From Proposal to Privilege: The Unearned Rights of Married People February 14, 2015Posted by Onely in As If!, Everyday Happenings, Food for Thought, STFU.
Tags: for better or for better, marital privilege, marital privilege and huffington post, marital privilege and truthout, marriage privilege, Marriage Rights, single valentines day, singles blog, truthout, valentine's day
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.
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.:
Those Family Stickers on Cars August 20, 2013Posted by Onely in Everyday Happenings, Food for Thought, STFU.
Tags: blended family, familystickers, nuclear family, sexism, singles blog
They are really disturbing, and if you live in North America, you know them. You see them all over. You may even have some yourself! Those stick-figure-esque stickers showing the white outlines of people in the simplest breakdown possible: Man, woman, boy, girl. People put them on the back windows of their cars to show who is in their family. Oh, you also get dogs and cats and the occasional little baby. Some of the people carry things that represent their fun hobbies: Lacrosse stick! Guitar! Staple Gun! (Well, maybe not that last one.) You may be thinking, SO WHAT’S THE PROBLEM, GRUMPY ONELY?
The man is always bigger than the woman who is bigger than the children. That last part makes sense. But the first part has the potential for trouble. And trouble there is! 99.9 percent of the sticker families are ordered left to right–as is our written language in this part of the world–and so people (I hope without thinking) in an attempt at aesthetics smack on those stickers on biggest to smallest. So the father is always, always on the left, and hence, first. And the woman second.
Ignoring for the moment that these sticker collections are almost always nuclear-focused, let’s look at that father on the left. First. Taller. ALWAYS. I don’t think I have ever seen them ordered Mother, Father, Children. Ever. And I have seen a looooot of them. These stickers give me the chills because of their father-as-head-of-household mentality. Maybe not on purpose, and maybe that wasn’t the intention of the company who makes them, but customers are still slave to the big-to-small aesthetic and hence stick father-then-mother, perpetuating a dynamic that I thought was supposed to be dying out in the 1960s!
But don’t worry! A few lone independent thinkers are fighting back!
Somewhere in Colorado between Denver and Boulder, I saw a black car in front of me with the family stickers. They were on the bumper instead of the window. And they had been, shall we say, rearranged. As this is a family blog (Hey, singles blogs can be family blogs too! Right?), I won’t go in to details, just to say that one scene had a girl (you could tell by the feathered hair and triangle skirt) throwing a baby’s head to her brother (you could tell by the boxy shorts).
If familystickers.com isn’t careful, more people might start manipulating their product into even more controversial displays, such as. . . Two Men and a girl with the girl on the left! (I’ve never seen this one; I’ve never even seen two men), or One Woman and Seven Cats (this would be mine) (hey, I’m counting my feral colony, ok!?).
Copious Readers, do any of you have FamilyStickers on your car? In what configuration?
Photo Credit: Theo Junior
Single Women: So What If They’re Over Fifty? January 5, 2013Posted by Onely in As If!, STFU, Your Responses Requested!.
Tags: ageism, cougar, demeaning terms for singles, demeaning terms for women, lookism, looksism, sexism, singles blog, singles sexism, singlism, SMOFTY, spinster stereotype, SWOFTY
So apparently now there is yet another term to describe women who behave in a certain way: Before it was Cougar, meaning an older woman who dates younger men (implication: these women must be preying on younger men, because why would the guys be attracted them of their own accord?) . Now according to this article flagged by our reader Iolanda, as well as other articles, we have SWOFTY. This means a single woman over fifty.
Copious readers, is this offensive or empowering to women, and particularly to single women? I say offensive, and here’s why:
Where is the term for single men over fifty? A Google search for SMOFTY returned the result: Did you mean SWOFTY? . . . Um, no, sigh.
And there’s more: The term SWOFTY markets itself as a badge of honor for single women, but really it objectifies and classifies women in a three-for-one deal: according to their relationship status, gender, and age. It’s the same old sexism, singlism, and ageism that has been going on in most cultures since forever, just re-labelled. Even the fact that we get surprised by the idea that single women over fifty can be vibrant and happy — so surprised that we have to give them a name — shows just how ingrained the stereotype of the drab spinster is. It’s a stereotype we need to talk in full adult words about, not cutesy acronyms that keep reminding people how the existence of happy single older women is surprising.
And no, SWOFTY does not do anything to increase the dialogue about or dismantle the spinster stereotype (more…)
Tags: iafrica, singlism, singlist media, south african singles, taking privilege for granted
Thanks to one of our Copious Readers from South Africa, Amelia, for bringing to our attention a ridiculously offensive article published recently in iAfrica, entitled “The Benefits of Being Single.”
Amelia told us,
I was very much looking forward to finding out what the financial benefits of being single are, as it’s always seemed to me more expensive not to have anyone to share the rent and other expenses with. But boy, was I in for a surprise!
Like Amelia, we had high hopes for the article. After all, the intro sounded promising:
There is a growing trend in South Africa (and it’s probably already a worldwide trend) for people to choose to remain single…. We no longer have to be married in order to be counted as serious or dependable (unless we are running for president).
Unfortunately, the article takes a nose-dive shortly thereafter, when we learn that:
the beauty of being single from a financial standpoint is that you are cheaper to maintain!
(Yes, the exclamation point was in the original…!)
You … don’t have to take other people’s needs into account, such as which area to buy a home in and how large that home should be.
when going on holidays a single person can afford to travel more as there is only one airplane ticket to buy, one holiday package to purchase. If you don’t like holidaying on your own there are many travel clubs with groups to join and new friends to make.
And – my god – did you know that:
you can start that business that you always wanted with less personal risk. If the business does not pan out you have no family home that needs to be sold or repossessed by the bank, no children that need to be moved from their school after a forced evacuation. There is only yourself that will go through hardships because of mistakes you made and lessons you learned. Also, you can work the long hours it takes to build a business without paying too little attention to anyone.
So, let’s outline the problematic assumptions at work here
- Being single somehow means your expenses are lower, in spite of the fact that having two (or more) incomes and splitting the bills, sharing a house, paying for insurance, and even taking a vacation is significantly cheaper per person for couples and families than being single.
- Being single means that you have no significant relationships or obligations to maintain.
- Being single means that you have plenty of time on your hands.
- Being single means personal risk doesn’t matter, and it probably also means that you’re male, extroverted, wealthy, and/or white.
*Sigh.* Three cheers for the heteronormative mainstream media!
— Lisa and Christina
photo credit: http://www.fam.tuwien.ac.at
STFU Redbook: I’m Single and I’m Going to Vegas! March 24, 2012Posted by Onely in solo travel, STFU.
Tags: redbook, single travel, singles blog, singlism, solo travel
I had always considered Redbook just one step above an inflight magazine. Now I’ve downgraded it to a ranking underneath inflight magazines but above the backs of cereal boxes (except for Kashi cereal boxes; those are still several steps above Redbook). But Why? Why do we at Onely want Redbook to STFU?
Because this month’s issue has an article titled “Your perfect hotel finder!” which I eagerly picked up while waiting for my dermatologist. (Perfect skin to go with my perfect hotel!) The article was organized spreadsheet-style, with a column on the left delineating exciting locations: New York!–LA!–Chicago!–Las Vegas! and for each location there was a row of different hotel options: Magic Castle Hotel!–Terranea Resort! And (the dreamiest-sounding) Acqualina Resort and Spa on the Beach! The hotels options were themselves organized in columns, according to who you were travelling with: If You’re Bringing Your Kids!–If You’re Doing the Couple Thing!–If You’re Travelling Solo!
HAHA just kidding. There was no If You’re Travelling Solo! option. My eyes scanned across the Kids and Couple options looking for a Single Travellers column, but they just kept scanning right right right into the inner fold of the magazine.
That’s right, no Acqualina Spa for me, because I don’t have a kids or chronic sex partner to travel with. Probably I should write Redbook a polite but indignant letter educating them about the increasing solo traveller demographic. But I would rather just go get a wine cooler from my bathtub and sit on my back stoop in an inflatable baby pool, as single people do because there are no hotels for us.
Tags: dear college dating advice guy, stupid unsolicited emails
Every so often, Christina and I receive emails from folks who obviously haven’t read our blog. Usually, these folks introduce themselves and say kind, generic things–“Love the blog!” “Keep up the great work!” “WOW! You two are such excellent writers, we’d like to offer you a book contract!” (Well, ok, not that last one.)
We’re flattered, of course. But we know they’re liars. How do we know? Because they send us links and encourage us to direct you, Copious Readers, to their websites. And their websites are, more often than not, about dating, intensive coupling, heteronormativity, and matrimania. As our real readers know, this is not what Onely is about.
So normally, we ignore the emails. Occasionally, we’ll send a kind but corrective reply. Although we always cringe, we generally take the high road, avoid the snark. We certainly don’t want to drag ya’ll into it.
But this time, we just can’t help ourselves. Christina forwarded me the following email with the comment “Oh, for god’s sake.” Why? Because at same time the solicitor is sharing links that prove he doesn’t read Onely, he also says that Onely is a sincere pleasure to read.
We would love to share with you an article that we just posted on our own blog! “20 Best Blogs for College Dating Advice” (http://www.onlinecollegecourses.com/2011/07/12/20-best-blogs-for-college-dating-advice/) would be an interesting story for your readers to check out and discuss on your blog.
Either way, I hope you continue putting out great content through your blog. It has been a sincere pleasure to read.
Copious Readers, we wondered: What snarky response would you compose on our behalf? Here’s what we’ve come up with so far:
Dear College Dating Advice Guy: Are you sincerely reading now?
Tags: heart-to-heart dating service, not bitter, single, singlism sucks
Since starting Onely, I’ve become attuned to the subtle singlisms of society. But what I call “attuned,” some people might call “bitter.” Singlists (people who regard singles as less worthy than couples) commonly use “bitter” to describe those of us who question our culture’s unconditionally pro-coupling status quo–whether our tones are calm, vehement, or vituperative.
So I tried very, very hard to keep my voice friendly and upbeat when I called the Heart-to-Heart dating service to tell them that one of their advertisements was singlist. I think I was successful in my efforts to stay nice, but I certainly had no success convincing the representative that the ad was problematic.
Here’s what happened:
While sitting at a stoplight on a busy road, I noticed outside my driver’s side window one of those signs with the little metal sticks for legs, as you might see advertising politicians before an election. But this sign was for a dating service. It said, in big red letters with a heart where the “O” would be (awwww),
“Single? Don’t Be!
If you’re reading this book, you probably already see the problem.
Don’t be single! In common usage, “Don’t” precedes an action/situation that makes your life or others’ lives unsavory. (Don’t lie, don’t steal, don’t eat the yellow snow.)
Don’t be single! There are better ways to be!
I don’t hate dating services. They can connect people who want to find life partners or people (like me) who just hope to go out and have fun. But I’d prefer that the services advertise themselves without denigrating any particular group. It would be so easy:
“Single and looking?
Heart to Heart! (###-###-####)”
Easy! So, I called them. To tell them how, by changing two words, they could make the world a little less singlist. The call Did Not Go Well.
As I’ve said, I was so very nice. I greeted the rep and said I wasn’t actually calling for a date, but rather with an idea for their advertising. I said, more or less, that I felt their ad made some uncomfortable assumptions about single people and that there were other ways to communicate their message without assuming that being single is an inherently bad thing. I suggested, “Single and looking to find a partner?” (which isn’t pithy, but that’s why I’m not in advertising).
At first, she didn’t understand. I tried to explain my point several times, in several ways, all of which were perky and positive (I thought). At some point I said something about them “trashing singlehood,” and that resonated with her. She said, “Ohhhh, I see what you’re saying!”
Success! No, wait, not so much. What follows is a loose transcript of the conversation, in which she dug in her heels and defended Heart-to-Heart’s advertisement as if it were her dissertation. I typed as she spoke. (Please note that I couldn’t type fast enough to record all her words, but I got the gist.)
In her first breath, she said: “[The text on the sign] is what we want to say. . . Single is a problem. . . If you’re single and not happy, we can partner you up. . . In today’s economy two incomes are better than one.”
Wow. I had to decide which of these ignorant statements to address. I chose “if you’re single and not happy, we can partner you up.”
Patiently, I tried to explain that the whole problem was that they didn’t specify “single and unhappy,” or “single and looking for someone,” but instead, they just said “single.”
She replied, “If you’re not looking to find anyone, then don’t call us.”
That’s absolutely fine, I said, still optimistic. But they didn’t say “call us if you’re single and looking to find someone.” They said, “don’t be single.” In choosing these words, I explained, they were trashing all single people, even those who didn’t consider their status a problem.
The rest of her words speak for themselves:
“The reason that we trashed [singlehood] is we don’t want people to be single. We want people to think about being single to think about being alone. . . so we are trying to trash it. . . And we are getting tons of calls and people walking through our door – so it’s working for us.”
I took a deep breath, maintaining my cool. I didn’t want to give her a chance to call me bitter. So I said, in the sweetest tone I could muster (while making white-knuckled throttling motions with my hands), “Well, it’s something to think about!”
And she said, “Well, thanks for your input. I’ll pass it on to our management.”
HAHA! Just kidding. No she didn’t. She actually said: “Ok, but it’s working for us so I don’t think we’ll even give it a thought.” (The emphasis this time is mine.)
But it’s too late. My phone call made her think about it. And even though she’ll try to dismiss it (perhaps she’ll complain about “that bitter single woman” to her colleagues and friends), my complaint was voiced. That’s progress, and that’s why I’m not bitter.