Single is Single is Single
Instead of trying to avoid calling ourselves single, what if we embraced it and worked together to achieve the same rights enjoyed by those who are married?
Image credit: pressmaster / 123RF Stock Photo
The other day I was honored by a request from singles expert Bella DePaulo to participate in an interview she is conducting with people she considers to be change agents working to transform the negative perceptions and stereotypes that exist about single people.
DePaulo, a social psychologist with a Ph.D., is considered the leading expert on the topic of living single, with two books to her credit (Singled Out: How Singles Are Stereotyped, Stigmatized, and Ignored, and Still Live Happily Ever After and Singlism: What It Is, Why It Matters, and How to Stop It) that have led to my own epiphany about how single people are discriminated against — by our families, our communities, our employers and our government.
One of the questions DePaulo asks is whether there is a specific thing I would like to see happen — one particular goal or issue that is especially important to me — in regard to creating social change.
It only took a few minutes to realize my answer: for unmarried people to see themselves as a unified group, to identify as single whether or not they are dating, “in a relationship,” divorced, widowed, never married or “not married yet” – along with all the other labels unmarried people find to describe their status in order to avoid the term “single.”
This kind of factionalism among people who are not married makes it difficult, if not downright impossible, for single people to form a coalition to affect positive change.
As long as the general consensus is that being single means 1) you’re looking for a date or 2) there’s something so wrong with you that you can’t find a date, how can we possibly be recognized for who we are — a diverse group of people who make up half of the U.S. population, half of the work force and half of the voters in the country, yet do not have access to what DePaulo and bloggers Christina and Lisa of Onely identify as over 1,000 perks and privileges granted to those who are married? And that’s not even including the social pressures we face in a society that sees being married as the hallmark of successful adulthood.
Even singles rights activists often disagree about what being single means. Is it living alone? Is it not being in a romantic relationship? Does it mean being anti-marriage?
And please, let’s not start with how there are far bigger social injustices than discrimination against those who are unmarried. When you have such a significant segment of the population being constantly reminded (see in Hollywood romantic comedies lately?) that there’s something wrong with them, something about them that needs to be fixed just because they don’t have a spouse, how can those people ever rise to their full potential in our society? What kind of human capital is forever lost?
I propose we get into agreement with the definition used by the government, the workplace, car insurance companies and our mothers: if you’re not married, you’re single. It’s that simple. Let’s stop with all the micro definitions that divide our singular house upon itself so we can finally stand up for who we are: people who are not given access to equal rights, equal protection and freedom from social discrimination just because of our marital status.
Imagine where we would be today if racial minorities, gays and women had not stood together within their own very diverse groups to demand justice. Less than 100 years ago, women in the United States were not permitted to vote in national elections. With the exception of the suffragettes, how many women do you think just accepted their lack of civil rights as normal, even proper and correct? How many single people today are just accepting their “less than” status as normal?
I can remember as a kid taking a road trip to Mississippi with my aunt and seeing signs on restaurant doors that said “Whites Only” — something that would be unthinkable today. Yet in a figurative sense, “Married Only” is on the door to social acceptance, and one of the big reasons it remains there is because single people refuse to self-identify as single and to work together to bring about positive social change for the benefit of all single people.
If we who are legally single could expand our thinking, drop our own negative ideas about what being single means and stand together — as single people — and refuse to continue to accept a societal norm where “Married Only” signs are posted on the doors to a better job, affordable health and car insurance, full acceptance in our churches, equal benefits from the Social Security Administration and the IRS — as well as social acceptance in our families and our communities — maybe we would finally be willing to say “I’m single” with the same neutrally charged emotion, maybe even with the same sense of pride, as those who say, “I’m married.”
Copyright © Kim Calvert/2012 Singular Communications, LLC.
Powered by Facebook Comments