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Kamala Harris’ Singles Comments: Problematic or Progressive? November 8, 2020

Posted by Onely in Celebrities, Food for Thought.
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Now that we in the U.S. have narrowly dodged the apocalypse (so far), we can start holding the new presidential administration accountable for singlist language. My fellow intrepid singles advocates Dr. Craig Wynne and Dr. Bella DePaulo have written about the repeated and problematic use of the term “families” by politicians on both sides of the aisle. But today I want to examine a different sort of relationship rhetoric. Twice in the last year, Kamala Harris has said variations of this statement:

Let’s remember to check in on our single friends. 

Is this progressive or problematic? Considerate or patronizing? 

Whatever the answer, I love Kamala Harris. Sometimes I pretend we’re related. (She shares a surname with my step-grandpa; my nanny taught me some Tamil when I was a toddler; this all practically makes her my third cousin twice removed.) I would have loved to see a Harris-Biden 2020 ticket. Also, #Harris-Warren2024!  But that doesn’t mean I wasn’t disappointed many months ago when Harris went on Seth Myer’s show in the beginning of the pandemic and said, in a cringingly patronizing tone, “Let’s remember our single friends.” I wrote in an earlier post about why that was a problem. I may have been a tad snide. Since then, a couple things have made me think further about Harris’ words. 

First point for consideration:  Vicki Larson and Dr. DePaulo wrote articles mentioning that Kamala was single (meaning unmarried) until she was 50. Larson’s article flags some lines from Harris’ memoir that show Harris has a good understanding of some elements of singlism: 

As a single, professional women in my forties, and very much in the public eye, dating wasn’t easy. I knew that if I brought a man with me to an event, people would immediately start to speculate about our relationship. I also knew that single women in politics are viewed differently than single men. We don’t get the same latitude when it comes to our social lives.” –Kamala Harris

Second point for consideration:  Recently Harris tweeted the same “check on your single friends” sentiment again, further indicating that she has an awareness of the challenges of singledom: 

“Take some time to text a loved one you haven’t seen in a while, check in on your single friends, or write that letter you’ve been putting off“ –@Kamalaharris, 25 November 2020

Hold up. You see what I did there? “She has an awareness of the challenges of singledom.” But the problem is that actually, singledom is not inherently a challenging situation. (more…)

When Singlism Turns Dangerous: The National Alliance on Mental Illness September 25, 2020

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The National Alliance on Mental Illness published an article about smiling depression that was good, except for this part in the second paragraph: 

People with smiling depression are often partnered or married, employed and are quite accomplished and educated. Their public, professional and social lives are not struggling. Their façade is put together and accomplished.

It’s common to see marriage, which is not inherently positive, lumped in with a list of attributes that are arguably inherently positive (employment, education, accomplished). I can think of several fiction and nonfiction books on my shelves that use similar groupings to describe people. My favorite was when an author described a woman accused by consipiracy theorists of masterminding an elder-killing scheme–the author said this was ridiculous, in part because the woman was “married with two children.” (more…)

I Prefer a Team to a Spouse September 2, 2020

Posted by Onely in Bad Onely Activities.
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If you are single and live alone, you need to be prepared to deal with random catastrophes. Generally, I handle stuff ok. Like the time I returned from a long workday, opened the front door, and wondered to myself, “Why is it raining inside the house?” (Answer: Spontaneous toilet tank crack.) I managed the flood just fine. But recently I encountered a problem I couldn’t manage at all. So I had to call in Team Christina.

Dr. Peter McGraw of Solo and Craig Wynne of The Happy Bachelor have talked about how single people have “teams”, and Dr. Bella DePaulo has said that married people have The One and singles have The Ones.  I have been assembling an ad-hoc Team Christina during the two decades I’ve lived in Northern Virginia. Mostly the Team was just for hanging out, sharing Netflix shows, and reassuring me that my author photos didn’t make me look like a serial killer. But the latent power of Team Christina became clear when I found my sweet little cat dead in the basement window well.

(more…)

BOOK REVIEW: An Unnecessary Woman by Rabih Alameddine August 21, 2020

Posted by Onely in book review, Reviews.
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An Unnecessary Woman, by Rabih Almameddine Grove Press, New York, 2013.

In the comments on an earlier post, our Copious Reader clofa recommended some books and authors. I picked up An Unnecessary Woman because it was the only one of the books in my library system. And I’m so glad I did! Thanks, clofa. I read it in two sittings, and I would have read it in one sitting, but unfortunately a girl’s gotta sleep and do personal hygiene.

Clofa warned that some of her friends found it depressing, and yes, it is depressing. But it’s also uplifting and I find so much to identify with. (more…)

Europe Lets People in to See Loved Ones–But Only If They Are Having Sex August 16, 2020

Posted by Onely in As If!.
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Apparently this is a thing that exists: the “Love Is Not Tourism” campaign, whose pinned Tweet reads:

Binational couples and families have been separated for almost half a year due to Covid-19 travel bans. Help us reunite them!

Normally I’d write this Twitter account off as some regressive, small-minded Tweeter not worth my time, but unfortunately, Forbes is taking them seriously, and so are many European countries. According to the Forbes article, countries are developing various policies allowing people to reunite despite travel bans. The problem? Every policy favors romantic relationships over non-romantic relationships.  

Regarding the implementation of these waivers, the EU Commissioner for Home Affairs tweeted that states should use  “as wide a definition of partnerships as possible”. This sounds very noble and inclusive, until you realize that the definition is not inteded to expand wider than romantic relationships, which essentially means people who are having committed sex, or people who have committed to having committed sex in the future. (more…)

My Company Essentially Gives Married People $25,000 August 13, 2020

Posted by Onely in Marital Status Discrimination.
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Welcome to the latest installment in our ongoing series, “Onely Gets Pissy About Marital Status Discrimination,” where we flag discriminatory laws and corporate policies, then use our righteous indignation as an excuse to make up fun swear words. 

It’s that special time of year at my company: benefits renewal! When I got the email reminding us to go to the benefits site and select the policies we wanted, I logged in immediately, because I am nothing if not a good little corporate cublicle monkey. I started checking boxes:  $2750 in my health FSA! BAM!   Short term disability insurance! BAM!   Long term disability insurance! BAM!   $150,000 life insurance for in case I choke on arugula (a persistent fear of mine, because those long leaves dangle dangerously into one’s throat)! BAM!    $25,000 life insurance for my spouse in case he chokes on arugula! BA—   

Not so fast, little cubicle monkey! (more…)

Sitting on the Couch in Stained Sweatpants: Is it Cool? July 13, 2020

Posted by Onely in Great Onely Activities.
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Unpartnered people are unfettered. They are free to live bigger, fuller, more intellectually and physically stimulating lives than marrieds. Singles can volunteer to build fences at big cat refuges in Namibia, or vacation in a hut on the beach in Belize, take late-night programming or language classes, or . . . SCREEEEEEEECH.

Hold on a second. Just how accurate is this trope? Pro-singleness rhetoric often says that singles have more opportunities to expand their minds and follow their dreams. But this is only true for some very privileged singles. What about single people with disabilities, financial challenges, children, or obligations to elderly parents? Speaking as a single person with an invisible disability who frankly sits around in stained sweatpants a lot (even before COVID), I feel conflicted when I hear stories that praise single people who are zooming around helping their communities and learning about different cultures and starting businesses. (more…)

“How To Be A Happy Bachelor”: Singles’ Rights From the Male Perspective July 2, 2020

Posted by Onely in book review, Reviews.
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The conversation about singles rights has traditionally been dominated by white cis hetero women. The singles advocacy community can benefit from the voices of single women of color (see Dr. Kris Marsh‘s work), single LGBTQA people, and single cis/hetero men. This post will focus on the latter. Historically, whereas single women have almost always been seen as deficient, single men at least had a chance of being seen as positive: the freewheeling, sexually engaged, George Clooney trope. Boring, but positive. Nonetheless, single men still need advocacy. They experience the same financial and legal discrimination that single women do, and moreover, there’s a dark side to the single man stereotypes that single women don’t generally experience: the loner/serial killer stereotype. (more…)

Google Autofill Searches: Singlist, But Not Super Singlist June 11, 2020

Posted by Onely in Everyday Happenings, Look What Google Barfed Up.
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Do Google’s autofill searches reflect our culture’s obsession with dating and marriage? I googled the funny and insightful authors Tenaya Darlington and Samantha Irby because their names had come up in a writing retreat I was attending, and I wanted to choose some of their books.  For Darlington, two of the six top Google autofill searches were related to her marital status:

Tenaya Darlington husband and Tenaya Darlington married.

For Irby, the second Google autofill was Samantha Irby wife. The rest were related to Irby’s and Darlington’s work. Because I make my living complaining about singlism,* I immediately thought, “Does this mean literary Googlers are disproportionally interested in the love lives of authors, at the expense of those author’s hard writing work?” The answer, of course, is yes. We are all disproportionally interested in the love lives of people in the public eye (tell me you don’t dawdle in line at CVS to finish reading the headlines about Brad and Jennifer). We’ve touched on this topic at Onely before, when we did an in-depth statistical analysis** of how author bios always mention a location and spouse. (more…)

The Dark Side of Singles’ Advocacy: Ignoring Institutionalized Singlism May 26, 2020

Posted by Onely in Food for Thought, Marital Status Discrimination.
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Welcome to the first installment in our new series, The Dark Side of Singles’ Advocacy. By dark, we mostly mean “unrecognized”. An updated and more personal version of this post was published on Bella DePaulo’s column at Psychology Today

The singles advocacy community consists (pretty much) of progressive people who are in favor of equal rights and opportunities for everyone regardless of lifestyle, but sometimes we act in regressive ways that do harm to ourselves and our cause. Or sometimes, we just miss a big part of the picture.

Today’s installment of The Dark Side is about the gigantic chasm between our movement against socio-cultural singlism and our movement against institutionalized singlism. Relatively few people in the community for singles’ rights pay attention to institutionalized singlism. That’s a problem. That needs to change. Now. While I appreciate memes and media pieces that tout singleness as a valid–or even preferable–lifestyle (socio-cultural), I want more discussion about how marital status discrimination is written into laws (institutionalized). (more…)

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