Much of what is written about contemporary single life is in the form of personal essays or advice, often penned by or for single women. Single people telling the stories of their lives can be quite powerful. Their narratives can challenge prevailing myths and offer empowering, authentic, and non-stereotypical perspectives on single life, as Professor Kinneret Lahad has noted in A Table for One: A Critical Reading of Singlehood, Gender, and Time.
And yet, as she has also explained, there can be a downside, if our goal is to create the kind of social change that challenges “the discriminatory, patronizing attitudes toward late singlehood.” I have to admit that it never occurred to me, before reading Lahad’s book, that a focus on individual life stories can be an impediment to meaningful reform.
When individual single people tell their personal stories, Lahad suggests, then the issues can seem personal and individual, as if they were only about specific people. If something needs to change, the personal story approach can seem to imply that it is the individual single people who need to do the changing.
It’s not. For wholesale social change to happen, it is policies and social structures and social institutions that need to change. We need to remember that, reiterate it, underscore it, and work for it, even as we continue to tell the stories of our lives.
[Note: This blog post was adapted, with permission, from “Israeli Scholar Calls for the Politicization of Singlehood,” a column written for Unmarried Equality. The column includes an excerpt from Lahad’s book.]