For 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.