Wednesday, October 28, 2009

Singularity….Poor, Poor, Pitiful Me?

Is it just me, or do most people believe it sucks to be single if you are a woman? Especially women.

I have been thinking about this a lot lately. Is being single and childfree like having an infectious disease which must be eradicated? Kind of like small pox.

Does single/childfree = disease; and therefore cure = marriage?

First Class

In my experience, women who are married with children are heralded as ‘real’ women. It is assumed all women everywhere want two things: to be married and to have children. The women who succeed in this ‘biological objective’ of attaining marriage and subsequently produce offspring within the marriage, despite the motives for either the marriage or having children, are considered ‘winners’.

Reasons for marriage vary from person to person and couple to couple and range from love and unplanned pregnancy to fear of being alone, the inability to live independently, or the mistaken belief that marriage will magically solve existing relationship problems. Likewise, the reason for having children range from the child being a living breathing expression of the deep love and commitment between two people and/or religious reasons to immaturity, selfishness, and the mistaken belief that having a child will magically solve existing problems in the marriage.

Whatever the reasons for the marriage, society enforces the belief that women who marry enjoy first class status in the female hierarchy.

Second Class

Women who are married without children or have children without marriage, are considered a ‘real’ woman though, clearly, you have issues. Women, who are married and do not have or want children, are considered selfish, myopic, and vain. Women who have children out of wedlock are promiscuous, immoral, etc. The various and sundry reasons for marriage and/or childbearing apply here also. On top of which are the value judgments regarding women who are married without children or have had children outside of marriage.

Still, such women demonstrate some level of acceptance of societal dictates and fall into the second tier of the female hierarchy.

You Are Not a 'Real' Woman

I have encountered the following belief:

If you are not married, you are less of a woman. If your choice is to be childfree, then something is wrong with you. What ‘real’ woman doesn’t want to have children?


A Thought Experiment:
Suppose the vast majority of women on the planet, let’s say 90 percent, wish to be married (this presupposes a population with 100 percent heterosexuality), that leaves 10 percent of women worldwide who do not wish to be married. Consequently, it cannot be asserted all women wish to be married. The majority yes, but a significant minority does not. Of the 90 percent of women around the world who desire marriage, is it reasonable to believe all of those women will marry? No.

If we imagine half the population of the world is male then we can expect 10 percent of the males will not wish to marry. We know a significant number of the 90 percent of men who wish to marry; let’s be conservative and say an additional 6 percent of the total population of men; will be unavailable for marriage due to mental/psychological issues, incarceration, drug abuse, etc. This means 16 percent of the female population will not marry.
End Experiment

My point in the above is: should a single/childfree woman be harangued and marginalized and stigmatized and demeaned for her choice? Should a woman who desires marriage but is not yet married for any number of reasons be relegated to third class status? Is being single and childfree, whether by choice or circumstance, a problem to be solved?

I am no longer comfortable with the way singlehood (is that a word?) is framed. There isn’t anything wrong with a person deciding, all things being equal, to pursue life without partnering.

‘You must be doing something wrong’, is a common perception. A common misperception and a common negative frame placed on single people. I cannot wait to see what the next US Census reveals about the state of singlehood in America.

Hey, yeah, CNN could do a special report on being single, just like they did Black in America…… Pauses…. Ponders….

Oh. Yeah. Never mind.


No comments: