Archive for the ‘singlism’ Category
The New York Times has a story by Tara Parker-Pope, “In a married world, singles struggle for attention.”
Bella DePaulo’s new book, Singlism, is mentioned. I am one of over two dozen contributors to the book. Bella blogged about the NY Times article.
Happy Unmarried and Single Americans Week!
Ann Schranz, board member
We’re looking forward to the release of Dr. Bella DePaulo’s next book by Double Door, Singlism: What it Is, Why it Matters, and How to Stop It, a collection of writings on singlism. The essays are intended to both inspire readers and instruct how to tackle this all too common form of prejudice.
One of the contributors is a long-time, devoted member of AtMP, Jaclyn Geller, who wrote an essay titled, “Why the History of Marriage Matters.” In this essay, Geller explores some of the problematic aspects of the history of Western marriage and explains why AtMP’s formation was so decisive and important. Here’s a sneak peek of the first two pages:
In Book Nine of Homer’s epic, The Iliad, the Greek warrior Agamemnon regrets his dispute with fellow soldier, Achilles. It is nine years into the Trojan War; the Achaeans are a superior force, and Troy is destined to fall. But a quarrel between the two most formidable Greek soldiers, Agamemnon and Achilles, has weakened their army. Achilles has withdrawn from the battlefield, giving Trojan fighters the upper hand. Agamemnon decides to repair the rift with his comrade by allowing Achilles first dibs once Troy has been conquered:
if the gods grant that we sack the city of Priam, let him be there when we are dividing the spoil; he shall load his vessel with piles of gold and bronze, and choose for himself twenty Trojan women, the most beautiful after Helen. Then, if we return to Argos, he shall have my daughter to wife…I have three daughters, Chrysothemis, Laodice, and Iphianassa; any one of these he shall have without bride-price to take to his father’s house; and I will give her a dowry greater than ever man gave to a daughter. (The Iliad 121-122)
An envoy of generals visits Achilles’ tent to make the offer, which he rejects.
Agamemnon’s proposal contains beliefs that must have seemed obvious to the culture that mythologized him as a national hero. (For centuries The Iliad was recited orally at public gatherings before it took shape as a written text.) First, the practice of ancient armies taking the spoils when they conquer a village includes appropriating both goods and people: namely, women, although men were customarily taken as slaves as well. Second, the way of healing a breach between men is with the “giving” of a daughter in marriage. Her consent is not deemed necessary. The waiving of her bride price (a token fee paid by her husband) is represented as a gesture of noblesse oblige intended to cement an alliance between men, the operative figures in Greek society, and the only ones whose desires, intentions, and decisions, matter. In The Iliad these beliefs are not put forth in the form of arguments; they are assumed. Like most assumptions, they appear to require no explanation and no defense.
I first encountered Homeric epic in high school, when, I dutifully trudged through a few chapters of The Iliad, found it tedious, and put it aside in favor of the more immediate pleasures of Bob Dylan, Patti Smith, and Elvis Costello. Like many teenagers have before and since, I resisted my teachers’ best efforts to convey the greatness of epic as a “cornerstone of Western civilization,” a “book whose influence rivals that of the Bible,” and other magisterial descriptions that evoke boredom in the minds of sixteen-year olds attending public schools.
*To finish reading ”Why the History of Marriage Matters” download the PDF.
USA TODAY reports that suicide “rates among GI’s who are single or divorced double when they go to war, [but] the rate among married soldiers does not increase…”
“One of the big things we’re interested in now is digging into this marriage thing and saying, ‘What is it you get, by being married? And how could we put it in a bottle so we can give it to everybody, whether or not they’re married?” says Ronald Kessler, a psychiatric epidemiologist at Harvard Medical School who is working on the project.
I’ve written to Dr. Kessler to suggest that many of the things married soldiers get need to be budgeted, not bottled. Pay rates, VA and survivor benefits, housing quality and other tangible features of military life have all been documented to be better for married service members.
I also suggested looking at it from the other direction: what do unmarried soldiers get that harms them, and how do we take that away. For example, do they get assigned harder jobs or longer hours or more crowded barracks? That would hardly be surprising, as we have heard many examples of such assignments in civilian life. Do unmarried soldiers get more teasing (i.e., harassment) about their relationship status, or less sympathy when their relationships end? That would also mirror workplace complaints that we frequently hear from civilians.
We’re pleased to host this guest post by Dr. Karen Gail Lewis. Dr. Lewis works primarily with single, straight-identified women, but you might find her tips useful regardless of your gender, orientation or relationship-status.
When you think about Valentine’s Day, do you feel pleasure? Grief? Anger? If you are single, Valentine’s Day, along with New Years, are the two most hated holidays. Too many single women say they “hide out” on February 14.
Valentine’s Day, though, is not about lovers; it’s about love. It has become commercialized for lovers, but it’s really a time to connect with people you care about. In the midst of the hearts and flowers that have become associated with this day, the origin of the holiday is lost.
In fact, there is no agreed upon origin. There are numerous stories about the man Valentine and the holiday of love. They range from Roman days to honor the god Lupercus, to Emperor Claudius forbidding marriage, to Pope Gelasium turning a pagan game of romance into a game about saints.
You can choose which version of the origin of the holiday you prefer, in the same way you can choose how to relate to Valentine’s Day. It can be a day of shame because you do not love and are not loved by a special man, or you can honor this day by acknowledging those people who make your life better. Valentine’s Day is not about lovers, it’s about love.
Here are some tips for how to make this a special day.
1. Send cards to everyone you love, male and female, young and old. Not only will the recipients feel cherished, you will be reminded how blessed you are to have so many special people in your life. For a fun flashback to your school days, buy a pack of the colorful cards you used to pass out to classmates, or make them yourself.
2. Honor the service people who make your life better. Give cards to people in your everyday life, showing how much you appreciate them. It might be the person who cuts your hair or cleans your home. It might be the bank teller who helps when your checkbook gets out of balance. You don’t have to wait for Christmas to let your mailperson know you appreciate the effort made to bring you 30 mail order catalogues a day. Think about the people who make your life easier; this is the day to remind yourself (and them) that you don’t take them for granted.
3. Spend it with friends. Specifically choose February 14 to spend with people you appreciate but don’t tell often enough. Take a favorite co-worker or office assistant to lunch. Or have a Valentine’s dinner party for good friends.
4. Send flowers to yourself. Rather than mope or feel sorry for yourself that there is no man in your life to send you flowers, send them to yourself. Flowers are the love letters from Mother Nature.
5. Monitor your music. If you are likely to have a hard time on February 14, make sure for the few days leading up to the 14th you aren’t listening to love songs or songs about longing for love or about brokenhearted love.
6. Don’t hide. Don’t pretend it isn’t Valentine’s Day. Say Happy Valentine’s Day to everyone you see. Wear a pin with hearts or at least wear red and white.
7. If you are blue, don’t fight it. Give yourself permission to be sad there isn’t a loving man in your life. Give yourself an hour, even two, for your “Pity Party.” Then stop. Move on. Be careful you don’t drown your unhappiness in excessive alcohol, drugs, or food. There is no reason to be self-abusive just because you are alone and sad.
Here’s another idea. Buy yourself or your friends a ring. This is a way to say you are OK being single, to feel connected (like the circle of the ring) with singles all around the world, and to let singles know, that at least in this way, you have something in common. You can find special rings for singles at mysinglering.com, or myspace.com/Singelringen, or nationalmarriageboycott.com.
Some married women say they get depressed on Valentine’s Day because their husbands don’t get them anything. Or, they give a last minute, perfunctory gift of flowers or a card that the secretary probably selected.
Knowing some married women aren’t happy won’t make you feel better about being single. It should, however, be a reality check that Valentine’s Day is what you choose to make of it.
Participating in the holiday tells the world you love yourself and you love others. You have no reason to be embarrassed about being single; you don’t need to hide.
You can mope or you can celebrate your life – the life you have at the moment. There is no telling what your life will be like later today, tomorrow, next week. So celebrate whatever you have. After all, right now is the only life you have.
Dr. Karen Gail Lewis is founder of Unique Retreats for Single Women, weekends bringing small groups of women together to shift their thinking about being single in a society prejudiced against single women. Visit her website for more information.
Book Review: Let’s Take the Long Way Home by Gail Caldwell
Often it is assumed that, through the course of one’s life, the closest relationship one will have is with their romantic partner. While this is far from reality, we are constantly bombarded with reminders and pressures of this supposed truth, whether it’s from T.V. commercials picturing a couple going shopping together or at family reunions when your relative asks you why you haven’t brought someone special home for the holidays yet. Everyone seems to be coupled off or wanting to be coupled off. Not so in Let’s Take the Long Way Home, a book by Gail Caldwell about her relationship with her friend and non-romantic partner, Caroline Knapp.
Caldwell takes the reader through the start and end of her relationship with Knapp, who passed away in 2002 from lung cancer. “We knew from the beginning, I think, that this friendship was different, that we would work to make it immune to the erosion of time” (175). Caldwell and Knapp connect with each other on multiple levels, whether it’s over their writing professions, their love of dogs, or their histories with alcoholism. Caldwell tenderly recounts the walks they share in the woods, the fights that both tested and strengthened their relationship, and the mutual love, affection, and dependence the women had upon each other.
While the book takes some time to grab your interest, the second half of the book is boiling over with emotion. Regardless of the fact that I cry easily at books and movies, the description of Knapp’s diagnosis, the way her friends gathered around her in those last final days, the struggles Caldwell went through trying to reorganize her life after the loss of her friend – all of it had me bawling and feeling for not only Caldwell’s pain, but the pain that everyone knows will come when they lose someone they care for this much.
Let’s Take the Long Way Home is not only a touching memoir of Caldwell and Knapp’s relationship, but also serves as a reminder of the intense intimacy and importance of friendship. Even though Knapp has a long-term partner, her friendship with Caldwell appears just as strong and loving, if not more so, as her romantic relationship. It challenges the concept of what it means to be single and what kinds of relationships are deemed most important. An easy, lazy afternoon kind-of-read, Let’s Take the Long Way Home is a wonderful memoir of friendship that won’t leave you disappointed.
Kathleen Shea Peters is currently living in Flagstaff, AZ as a graduate student in History. She has been a supporter of Alternatives to Marriage and their values for the last few years.
BY KAREN HENNINGER
I read an article back in May with the headline “1 dead after car runs gate at Ariz. Air base” and I was struck by the last sentence.
“Azfamily.com said the car reportedly belonged to a single mother who had bought the vehicle Monday.”
The use of the term “single mother” is very telling of the writers’s mindset that the marital and family status of the woman seemed necessary to mention; but I am really puzzled and curious as to why that last sentence would be a relevant part of the story at all. That speculation is another piece of writing entirely, but reveals even more how we think about crime and single mothers in this society.
As a writer, I analyze other writing in the context of the people and identities within the story. Nothing is a mistake when logic is what it is – unexamined. I imagine alternatives and also question the use of words. For example, I notice when the word “father” is used, when the word “mother” is used, and when the alternatives, simply “man” or “woman” are used, even if those being reported on are revealed to be mothers and fathers in the overall story.
I also notice when and question why it would matter to mention if someone is married or single.
Also, in this particular piece I am struck by the fact that the headline itself reads “1 dead” – revealing no identity, not even personhood. In traditional media coverage, when an identity is missing, it is usually an assumed ‘man’ in the same manner that using the word “he” could mean a man or either gender.
In an attempt to show how alternate ways of phrasing, which do not follow “normal” language usage in dominant media channels, disrupts our normal procedures and thinking, here is the statement in many different forms.
A. Azfamily.com said the car reportedly belonged to a ‘married’ mother who had bought the vehicle Monday. (No need to mention married?)
B. Azfamily.com said the car reportedly belonged to a mother who had bought the vehicle Monday.
C. Azfamily.com said the car reportedly belonged to a single woman who had bought the vehicle Monday. (Why mention her status of children or no children?)
D. Azfamily.com said the car reportedly belonged to a married woman who had bought the vehicle Monday. (Mention that she is married and forget to mention she has kids and is a mother? It NEVER happens.)
E. Azfamily.com said the car reportedly belonged to a woman who had bought the vehicle Monday.
F. Azfamily.com said the car reportedly belonged to a person who had bought the vehicle Monday.
G. Azfamily.com said the car reportedly belonged to a man who had bought the vehicle Monday.
H. Azfamily.com said the car reportedly belonged to a married man who had bought the vehicle Monday.
I. Azfamily.com said the car reportedly belonged to a single man who had bought the vehicle Monday. (Note: a ‘single’ man no longer necessarily reads as MARRIED, but rather one lone man. At least to me, for others I don’t know.)
J. Azfamily.com said the car reportedly belonged to a single father who had bought the vehicle Monday. (How often is it necessary to mention the person is a single father in stories of crime?)
It is interesting to note that in this entire piece, none of the other people mentioned [only the single mother] have been identified as to whether they are married, single, or have children. Why not? I have my guesses. Take a moment to think about it and I am sure you will come up with your own.
Karen Henninger is a Media Literacy/Violence Prevention Activist, Cultural Environmentalist Consultant, Women Studies Independent Scholar and Community Education Specialist, Visual Artist and Visual Writer, and Creative Artist of Life.
We’re pleased and proud to host this guest post by Bella DePaulo, PhD, wrapping up Unmarried and Single Americans Week. The week may be over, but as Bella says, our movement is just taking off!
Successful social movements have rallying cries that become known throughout the land. For example:
Black is beautiful
Sisterhood is powerful
We’re queer, we’re here, get used to it
We shall overcome
So where is the expression of group identification and pride trumpeted by singles activists? Where is the movement for respect and rights for all of the American adults who are divorced or widowed or have always been single? After all, there are more than 100 million of us.
Does the mere thought of hoisting a “singlehood is powerful” sign make you feel embarrassed and self-conscious? That right there is a big hint as to why we do not have a singles movement in the United States. Being single – especially past a certain age – is not regarded as a point of pride here. In a culture steeped in matrimania (over-the-top hyping of marriage and weddings) and singlism (the stigmatizing of people who are single), singles can end up feeling defensive and apologetic simply because they are single. They are not about to march for justice!
Many stigmatized groups that took up the cause of social justice had to first fight the stereotypes that degraded them – stereotypes that, among some members, had even become internalized. Women realized, and then insisted, that they were not shrinking violets, gay men and lesbians rejected the diagnostic label that professionals had tried to impose, and African Americans showed how smart they really were. Marching in the streets is the province of people who cannot be persuaded that they are too weak or sick or stupid to do so.
There are many stereotypes of people who are single. Most fit under the obnoxious assumption that if you are single, there must be something wrong somewhere. Maybe you have “issues” or you are “damaged goods.” Other people think they know all about you, just from learning that you are not married – they are sure you are miserable and lonely and your life is tragic. One of the first and most fundamental tasks of those who want fair treatment of singles is consciousness-raising. Singles themselves – and everyone else – need to recognize that it is wholly inappropriate for anyone to be deemed inadequate in any way simply because they are single.
When we have truly succeeded, the tables will be turned: It will be the people who make singlist remarks who will feel humiliated, and not the people they are targeting with their prejudices. That’s what happens today to public figures (and often to ordinary people as well) when they make racist or sexist or homophobic remarks – they are called to account for their biases and they feel obligated to express remorse. It is a mark of the success of the various civil rights movements that appearing prejudiced is now considered shameful.
There is a comment I hear all too often from other people who learn about my interest in singlism. They say something like, “I’m single and I’ve never experienced discrimination.” Statements like that are a testament to the need for further education and consciousness-raising. It is not possible to be unmarried and treated fairly in the United States. Discrimination is written right into federal and state laws. Single people have fewer avenues of access than married people do to health insurance, Social Security benefits, several kinds of tax relief, and many other rights and entitlements. When last counted, marital status figured into the assignment of 1,138 federal benefits and protections. Unfair treatment has also been documented in the workplace, the marketplace, the military, in access to housing, and in everyday life. (The relevant research is described in Chapter 12 of Singled Out.)
To become part of a movement, singles would need to experience a shared identity. How can that happen when single people can be divorced or widowed or ever-single, when they can be rich or poor or somewhere in between, when they differ in race and ethnicity and gender and age and sexual orientation and just about every other relevant characteristic you can think of? That diversity is a real issue. Still, consider the wide range of people who are women or African American or gay. The many varieties of people within those groups presented challenges, but did not stop any of the movements from making their marks.
Another potential impediment to singles activism is that the practice of singlism does not rise to the level of viciousness that has characterized other forms of discrimination. So far as I know, no one has ever been dragged to their death behind the back of a pick-up truck simply because they were single. Nor have there ever been separate drinking fountains for married and single people.
Such differences are important, and the grievances of singles should not be overstated. Yet singles should not be hesitant to ask for fair treatment in such fundamental arenas as access to quality health care and equal compensation and treatment on the job. I don’t think we should be dissuaded from speaking out about the smaller stuff, either. We need to tell our stories, and not be silenced by singlism.
Perhaps the most unique aspect of single status, in comparison to race or gender or sexual orientation, is that it is perceived as much more fluid. You can be single today and married tomorrow or ten years from tomorrow. How can singles be expected to identify with a status that might be fleeting?
Fortunately, the quest for justice is not limited to the stigmatized. Civil rights marches, for example, have always included whites as well as blacks.
Another point is important, too: Americans now spend more years of their adult lives single than married. Of those people who are currently married, most will become single again, either by divorce or the death of their spouse. As Nicky Grist aptly put it, living outside of marriage is relevant to “all of us most of the time and some of us all of the time.” Let’s advocate for fairness for all of us, over the entire course of our adult lives.
Protest rallies are one of the most visible statements of advocacy, but there are many smaller and less public ways to advance a cause. What are some of the things we can do to promote fairness for people who are single, and how shall we go about doing them? I hope to address those questions in future posts to my blogs, and I hope others will do so as well.
[Thanks to AtMP for the opportunity to write this guest post. Thanks also to Nicky Grist, Rachel Buddeberg, Kay Trimberger, and Wendy Braitman for the terrific suggestions they sent when I asked them for their ideas about this singles activism. I hope to incorporate more of their insights as I continue the theme. Thanks, too, to Keysha Whitaker and Terry Hernon MacDonald for all their work in organizing the blog crawl. I hope it has been a happy Singes Week for all!]
The blog crawl for Unmarried and Single Americans Week continues!
Monday’s post was about dating.
Tueday’s post envisioned a world without singlism.
Today there’s a send up of single bashers.
Well it’s about time! The Unmarried Blog has finally started a blogroll (at right). The handful of blogs listed today are those that I have personally followed for quite a while. Please suggest others via comments.
You’ll also notice a list of editors. We’ll soon be introducing several new editors who have joined our team in order to bring you more and better posts about alternatives to marriage. And, we’ll soon post guidelines for writing guest posts.
Many thanks to Jim (and to Bitsy, and Dennis, who both tried earlier) for getting me to finally read Lily Kahng’s paper on “eliminating marriage as a basis for preferential treatment under the tax law.” What a pleasant surprise to discover that she references AtMP’s advocacy on income taxes, as well as Jim’s extensive research and analysis (marriagePenalty.xls, best accessed here). Of course, we agree completely with Kahng’s conclusion: “The joint return is unsupportable and should be abolished.”
Quoting (with permission) Jim’s post to AtMP-Talk, our email listserv:
all my work, and all AtMP’s work for that matter, compares two unmarried people vs. a married couple, i.e. ALWAYS TWO people compared to TWO people. I believe comparing the tax burden of one person to that of two people is an apple vs. oranges comparison. But I do strongly agree with her that the plight of the uncoupled single (someone who doesn’t have someone else to collaborate with on splitting credits and deductions and even income to minimize taxes) is being left out of practically all studies and discussion of the marriage bonus/penalty issue.
For those who hate numbers and taxes, Kahng’s paper is about much more than that – she surveys attitudes to singles, all kinds of advocacy and alternatives to married groups, discrimination (other than taxes), and other sociology of singles topics. So you can skip over the tax stuff if you want and enjoy the sociology stuff.
For example, here are Kahng’s closing words:
Moving beyond the tax system, recognizing the value of singleness can help us interrogate and critique the role of government and citizens in promoting and supporting marriage. For example, the same-sex marriage debate might be informed by considerations of whether the legal, economic, and social privileges of marriage ought to be expanded further, or rather eliminated entirely. Similarly, we might further question the role of the government in promoting marriage as a solution to poverty, especially for African American women. Instead, marriage could come to be viewed as one among many alternatives. (link added)