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From Proposal to Privilege: The Unearned Rights of Married People February 14, 2015

Posted by Onely in As If!, Everyday Happenings, Food for Thought, STFU.
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4 comments

Copious Readers: Four of us singles’ advocacy writers banded together to write about the scourge of. . . Marriage Privilege! Bella and Rachel recently published this article on the subject in TruthOut, and you can find Onely’s take below. We hope you’ll check both them out,  as well as a co-authored list version cross-posted by Rachel and Bella on their blogs. Below, skip to the More tab to read specific examples of marital privilege.

Declaration of IndependenceMillions of unmarried people in the U.S. and around the world are targets of discrimination, yet hardly anyone has noticed. It’s time for that to change.

Successful social movements upend fundamental worldviews so that what originally seemed unthinkable to a privileged majority comes to feel ordinary to almost everyone. Although many marginalized groups have still not achieved true equality – as the recent events in Ferguson highlighted for the world – many have still made considerable progress in recent history: African-Americans became property owners, businesspeople, and U.S. President. American women got the vote, and the earnings gap, which shamefully still exists, isn’t as great as it used to be. Gays and lesbians garnered more positive portrayals in popular culture and gained the right to marry in some U.S. states and other countries.

But during the transition from odd to obvious, there’s always push-back. People cling to their worldviews, beliefs that make them feel secure and rooted and right. A challenge to those views, even a gently-worded one, is scary.

Odd and scary is the idea that marriage provides invisible and unearned legal, political, and economic privileges to its participants, at the expense of unmarried people. Obviously this discrimination is not as nefarious as, for example, racism has been. But it does exist. It’s even codified: over 1,000 U.S. federal laws favor married people. This factoid becomes even stranger when you consider that today about half the adult population of the U.S. is unmarried (whether due to desire, divorce, death, discriminatory laws, or other life circumstances).

If you find yourself rolling your eyes at the above, saying to yourself that it’s not that big a deal, consider this: For a very long time, men went about their lives confident in the assumption that their ordinary experiences were just that – ordinary. Men were overwhelmingly represented on TV and in newspapers. Men were widely favored in the workplace. Men did not need to realize that women had equally valid perspectives and strengths, which were largely under-represented in dominant discourse. They were overwhelmingly represented on TV and in newspapers. They were widely favored in the workplace. They did not need to realize that women, African-Americans, and other groups had equally valid, but underrepresented, perspectives and strengths. In 1988, Peggy McIntosh, a Wellesley women’s studies scholar, took the lessons she had been teaching about male privilege and turned them on herself, as a white person. Her race, she realized, made her privileged, too.

Decades later we’ve progressed to discussions about male privilege and white privilege, and these conversations have raised our consciousness about all sorts of other unearned privileges, such as those conditional on age, social class, and sexual orientation. Yet marital privilege – a pervasive, powerful package of unearned benefits – remains largely unchallenged and rarely recognized. It is almost completely invisible to the populace at large, even across other categories that are now very visible, such as race and social class.

Yes, people know that if they marry, they get stuff, such as blenders and the option not to testify against their spouse (the narrower meaning of marital privilege). But these are seen as rights, not as privileges that disenfranchise other social groups (such as single people).

Many people are familiar with the socio-cultural aspects of what we call “marital privilege.” Perhaps the best-known example is the widespread assumption that single people will “die alone,” with no one at their death beds, croaking the words “if only I had married” to the spiderwebs on the ceiling. As single people ourselves, we have heard this warning from otherwise intelligent individuals, people who seem to forget that the world is awash with chaos like car accidents, cancers, and barracudas that could obliterate their spouse and leave the remaining partner to “die alone” (and be eaten by their pets).

If you’re part of the married half of society, you may never have questioned the social and economic benefits you automatically receive just because you tied the knot. That’s okay, because marital privilege is a stealth privilege: couples and singles alike are simply not taught to recognize it. McIntosh explained that whites are not taught to recognize their white privilege. We believe couples are especially unlikely to notice marital privilege, because the thing about privilege is that the people who have it can afford not to see it.

That’s why we’ve provided some ways to recognize if you are experiencing, or have experienced, marital (or couple) privilege in the U.S.:

MORE:

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Ashes to Ashes, Spouse to Spouse January 17, 2015

Posted by Onely in As If!, Food for Thought, God-Idiot or Asshole?, single and happy.
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4 comments

Ashes_Stock_6_by_birdsistersstockThis is a true story, and a sad story. And it’s an amatonormative story.  (Amatonormative means privileging certain love relationships over others.)

Once upon a time, my mother’s sister, my Aunt S, died at sixty of a heart attack while sitting at the kitchen table with my Uncle K. Although Aunt S had been married to Uncle K for only (if you can define “only”) about five years, Uncle K was well-liked by our extended family because he was kind, funny, intelligent, and really loved Aunt S. We all grieved the loss of Aunt S, but Uncle K was especially torn up of course.

We have a tradition in our family that when one of us dies, we sprinkle their ashes in a certain lake, which like my relatives shall remain anonymous. One afternoon we all gathered at our family property at the lake. Uncle K had brought Aunt S’s ashes in a brown wooden box. The traditional dumping site was a spot several hundred yards from the shore, where the trunk of a large tree lay in the sand.

We had a motorboat, a rowboat, and three pedal kayaks.

We had this many people: Uncle K. Uncle K’s two sons from a previous marriage. Aunt S’s three daughters from a previous marriage. And Aunt S’s siblings: Mitch, Jake, Blake, and my mom.

We were milling around when someone noticed that Uncle K and the kids were missing. Without so much as a how-dee-doo, they had climbed into the motorboat, puttered out to the tree, and spread the ashes with great ceremony and words of remembrance–or so they told us later, because none of the rest of us had been out there to see it.

I was shocked that Uncle K didn’t at least offer to squeeze one or two of Aunt S’s siblings into the boat–or at a minimum, arrange a caravan of slow motorboat and pedal kayaks out to the tree, so that my mom and her brothers could also spread their sister’s ashes.

None of the siblings felt they had the right to protest. After all, Uncle K was Aunt S’s spouse, and spouses trumped siblings, right?

Wrong.

But I had to respect my mom and Mitch and Jake and Blake for maintaining their silence and letting the grieving Uncle K have his moment of selfish amatonormativity. That emotional afternoon was probably not the right time to pick a fight. Instead, Aunt S’s siblings honored her in their thoughts and by looking at the lake, instead of partaking in the physical ritual itself.

But if my sister had died (God forbid) and her husband had co-opted the boat and gone out to sprinkle her ashes without me, I would have thrown a profanity-filled fit right there on the beach, then tried to swim after the boat, then choked on water because I’d still be screaming about what an amatonormative a-hole he was. He would have had to abort his ashing ceremony to turn the boat around and rescue me, and once on board I would have tried to sprinkle the rest of ashes, but my hands would be wet so the ashes would stick to my fingers instead of drifting off onto the wind.

Copious Readers, how would you react in a similar situation? Respectful albeit slightly bitter silence, or temper tantrum?

–Christina

Photo Credit: Bird Sisters Stock

Single and Sick: Nika Beamon Takes It On December 12, 2013

Posted by Onely in As If!, Food for Thought, Marital Status Discrimination.
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1 comment so far

Copious Readers,

We at Onely are trying to write more about the issues of being single and sick (health insurance inequalities being one of the main bullsh!t factors creating a more difficult situation for singles with chronic illnesses).

So we were thrilled to see that Bella dePaulo, longtime singles advocate and social scientist, posted a guest article by Nika Beamon about dating and living with a chronic immune disorder.

Read it here.

We also tweeted it, so we request you retweet so that we can get the dialog going!

–CC

 

Thank You For Your Service–Unless You’re Single October 23, 2013

Posted by Onely in As If!.
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3 comments

6777258036_e1d2502fa6_bMy sister, who is a nurse in the Naval Reserves, was researching the logistics of her potential deployment, like the responsible, dedicated officer she is. Then while reading through the documentation, she discovered that her service is worth $250 less per month than a married person’s service.

Here’s the proof (I’m not sure what document it’s from, but somehow the “g.” is enough):

g. Family Separation Allowance (FSA). FSA is paid when a Service Member is involuntarily separated from his/her dependents or active duty spouse for more than 30 days. It is payable at $250.00 per month, or $8.33 per day. Service Members currently drawing FSA will continue to do so upon deployment. Service Members who reside with their Command Sponsored or Non Command Sponsored Family members will receive FSA the day they depart for the OIF Theater.

I’ll let her interpret this governmentese for you in her own words:

How very annoying.  I am missing out on $250/month, because I don’t have a “family”.  POOP!!! [Translation: Shit!!!] Bee [TN: her cat] is family!  And of course, I have you and M&D!!! [TN: our parents!!!]  And all of my friends!  How very irritating.

–Christina

Photo credit: Flickr

Shared History: What’s it Worth? Who With? October 8, 2013

Posted by Onely in As If!, Food for Thought.
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DSCN2222Copious Readers, is it worth it to hang on to a “meh” or “blech” relationship (romantic, platonic, or hairstylist) because–and only because–you’ve been together a long time and shared many experiences? Let me tell you two parables. Then consider who you share history or histories with, and what they mean to you, and whether you should continue, end, or try to reinvigorate those relationships.

(1) My friend Beulah was peacefully shopping in Target in Boulder, Colorado when she rounded the corner of the Hair Notions aisle and ran smack into. . . AAAHHHHHHHH! Her best friend’s mother!

Now, many of you Copious Readers may wonder, what is so inherently frightening about one’s best friend’s mother? (Mother-in-law jokes aside.) Well, Beulah of course loves her best friend, Shawna, but Beulah has repeatedly told me, “You couldn’t pay me enough to be part of that family.” I never really understood why, until she told me this story.

Shawna’s mother, Monique, is a wiry woman with an intense face where her cheekbones make arrowheads up to her huge eyes. Right now she stared down Beulah waiting, just waiting, for a chance to ask her The Question. And as Beulah held her breath, there it came:

So, are you seeing anyone?

Beulah said, “No, I’m sort taking it easy on the dating scene, enjoying being by myself for a while, you know.”

Monique said, “Oh, no, you can’t think like that.”

“Huh?” said Beulah, with her face if not her voice. Monique continued.

Don’t you want to find someone you can have a shared history with?

Jim (Monique’s husband) and Monique had travelled the world with USAID–they did indeed have a long shared history. (Subsequently Beulah and Shawna had a shared history, cultivated when they met in Nepal. But Monique wasn’t thinking of that.) She told Beulah, “And all the time we (her family) are hoping for you’ll find someone,that you’ll find someone you can have a shared history with. Like me and Jim.”

After that, Beulah went back to the frozen foods section to pick up a pint of Ben&Jerry’s-Double-Fudge-Super-Rum-Bourbon-Xtacy. Can you blame her? On the phone later she told me, “Monique and Jim snip at each other all the time. The tension in that house is like rubber bands all over the couches, curtains, everything. I’d rather not have a “shared history” than have a history like that.”

Unfortunately, not everyone thinks things through like Beulah. Which leads us in to Parable 2:

(2) My friend Nathan started seeing Tracy when they were in their early twenties. They were together, then apart, then together, then married. After four or five years together (and apart, and together, and married), things grew sour. Nathan wanted to leave. Tracy threatened to kill herself if he did. She went to therapy. Things got better, and then worse, and then better.

Nathan and I have been friends since childhood and he confided much of this to me, perhaps because he, like I, had a mobile childhood he felt he could tell me that Tracy was the one person he’d known for longer than three or four years, and so it was important for him to have that relationship. I didn’t feel it was my place to say that this was really stupid. So I didn’t.

But it was. They had children (twins), separated for two years, but now live together in a semi-amicable-semi-ignoring-each-other way for the sake of the kids.

Speaking of which, I should call him. Maybe discuss our shared history. Of playing with dead insects. Catching crayfish. Looking for Easter eggs. Riding bikes downhill with no helmets. Me driving a motorboat he made himself. Playing pingpong.

I myself prefer to diversify my histories amongst many different relationships. Some shared pasts will be longer or shorter than others. Some will be treasurable and others–maybe even the longest ones–will require snipping of the rubber bands.  They may fly back and sting you, but you’ll always have that shared history even if you end it, and as we all know, every ending opens space for a beginning.

Just saying.

–CC

Photo credit: ChristinaDC

Single Middle-Aged Women Are Makin’ Stuff Up! June 5, 2013

Posted by Onely in As If!, Look What Google Barfed Up.
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9 comments

421px-Roman_-_Head_of_a_Woman_-_Walters_23143_-_BackI know I promised in my previous post to follow it up with The True Story of the World’s Bitterest Single Woman, but this news piece preempted it. Sorry. Next time.

Copious Readers, intermittently you may have heard me refer to the fact that I have a chronic illness. It is the terrible (if I may be so melodramatic) and controversial Lyme disease. I have been told numerous times that my pain is in my head. Which is why I was so upset about about this news article that our Copious Reader Beth O’Donnell flagged for me and Lisa. Have you ever been accused of making up symptoms, either on purpose or subconsciously?

This Science Blog post cites–practically sings about–one study in a series of studies by the University of Gothenburg. It followed 1,500 women since the late 1960’s. According to the article, the study “showed” that when middle-aged women are under stress, they manufacture pain in their heads (somatization). And single women apparently somaticized more, because they had the highest degrees of stress (they tied with smokers).

Problem: There was no word on how the study defined stress or determined that singles (and smokers) had more of it.

Problem: The study seems, according to the article, to have based itself on a notion that the researchers already had: that the women were somaticizing already, prior to being studied. The article describes the study thus:

 [It] focuses primarily on stress linked to psychosomatic symptoms.

Um. How did the researchers originally determine which symptoms (if any) were psychosomatic? Via some kind of Vulcan mind-meld? I hope so, because the researchers apparently used their belief that they could determine somatization as a baseline for their study of the effects of stress on somatization.

May Be Not As Problematic As It Appears: We at Onely hate what this article is saying both about sick women and sick single women, but we must acknowledge that all our information comes from the article itself. As you know if you read Dr. Bella DePaulo’s blog, many studies are flawed and don’t show what they claim to show. Even more often, the media misrepresents the results of a perfectly well-designed and valid study–which I think is what happened at Science Blog. So Because we have not read the original study ourselves, the only thing we can get foul-mouthed about is the writing in the actual article itself.

This (luckily anonymous) Science Blog author is a shitty science writer. He uses the word “showed”. I consider this word on a par with “proves”. And as any halfway-educated sciencey type person knows, you can never “prove” anything. You can only disprove. Studies can only “indicate that. . .” or “reveal that possibly. . .” or “possibly show. . .”

I have two Masters’ degrees in English/Writing, plus a Bachelor’s in Health Science. You can’t imagine how excited I am to have the opportunity to be a word snob across my educational spectrum! (more…)

At What Point Do We Become Bitter? June 4, 2013

Posted by Onely in As If!, Food for Thought, Marital Status Discrimination.
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12 comments

jess_walking_away_by_raiyel-d5i0jnsCopious Readers, we at Onely (Lisa and Christina) hate the stereotype of the Bitter Single Woman who has become older without finding a partner. We have fallen victim to this stereotype ourselves, most often when we have spoken too vehemently about marital status discrimination. Have you–male or female–experienced this?

We started this blog with a “Rah rah rah, gooooo singles!” attitude. And we continue to insist that the solo lifestyle (which often isn’t so solo after all!) is a valid one that needs to be more recognized in our culture and especially in our laws.  Single women, single-and-seeking women, and especially even older single-but-seeking women, are not necessarily bitter and sometimes they’re the very opposite.

(You’ll notice I say “women” and not “men”. Although “bitter” is more often applied to women, we would love to hear from men who have been called bitter for defending their unpartnered lifestyles.)

A very close friend of mine whom I shall call Renata said she was worried that if I stayed single, as I grew older I would become “bitter and alone”. Renata remains my close friend only because normally she is an otherwise sensible, giving person. I think her “bitter” comment happened just because I caught her off guard; she told a story and my reaction was not what she expected. Copious Readers, how would you have responded to her tale?

When the army shipped (a verb I always find sort of stupid and scary) Renata’s male friend to Japan, his civilian girlfriend got left behind. But wait! Her army love guy pined and pined for his girlfriend. So he went back on leave, proposed to her, and then they were married! Awww. And then they both got “shipped” (eewwww) to Japan together. ‘Cause they were married.

Renata smiled at the story. And I freaked out.

 THAT IS FUCKING BULLSHIT! THE ARMY IS USING OUR TAXPAYER DOLLARS TO BUY A GODDAMNED INTERNATIONAL PLANE TICKET FOR THIS WOMAN JUST BECAUSE SHE SIGNED SOME SHITTY LITTLE PIECE OF PAPER.

See, I had forgotten that Renata was not my co-blogger Lisa. If she had been Lisa, I could have inserted far more expletives into that rant and Lisa would have nodded her head in rhythm with the beat of my fist on the table.

AND THAT’S NOT EVEN COUNTING ALL THE TICKETS WE’RE SUBSIDIZING FOR THEIR R&Rs.

Renata’s eyes were huge. But I needed to keep going. I had to.

AND AN UNMARRIED COUPLE DOESN’T HAVE THE SAME RIGHTS, EVEN THOUGH THEY MAY BE JUST AS DEDICATED TO EACH OTHER. PLUS, WHY CAN’T A SOLDIER BRING OVER A SIBLING, OR FRIEND?

Renata suddenly had to go to the bathroom. (To cry? To throw up? To reconsider the overblown role of marriage in our society?) (more…)

Let’s Rank People: Always-Single, Divorced, Married. Who would you date? May 11, 2013

Posted by Onely in As If!, Uncategorized.
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5 comments

My friend Bee’s roommate Dee recently broke up with her boyfriend of several years. Bee’s father stopped by her and Dee’s apartment and, when he happened ask where Dee was, Bee told him she was in her bedroom with her tearful face buried in her laundry pile (dirty or clean, Bee wasn’t sure) listening to Poison’s “Every Rose Has Its Thorn” on repeat, repeat, repeat.

“I always knew that man was bad news,” Dee’s father said. Now, most people know that that is the the one thing you never, ever say to someone who has just had a breakup. But Bee’s father toed that line, then lept over it:

I knew he was bad news, because he was divorced.

Bee rolled her eyes and thanked god or the universe or whatever that Dee couldn’t hear anything over the Sad, Sad, Song playing in the background.

Copious Readers, your thoughts on this statement? Forgiveable from an old-school, overprotective father?

Before you answer, know that Dee’s dad actually came from a divorced family himself.

As someone myself who has dated some wonderful divorced men, I can’t help but think. . . WTF?

–Christina

Singles Strike Back: #UnmarriedEquality April 16, 2013

Posted by Onely in As If!, Everyday Happenings.
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As described in our previous post, the Communications League for Unmarried Equality (CLUE) is creating Media Saturation Mania around the topical issue of Marital Status Discrimination. Single people, have you encountered laws or practices that discriminate you based on your marital status? Then join us in writing your own stories on your own blogs, or wherever you write!  (Married people are welcome to share their own stories of discrimination too!)

All these bloggers hit the cyberstreets protesting Marital Status Discrimination in their own words. Join us and them! #UnmarriedEquality and #SinglesBlogfest. The following bloggers did:

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Single? Blogfest Explains How to Get Screwed 1,000 Times! April 15, 2013

Posted by Onely in As If!, Bad Onely Activities, Food for Thought, Guest Bloggers, Guest Posts, Marital Status Discrimination, Singled Out, Singles Resource, Take action, Your Responses Requested!.
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4 comments

Screen Shot 2013-01-15 at 11.43.08 PMMarital Status Discrimination: Today, Onely joins forces with dozens of other bloggers to highlight the problem of Marital Status Discrimination. Why? Because on Tax Day, Uncle Sam picks the pockets of singles at the same time he’s rewarding couples for getting married.

So what? So this: The U.S. government–a democratic government, a government “By the People and For the People” and all that–discriminates against fifty percent of its population: unmarried people. Our federal code alone contains over 1,000 laws where marital status is a factor, and in most cases single people lose out.

Because this phenomenon was a problem with no name, we at Onely christened it “institutionalized” Marital Status Discrimination. In January we made a big slam-dunk stink about it in The Atlantic.

The Million-Dollar Difference: According to our very conservative and basic calculations, a single person earning $80,000/year could easily pay at least a million dollars more over her lifetime than her married counterpart, based on only a few of the most discriminatory laws (such as Income Tax, IRAs, and Social Security).

What’s more, our hypothetical scenarios did not consider state laws, nor the many ways Marital Status Discrimination shows up in corporate policies–such as when singles pay more for all sorts of insurance. These factors could easily push the million-dollar figure higher. Much higher.

But money isn’t everything:  That’s why our government has thoughtfully provided other laws that don’t impact single people’s pocketbooks. These laws instead impact single people’s peace of mind. For example, as we described in 2010 on Psychology Today, an anti-stalking law promises protection to the victim’s spouse. Phew! But a single person being stalked is offered no such additional protection for a loved ones.

Any stalker who does his research (and we imagine this is all of them) would know exactly whom his stalkee loves most. R.I.P. Grandma; if only you had married your grandson maybe there would have been cops by your door when his stalker came calling. . .

The U.S. Government thinks being unmarried means: a life free of connections and cares, and full of discretionary spending. Unfortunately, even if this were true (and we at Onely fervently wish it were), no society is at its best when half its members are treated differently from the other half.

So let’s get started obliterating Marital Status Discrimination! Our first step is to. . uh. . . We will start by. . . ahem. . . Our next move should be. . . um. . .  Well, as you can see, while we at Onely are skilled at pointing out these problems, we aren’t so sure what we should do next.

So, Copious Readers, here’s where we need your help: Now that we’ve gotten the dialog started, what do you think our “next steps” should be? How do you think we should take action (and by “we,” we mean the collective blogosphere standing up for single people everywhere)? What subject matter experts are best positioned to spread the word or propose legislative change? Do you know tax professionals or legislators friendly to our cause? (Or can you convince them to embrace our cause?)

Please share your insights and spread the word: Comment below. Or tweet #UnmarriedEquality and #SinglesBlogfest. Or share this article on Facebook!

If you have more questions about Singles Blogfest, please write to Onely@onely.org or to contact.clue@gmail.com. Huh? Clue? Yes:

The Communication League for Unmarried Equality (CLUE):

We at Onely were not the only ones who instigated this effort. We were honored to have had lots of help from three of the most active voices in the progressive singles’ movement, who jumped on board the Singles Blogfest project with unparalleled enthusiasm and expertise:

Bella DePaulo (Ph.D., Harvard), author of Singled Out and the “Living Single” blog at Psychology Today (belladepaulo@gmail.com)

Eleanore Wells, blogger and author of The Spinsterlicious Life (Eleanore@TheSpinsterliciousLife.com)

Cindy Butler, of Unmarried Equality  (cbutler@unmarried.org)

Thanks Copious Readers, We Love You!

–Christina Campbell and Lisa A. of Onely.org, (pronounced wun-lee), a blog that challenges stereotypes about singles (Onely@onely.org)

Photo Credit: The Atlantic.com

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