wtfIn the July/August 2013 issue of the Columbia Journalism Review, Dannagal Young expressed her exasperation with media coverage of politics. Financial pressures, she said,

“had led to an emphasis on news that was overdramatic, hyper-personalized, fragmented, and supportive of the existing social order.”

That last phrase is one of the reasons that I, as a social scientist and not a journalist, subscribe to the Columbia Journalism Review, described earlier this year as “an acknowledged authority on the journalism business… [and] among the most important reads in the industry.” I have been dedicated to challenging the “existing social order,” with all its matrimania and singlism, for a very long time.

Young begins by recalling her days as a graduate student, when she read the book News: The Politics of Illusion, with author Lance Bennett’s advice for concerned citizens. Among the recommendations, Young recalled, were that “citizens could seek out ‘additional sources of information’ and run ‘independent checks on various claims.’”

Years later, Young met Bennett at a conference and mentioned those recommendations from his book:

“I told him that it read like it was written by a single, childless male with lots of time on his hands.

“Fortunately, he laughed. And then he admitted that when he wrote those recommendations, he was just that.”

So there you have it. In the year 2013, at a time when there are 103 million American adults who are not married, and when fewer than half of all households are married-couple households, the esteemed Columbia Journalism Review casually and unapologetically mocks single people. In its cover story. But that wasn’t enough for the writer, who must have been oh so proud of herself for her clever singles bashing. No, she also altercasts the person she was deriding into joining in on the singlism.

I guess they are both married, perhaps married with children, and feel infinitely superior to their younger single selves – and, I suppose, every other single person in the nation and the world.

Wow. Way to challenge the existing social order.

Now I suppose they will go home to their spouses, with whom they perhaps split the tasks of everyday life.

Or maybe they have partners who do all the cooking and cleaning (and child care, if they have kids) and everything else. Gee, I wonder what they do with all the free time they never had when they were single, and had to do all of those things for themselves.

I’m not disputing that some people who have kids have less time to themselves than those who do not – but surely that’s more true of single parents than married ones. And I’m not unaware of the irony of complaining about wrongheaded witticisms in a piece titled “Lighten up.” Funny, though, that there was no condescending humor aimed at married people.

Singlism is different from other forms of discrimination and prejudice, such as racism and homophobia, in that the discrimination against single people is less vicious and violent. But it is not insignificant, as I and others have argued in Singlism: What It Is, Why It Matters, and How to Stop It. The particular example of singlism I have pointed out here is clearly a minor one. Yet all of these micro-inequalities and smallish insults add up, until they have the weight of a ton of feathers.

There is something else that makes singlism unique among the other isms: It is practiced without apology or even awareness. Take the case of the Young article, for example. Apparently, none of the colleagues or editors or copy-editors who read the piece before it went to press thought anything of those cutsie, marginalizing quips. Looked good to them.

I would like to say that I was so disgusted with that CJR article that I stopped reading the rest of the issue and cancelled my subscription in protest. But I didn’t. I kept reading and found an article on the implementation of Obamacare. At the center of the article are the concerns of a woman named Carol, who is – wait for it – married!

In the boxes on the margins of the article, some of the specifics of the health care plan are described. In a few of them, individuals (instead of just families) are mentioned, so single people are not entirely ignored. But they are – this time, quite literally – marginalized. And in the box in which the available subsidies are spelled out, only families get the benefit of CJR’s calculations. If you are single, go figure it out for yourself. After all, what else do you have to do with your time?

Frustrated woman image available from Shutterstock.