Singlism? Feminism? What gives? (Part One) December 12, 2009Posted by Onely in Academic Alert!, Food for Thought, Heteronormativity, quirkyalone, Your Responses Requested!.
Tags: feminism, gender, rosie the riveter rocks!, single men, singlism
A few days ago, Christina examined the surprisingly singlist and sexist publicity blurbs for two seemingly pro-single books. She notes that the blurbs “[remind] us of how tightly anti-feminism is woven into anti-singlehood rhetoric.” And it’s true: Onely is grounded, at its heart, in feminist values and beliefs specifically because of this connection.
As we explain on our “About Onely” page, we see the fight against singlism as a feminist project in the sense that we question the oppressive perspective that normalizes a particular (sexual-social) practice — coupling — at the expense of those who remain single. We believe that the same sexist (and heteronormative) perspective that fails to value multiple gender and sexual identities also fails to recognize those of us who prefer living alone to coupling.
But another thing strikes me as equally interesting about this linkage: I wonder if it’s a mere coincidence that Rosie the Riveter’s message above could apply as much to women as it could to singles. We’ve discussed the question before (at least implicitly), but I’ll bring it up again: Why do single women seem to be more present and more vocal (on the blogosphere and elsewhere) than single men? Is it because single women have more of an investment in fighting singlism because they face a double oppression? Or do single men encounter more of a problem because, as one of several male commenters on our QuirkyAlone post about the issue put it, the issue tends to be framed as a woman’s problem, therefore preventing many single women from viewing single men more optimistically, and (worse) potentially making single men invisible altogether:
[M]any women can’t see us &, they assume we’re like all the other non-QA men (which offends us) and approach us with that mind set – ‘putting us in the same bucket’ as [a previous commenter] put it.
I’d suspect that the problem (like most) can’t be reduced to an either/or situation, but that it is more complicated than that: On the one hand, single women DO face uniquely gendered stereotypes about what it means, culturally, to be read as female and single; on the other hand, if single women assume that single men are inherently less progressive or face fewer obstacles (or whatever) than they do, then that has the potential to shut them out of the conversation, making it seem gender-exclusive.
But doing this — making singlism out to be a “female” problem – is actually anti-feminist because 1) it allows us to perpetuate singlist, sexist (and likely heterosexist) stereotypes of single men, and 2) it also positions the issue as a “descriptive” problem instead of a “human” one (by which I mean that we begin talking about the problem as though it’s an individual/private one instead of a social/structural one, linked to and perpetuated by other oppressive ways of thinking and being in the world).
I’ve got a Part 2 of this post up my sleeve, but for now, please check out the astute comments on our QuirkyAlone post and commence discussion below: Singlism? Feminism? What gives?