[Bella’s intro: For years, Kevin Markey has been doing his part to raise awareness about singlism and try to create change. He does some of the things you might expect, such as writing to people in power, and a few that you might not. My favorite among the latter is his t-shirt campaign. He creates t-shirts with consciousness-raising messages about single people and wears them. Whenever anyone sees Kevin in one of his t-shirts, they see an affirming message about single people. Kevin is also an administrator for the Community of Single People (CoSP), for which I am very grateful.
When Kevin posted about one of his latest efforts, people in CoSP started suggesting that he write about his experiences. That was a great idea and I’m happy that Kevin agreed to do so. I’m also happy I got to meet Kevin in September when I was in London to give a few talks about singlism and single life.]
What Singlism Means to Me and How We Should Fight It
Guest Post by Kevin Markey
In my earlier working years, I became aware of single- or solo-person issues. I noticed and got angry during my career in Lloyds Bank over the discrimination I faced as a single person in a workplace dominated by couples. For example, when late night overtime was required and all the married and coupled staff said they were unavailable, I was expected to cover because it was assumed that I had nothing better to do. I was also given a hard time when I skipped an office Christmas party that involved dinner and dancing. I explained that I did not want to go to an event like that without a partner. I also felt, but did not say, that married employees should have the same option to skip such events without getting criticized for it. In all of these kinds of instances, I was expected to toe the line and accept my circumstances, but I didn’t.
I also had similar experiences within my family culminating with further arguments. When my eldest niece was christened, it was expected I would go alone and when one of my cousins was due to get married, I was expected to attend with my youngest of two brothers. I was never consulted on either occasion; it was just expected of me.
I am not sure how I became aware of the Community of Single People (CoSP). I did purchase one of Bella’s books, Singled Out, and have since passed it on in an attempt to spread the message. I am glad I joined CoSP and later became an admin. I also joined the related group “Fairnes for Single People.”
I view the Community of Single People as a very diverse group. It is clear that many are happy to be “single at heart” or single through circumstances though I am sure some join as they realize there is much discrimination faced by single people and they would prefer to be part of a couple. I place myself in the latter group and hope I show sincere respect to those in the former. I believe we should challenge and highlight the unfairness in the same way as if it were racism or gender inequality, for example.
We discuss a range of topics; however whenever dating comes up it is almost considered a rude word. No member should attempt to use the group as a dating site or to promote dating sites though some attempt to join with that in mind.
We share experiences and provide advice or support on issues that affect single people, who often are not at all lonely. I am pleased when we express anger at examples of singlism. Personally, I feel less endeared to mocking of couples or those with children. In my view if they are genuinely happy that is fine; however, if they expect privileges and sympathy for being coupled, I do not comply.
“Fairness for single people” was set up by Bella to share examples of “singlism”. I prefer the term “relationship status discrimination” because I feel it embraces a greater range of people and potential supporters.
I see the group as being the political wing with members more likely to campaign, write to our politicians, and express the points succinctly to educate those who do not understand or realize what is happening.
Success is not always possible, as I found recently. For example, one time when I posted about singlism on the page of a political organization, someone posted a laughing emoji. When I challenged her, she said she was single and did not face singlism; she thought my argument was laughable. [Bella’s comment: Sadly, lots of people have this misperception, including someone who wrote an embarrassingly inaccurate article for the Huffington Post. As I’ve explained, just because people don’t realize they are targets of singlism does not mean that they aren’t.]
However, in the majority of occasions I have either been able to bring the attention of singlism or relationship status discrimination to more people and I have discovered so many who now realize and understand its existence.
Here are some examples of the actions I have taken to increase awareness and advocate for fairness for single people:
- Posting about singlism on the Facebook pages of political organizations
- Contacting the United Nations
- Contacting the UK equality departments
- Contacting my local members of parliament
- Challenging my employer for promoting the UK’s discriminatory marriage allowance
- Letting newspapers know what I think
- Writing to businesses
To anyone interested in fairness for single people, our aims should be:
- Educate and explain the unfairness single people endure.
- Campaign for a day that recognizes single or unmarried people and makes the case that they are entitled to equal opportunity. (There are singles days in a few places but there should be more and they should be more focused on combatting singlism.)
- Discrimination and human rights legislation that includes relationship status alongside race, religion, gender, LGBT & other forms of discrimination.
For my next t-shirt I am planning to promote both these Facebook groups and I encourage readers to create their own t-shirt on how they feel. When you wear it in public — for example, when dining alone – you, too, can feel confident and spread the message.
I also intend to continue writing to the United Nations requesting an International Single Persons Day. I will also persist in contacting equalities champions and politicians within the UK to bring attention to our issues, explain why relationship status discrimination is unfair, suggest ways of combating singlism, and explain the benefits of doing so. I encourage readers to follow my lead to create awareness.
Finally, whenever I read examples of singlism, I will continue to challenge them, including by writing to the relevant newspapers, businesses, or Facebook groups. I don’t always get the response I want; however, I fulfil my wish to educate and create awareness where there may have been none.
Kevin Markey works for the civil service in the UK and lives in the English county of Gloucestershire. He has a variety of interests. He plays chess and also skittles (like ten pin bowling with only nine skittles to knock down). He is also a passionate supporter of Liverpool Football club and the Beatles. He has seen a number of tribute bands; his favorite is the bootleg Beatles. He also enjoys travel, walking, and taking pictures.