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Here’s What Happens When You Taunt Single Women

sherowFor 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.

In Japan, Ayaka Shiomura, a female member of the Tokyo Metropolitan Assembly, was giving a speech advocating for more services for women when men started heckling her. “You better get married quickly,” one shouted. “You should get married,” echoed another. “Can’t you even bear a child?” someone asked.

Shiomura lost her composure but not her nerve. She took to Facebook to write about her experience. Public sentiment seemed to be on her side. CNN claimed that the incident “fueled outrage on the streets of Tokyo.” (Story is here; a video will begin to play if you click.)

At least one of the obnoxious legislators failed to get away with his taunts. In the picture accompanying the story, he is seen bowing to Shiomura, asking for her forgiveness. Then he was asked whether he would give up his position.

Take a moment to ponder that. A politician in Japan is not just asked to apologize for insulting a single woman, he was also asked whether he would resign. He said no, but even so, this is not something that would happen in the U.S.

What does happen in American politics, though, is full-blown singlism. In Kansas, Republican Representative Tim Huelskamp addressed a crowd gathered for a “March for Marriage” (the hetero kind only). As the Daily Kos reported, Huelskpamp “urged every man in America to ‘stand up’ and wed ‘your woman.’” He added that women are “desperately looking for a husband.”

The Democratic candidate, Jim Sherow, pounced:

“…Mr. Huelskamp’s words show just how out of touch he is with his constituents. I know that my daughters’ are valuable members of society whether they choose to marry and have children or not. It is never a legislator’s role to tell women what they are “desperate” for, or to naively believe that his experiences as a man and elected official give him that right. Regardless of how Mr. Huelskamp may judge their choices, women deserve every opportunity to choose their own destiny.

Is it possible that Sherow’s statement was “merely” political? Maybe so. But I take it as one small step toward full fairness and respect for single people that such an argument is now seen as a political plus.

Jim Sherow image

Here’s What Happens When You Taunt Single Women

Bella DePaulo, Ph.D

Bella DePaulo (Ph.D., Harvard; Academic Affiliate, Psychological and Brain Sciences, UC Santa Barbara), an expert on single life, is the author of several books, including "Singled Out: How Singles Are Stereotyped, Stigmatized, and Ignored, and Still Live Happily Ever After" and "How We Live Now: Redefining Home and Family in the 21st Century." Her TEDx talk is "What no one ever told you about people who are single," Dr. DePaulo has discussed singles and single life on radio and television, including NPR and CNN, and her work has been described in newspapers such as the New York Times, the Washington Post, the Wall Street Journal, and USA Today, and magazines such as Time, Atlantic, the Week, More, the Nation, Business Week, AARP Magazine, and Newsweek. Dr. DePaulo is in her sixties. She has always been single and always will be. She is "single at heart" -- single is how she lives her best and most meaningful life. Visit her website at

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APA Reference
DePaulo, B. (2014). Here’s What Happens When You Taunt Single Women. Psych Central. Retrieved on February 22, 2020, from


Last updated: 26 Jun 2014
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