Mainstream media has suddenly started to portray unmarried people as “in vogue” even though we still face single discrimination at work, in social circles and from powerful institutions.
Over the last couple of months, the mainstream media has been full of stories about the emergence of a new singular nation — people who are deferring marriage until they are older and wiser, or even foregoing it all together. A new book, Going Solo by sociologist Eric Klinenberg, has received a lot of buzz; leading dating website Match.com released the results of its survey that shows we’re not very interested in marriage these days; and hay was made over the Pew Research Center’s report that single people are now half of the U.S. population. From the lofty view of the media, one would think that it’s become chic to live life as a sole proprietor; that single, to borrow some fashion parlance, is the new black.
Yet despite the media hubbub about how desirable it’s become to be single, the cultural and institutional bias against singles remains staunchly in place. Not a day goes by that I don’t have a conversation with someone who is single, especially single women, where the talk doesn’t eventually take an apologetic stance because they’re not married. Any psychologist, spiritual counselor or even a wise friend will tell you it’s difficult to be your best self when you feel inferior simply because of your relationship status.
Then there’s the institutional bias against singles. We pay more for car insurance than those who are married. A single person age 40 with a clean driving record will pay more for their car insurance than a 25 year old who is married. The unfairness carries over into health insurance as well. Single people often have less access to health insurance than married people, who can add their spouse for free or a few additional dollars
There’s more. Studies have shown that single men make less money than married men for the same work and single workers are often passed over for promotions that are given to their married and therefore more “mature” and “stable” co-workers. Yet when someone needs to work overtime or on a holiday, it’s the single people who are asked; after all, we don’t have a life outside of our jobs — or so the thinking goes.
There’s the government bias too: a tax and social security system that favors those who are married, not to mention politicians, political campaigns and social initiatives that focus on attracting the support of those who are married while ignoring nearly half of the voting population — the single half.
While I’m delighted to see all the positive press about the emergence of singles into mainstream society, the reality of the discrimination we face remains, along with our own negative attitudes about ourselves. No matter how many singles-friendly books, articles and surveys there are, no matter how much I rant about it here in Singular magazine, the change we need to see in our society and in our laws will not happen unless we, as a singular constituency, make a conscious decision to stand together — proudly, confidently — and demand fair treatment.
It starts with you — defending yourself and your rights — and it ends with us, finally receiving the just treatment we deserve.
Are you willing to become a part of the singular nation?
Copyright © Kim Calvert/2012 Singular Communications, LLC.
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For more information about discrimination against singles, please read this book by social psychologist Bella DePaulo: Singled Out: How Singles Are Stereotyped, Stigmatized and Ignored, and Still Live Happily Ever After.