[Bella’s intro: The online Community of Single People is less than a year old, but already I have “met” many thoughtful and interesting people. One of them is Craig Wynne, who is approaching the topic of single life both as an academic and an activist. He has an impressive ability to recognize places in culture, scholarship, and politics where a singles perspective is sorely needed but entirely absent. For example, when he visited the Canadian Museum for Human Rights, he realized that the rights of single people should be included, too, and wrote a letter to the President and CEO of the museum suggesting just that. Craig posted his letter at the Community, and I really liked it and wanted to share it here. Happily, Craig agreed. Thanks, Craig!]
Letter written by Craig Wynne:
Dear [President and CEO of the Canadian Museum for Human Rights]:
On March 9, 2016, I had the pleasure of visiting your museum. I enjoyed looking at a number of your exhibits, such as those on wartime rights for Japanese citizens and gay marriage. Such issues are important for people to know about, and they certainly moved my mind and my heart. However, your museum would benefit from an exhibit devoted to the rights of people who are single.
Throughout history, marriage has been viewed as a noble institution. Our popular culture reinforces that notion: through Harlequin romance novels, love songs, and romantic comedies and dramas that earn millions at the box office. Governments bestow married people privileges that single people don’t have, such as tax benefits and the right to bestow social security benefits to a spouse. Advocacy for a policy change in this area has not yet been started, and it is the subject of a different piece of writing.
For now, I am proposing the following: an exhibit devoted to Singles Studies. The exhibit does not have to be a huge one, as this area of study is relatively new. However, a small area can be set up with movies that celebrate singledom, such as Private Benjamin and Juno. At the end of these movies, the protagonists reject romantic suitors in favor of following their professional dreams. Books that advocate being single can also be exhibited, such as Bella DePaulo’s Singled Out: How Singles Are Stereotyped, Stigmatized, and Ignored, and Still Live Happily Ever After and Living Single in a Double World: The Joys of Living Alone by Marjorie Barton Wilderman. Such books discuss the positive aspects of being single, a perspective that is not given the weight it deserves in most literature about marriage. The exhibit can also showcase the accomplishments of famous people who have always remained single, such as former United States Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice, famous political activist Ralph Nader, and talk show host Bill Maher. Such exhibits along with short pieces of writing can show two things: 1) that it’s okay to be single; and 2) singles can dispel the stereotypes heaped upon them by the world, such as that they are unhappy, lonely, and socially stunted, stereotypes that are incorrect.
As this small exhibit becomes more visible, I predict single people can start to see their voice being represented in conversations pertaining to equal rights, and the right to be single can become a societal norm. If we as a society recognize that right, fewer people will feel the need to get married and having children out of the basis of it being the “right” or “appropriate” thing to do. From this, fewer people will feel the need to enter toxic relationships that could be filled with abuse, neglect, and unhappiness, which often lead to marriages that are filled with these very things.
For these reasons, I ask that you devote a section of your museum to the study of singles’ advocacy. Despite society’s notions that everybody needs to get married and have children, being single is a way of life many people embrace, which needs to be respected by the world. Your museum can be a foundation for this change.
If you have any questions, please call or e-mail me.
Dr. Craig Wynne
About the Author: Craig Wynne, Ph.D., is an Assistant Professor of English at Hampton University. He is also an advocate of single people and singles’ rights and is currently working on an academic article analyzing the matrimaniacal discourse of the recent gay marriage ruling. He also blogs about the single life.