Single at Heart post here.) Here’s his answer:
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.
[Bella's intro: There are some events I would never want to attend, such as ones that pose the question, "Why is everyone still single," as if that's a bad thing. Fortunately, the wonderful Kim Calvert went to one iteration of "The Great Love Debate" so we don't have to. Even more fortunately, Kim brings her much more enlightened attitude to the task of reporting back to us. Thanks, Kim! Readers, you can find out more about Kim in the "About the Author" section at the end. And one more thing: If you want to know the real reasons for living single, check this out.]
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.