EVERYDAY FEMINISM

Sad Spinsters And Crazy Cat Ladies: Why Society Shames Single Women And Why We Should Celebrate The Single Life Instead

Credit: sheknows

Credit: sheknows

 

If you type “singles” into Google, the first page of your search will yield the following:

  • The Wikipedia definition of a “music single”
  • The IMDB page for the 1992 Cameron Crowe movie, “Singles”
  • And, nineteen links to dating sites

If you click on the first link, entitled “Top 10 Singles Sites 2013” you will be greeted by:

  • A woman with two enormous, exposed breasts and half a face, apparently named “Summer” (or “Double Trouble” – it’s hard to tell from the caption)
  • And ten links to dating sites

If you quickly exit out of this pop up (because Summer scares you, as do her half-faced friends), and instead type “singles” into the freedictionary.com, you will find:

  • “not accompanied by another or others”
  • “solitary”
  • “separate from others”
  • “lacking a partner”
  • “of or relating to celibacy”
  • And (you guessed it!) fourteen links to dating sites

If you search for images of a “single woman meme” (because at this point, you can’t help yourself), you will find the following pieces of high internet art:

Such as this: over-68000-single-women-starve-to-death-every-year-you-probably-wont-care-meme-psa_thumb

 

And this: The-Ultimate-Pillow-For-Single-Ladies-Funny-Cute-Picture

 

Aaaaand, this!

ring-meme-generator-single-women-over-the-age-of-30-0e7732

At this point, you stop, because, voila! You don’t need to explore any further! The answer is clear!

Being single and a woman is sad, lonely, unfulfilling, and should be composed entirely by desperate efforts to NOT be single anymore.

Because being single is, evidently, horrible.

(Quick! Find a man! Find a man or it’s spinsterhood for you!)

Cultural message: Received.

Why Do We Hate On Single Women So?

We are products of a lifetime of gendered social messages that tell us that every woman needs a man – that to not have one, even for a moment, is a failure at womanhood.

And even though we (hopefully) don’t agree with this, we regularly reinforce this idea as we face single women and singledom in our daily lives.

We tell ourselves when we are out of a relationship that we are lonely when we are, in fact, surrounded by people who love us.

We shove our straight girlfriend at every semi-attractive guy at the bar when she’s been out of a relationship for more than a few weeks because we want her to “get back in the game.”

We routinely ask every unmarried friend, coworker, and family member that we haven’t seen in five minutes, “Are you seeing anyone?” as though it is a perfectly appropriate gauge of how they are doing.

We talk to our kids about their future spouses and weddings, assuming they will, of course, be heterosexual and get married.

We reproduce notions of the ticking biological clock, the unfulfilling career path, the predatory divorcee, and the crazy cat lady.

We shame each other. We shame ourselves.

And we have done so for centuries.

A Ridiculously Brief Feminist Analysis On Hating Single Women

Our culture has deep roots in the idea of coupling.

The social requirement for every person to ultimately enter into a heterosexual, monogamous, legally-bound partnership has been a norm throughout our nation’s history.

This norm has been closely aligned with the idea of women as property, the control of women’s sexuality, and a gendered division of labor – ideas that have maintained sexist religious, political, and economic systems.

Traditionally, a woman’s entire livelihood was dependent on the man she married. This was true whether she was in a higher class and not allowed to work or in a lower class and could not make enough to support herself in the few low-paying jobs available to her.

Even in recent history, our capitalist system has been facilitated almost entirely by married duos consisting of a woman who stays at home and a man who works. In such a system, a woman is entirely financially dependent upon a man, her husband.

Unequal marriages, and the gendered partnering process that aims to end there, are required to maintain the patriarchal order.

Single women have no place in this order. (In fact, a fulfilled, successful, happy single woman is a downright threat to it!)

So, for thousands of years, we believed these ideas about single women being lost, alone, unhappy, sad, and even dumb and ugly.

And as the above memes so poignantly demonstrate, we still do!

What’s Wrong With This Picture?

Aside from all the overt sexism, the idea that being single sucks is flat out WRONG.

If you’ve never enjoyed being single, I’m sorry, I think you may be doing it wrong (and maybe bought into some of the patriarchal myths about being single).

Because being single is AWESOME!

And really important.

And very healthy.

It is a political statement, a refuge from sexism, and an opportunity to show that women can be self-sufficient (Boston marriages, anyone?)

But it’s so much more than that.

It’s also psychologically, emotionally, physically, and mentally just plain good for you.

A Few Ways That Being Single Is Good For You

1. You Are More Likely To Maintain Close Friendships

When you don’t have your “one person”, sometimes you find out that you have…a LOT of people.

Your friends!

And without a partner relationship taking up so much of your time and energy, you can really dedicate yourself to nurturing these friendships instead.

Good, long-term friends provide you with companionship, emotional support, and genuine love without strings attached.

They relish their dates with you but don’t expect to see you all the time.

They enjoy getting closer to you but don’t worry about where the relationship is “going.”

They give generously but never expect to be all things for you.

They even decrease stress and help you live longer.

And, research shows you’re much more likely to stay socially connected when you’re single and less likely to die alone.

2. You Can Be As Spontaneous As You Want

Want to take a few weeks off of work and travel South America?

Do it.

Want to turn your night at a friend’s house into a full weekend?

Alright.

Want to move to a different city next month for a job opportunity?

Enjoy.

Want to shave your head?

Happening!

Whether it’s embarking on an adventure, taking a new career step, or even just staying home all weekend with a good book and your phone turned off, you won’t hurt anyone by doing so and you won’t owe anyone an explanation.

3. You Have More Time

Think of all the time you spend with a partner when you’re in a relationship.

Now, tack it back onto your schedule.

Ta da!

4. You Get To Sleep Alone

Snoring, blanket hogging, restlessness, extended limbs, incompatible schedules……sharing a bed with another person is not always the sweet, eight-hour love cuddle we would like it to be.

In reality, sleeping with someone else can also mean less actual sleep.

Partners who sleep together have 50% more sleep disturbance than those who sleep alone, which has direct negative consequences for physical, emotional, and mental health.

When you’re single, you own your bed, your room, your schedule, and your time.

If you want someone in your bed, you can invite them. If you want to spend the night alone, you don’t have to have an awkward conversation about needing space.

You just take it!

5. You Can Date

Let’s be honest. Dating makes life interesting.

And when you’re not seeing one person, you’re free to have a multitude of encounters of your choosing and spice up your life in whatever way best suits you.

Flirt! Dance! Touch! Make friends! Make lovers! Enjoy a million first kisses!

Have a sexy, butterfly-filled, dinner date. Meet someone interesting over coffee. Have an awkward rendezvous that you will immediately want to forget, but end up laughing about for years.

Or don’t. I mean, you’re in charge. But it’s nice to know you can if you want to.

6. You Can Engage In Self-Exploration

What is important to you? What makes you happy? What do you really enjoy doing? Where do you really want to be?

It’s hard to answer these questions with absolute certainty when you’re trying to be a companion to another complicated human being, when your life is intertwined with another life.

You negotiate a lot when you commit to another person, in order to consider both people’s needs and wants. But when you’re single, it is really all about you.

Learn how to please yourself, how to soothe yourself, how to love yourself, all by yourself.

Do something all alone and don’t tell anyone about it.

Find your bliss, find your passion, find your SELF. None of these things exist in another person.

This is true if you’re single for a short period or as a deliberate life choice.

Is It Really Possible To Live a Fulfilled, Single Life?

Yes, yes, and YES!

History is brimming with smart, independent women who never wore a ring or identified themselves as being a partner to someone else.

Women who loved and laughed often and accomplished great things, women like Susan B. Anthony and Coco Chanel.

These are women who valued independence, agency, and freedom, and refused to give these up to fit some proper prescription of femininity that required them to “settle down.”

Think of the psychological implications of the message that you cannot live a fulfilled life on your own, by your own means, and on your own terms – that you have to seek out another person to be whole.

Eaww.

Don’t drink the Haterade, ladies.

(It tastes like oppression and it’s way past its expiration date)

This idea that this one person has to be our sex partner, financial partner, co-parent, and primary emotional support, while we do all of this for them, is simply not for everybody.

Today, women in soaring record numbers are staying single longer and for good reason.

Being Single Is a Viable Life Choice

The feminist movement has made great strides in changing the way people think about partnering by creating space for discussion around healthy relationships, utilizing gender-education to inspire more egalitarian partnerships, and fighting for marriage equality.

Because of this, many women today are engaged in loving and gratifying partnerships and this is a beautiful thing!

However, the single option is often left out of the discussion.

And yet, in a time of intense political discourse about marriage and family, single people very much need to be understood and defended.

Single women are routinely ostracized at work, stigmatized within their families, and stereotyped by the larger community.

I’m sure it’s happening right now – to me.

I’m sure someone out there will read this article and imagine that I am writing in the defensive, at home on a Saturday night, curled up on my couch in a Hello Kitty onesie, eating a Lean Cuisine, and watching reruns of The Bachelor while I sob quietly under a blanket of cats, one hand impulsively Facebook stalking all my exes and married people everywhere, ready to pounce on the next penis-holding person I see, hoping that he will love me.

Someone else will no doubt say that I am selfish and that feminism is ruining marriage and society at large and that “women just aren’t women anymore,” (accompanied by a tiny violin).

Another person will dismiss me as immature and misguided, imagining that I spend my days flitting about my city in high heels I can’t afford, engaging in a continuous string of superficial pursuits, and ending most nights drunk in a stranger’s bed – that one day I will grow up, realize how meaningless my life is, and generally come to my senses.

And because trolls love Everyday Feminism (aw, thanks, trolls!), these retorts will likely include cliché misogynist words like “man-hater,” “ice queen,” “slut,” “manster,” or “hag.”

They will say these things even though they have never met me.

They will say these things even though I haven’t even said that I am single!

These hateful ideas are out there and they are powerful tools of social control.

But we get to choose what we believe, and we are the ones who are in control of the courses of our lives.

If you want to be single for life, you can.

If you want to be single until you meet someone wonderful, you can.

If you don’t want to be single anymore, you can seek out a relationship without hating, shaming, or dismissing the single life you have now.

It’s that simple.

And that hard.

But if we believe that there are possibilities for happiness outside of traditional gender norms, and we don’t think that people should be ridiculed for stepping outside of patriarchal limits, and we don’t think women need another reason to be shamed, then we must accept the challenge.

To each her own happiness.

Katy Kreitler is a Contributing Writer for Everyday Feminism as well as a counselor and youth advocate. She can be found wandering the streets of San Francisco with a purse full of used fiction, a pair of emergency yoga pants, and half a burrito.

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