To be single or an adult with no kids is to be in a group that is often stereotyped, stigmatized, or ignored. Those derogated and marginalized categories are different from other stigmatized categories, such as certain racial groups, because there is far less awareness of the prejudice and discrimination. That means that there is also less effort put into the avoidance of boorish behavior toward people in those groups. And it means that sometimes even people who consider themselves open-minded and anything but bigoted in fact behave badly – without even realizing it.
In just the past few days, there have been two high-profile examples. The first has already gotten so much attention that there is a backlash to the backlash. I’m talking about Patricia Arquette’s acceptance speech at the 2015 Oscars when she won the award for Best Supporting Actress for her role in Boyhood. Here’s the key part:
“To every woman who gave birth, to every taxpayer and citizen of this nation, we have fought for everybody else’s equal rights. It’s our time to have wage equality once and for all and equal rights for women in the United States of America.”
I’m all for wage equality for women, and I’m delighted that Arquette seized the opportunity to bring the issue to the attention of such a humungous audience. But I’ve never given birth. Neither have millions of other women. Does Patricia Arquette think that I don’t deserve wage equality because I’m not a mother? I’m guessing she did not really mean to imply this but somehow, what came to mind when she thought about fairness for women, was fairness for biological mothers.
I don’t know if there is going to be any reaction at all to the second example as it just happened hours ago. On The Daily Show, Jon Stewart interviewed a remarkable photojournalist, Lyndsey Addario. To pursue the work that is her passion, she had ventured into some of the most harrowing situations, including far-flung war zones, and had even been captured twice. Some of her amazing photos were shown onscreen as Stewart talked to her.
Then Stewart showed us a very different kind of photo – of Addario in her wedding gown with her husband. Stewart said something like, “You’ve had all these daunting experiences, you’ve taken pictures in war zones…and you also have a life!” Addario seemed thrilled. She held up her hand to show off the ring on her finger, and said, “I didn’t have a life for a long time.”
I so admired Addario up to that point. And I’ve long been a Jon Stewart fan. But I found that ending shameful. So if you are single, you don’t have a life? Not even if you are pursuing your passion and achieving great success at doing so?
I know this way of talking is ordinary. But it shouldn’t be. And people as smart and savvy as Addario and Stewart should not be perpetuating this bigotry.