I’m very attuned to the often-subtle ways that people stereotype and marginalize single people in their everyday behaviors and conversations. Many times, the people who practice this singlism do not even realize that there is anything wrong with their prejudicial behavior – or even that it is prejudicial. That’s why we need consciousness-raising.
Sometimes, what people say about single people is so crude, and so over-the-top, that it is tempting to dismiss it out of hand. Who would ever take such offensive stuff seriously?
When the person in question is Rush Limbaugh, or others with loud voices and national platforms, then too many people really do believe what they are hearing. Sometimes they not only believe it, they repeat it. They even say such disdainful things to the faces of people they know to be single.
In her essay at Slate, “Conservative pundits lash out at single female voters,” Amanda Marcotte puts together a litany of insults hurled at single women during the recent election season and its aftermath. Limbaugh’s message, she noted, was that “by being pro-choice, Obama treats women ‘like vaginas’ and that Republicans need to ‘start our own abortion industry’ to get women’s vote.”
Other noxious claims are that single women are obsessed with sex and with birth control, that they are sluts, that they don’t care about the economy or even about their own kids, and that they just want free stuff from the government.
Gretchen Carlson describes single women as ‘dependent’ on the government. Such a perspective, Marcotte wisely notes, involves “completely ignoring government programs that married women are more likely to benefit from, such as the mortgage deduction or the new tax breaks for married couples.”
I recently got a reminder of how these nasty narratives are repeated and how they end up hurting even those single women who want to vote for Republicans. A single woman from a red state told me that she did vote for Romney. She considers herself a moderate and has sometimes voted for Democrats in the past. Now that Obama has been re-elected, she supports him as her President.
I have corresponded with her in the past and she has always struck me as a thoughtful and respectful person. She, however, has not always been treated with respect by the people who tune in to the bashers of single women. (She asked me not to use her real name; I’ll call her Faith.)
At a church event, Faith listened as one woman angrily said to another, “It was single women who voted in Obama! They want their birth control, their free sex.” Faith reminded the woman who made that cutting statement that she was single. The practitioner of singlism replied, with dismissiveness and disdain, “Well, you’re the exception, honey.” Faith’s interpretation of that conversation and others was that single women were being cast as “a large coven of evil creatures, bent on electing Obama and destroying the country.” She doesn’t have such fond feelings for her church anymore.
This is no way for Republicans to endear themselves to single women and create a bigger tent.
[Thanks to Spinsta-at-large for the heads-up about the Slate story.]
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