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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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5 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

How Many Showers Per Pregnancy? June 13, 2014

Posted by Onely in Food for Thought.
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4 comments

Question: Is it ok to have two baby showers for the same baby? Or is it taking a double opportunity to get free stuff

pregnant-163611_640A friend of mine had a shower in her hometown in West Virginia, and she will have a shower a month later in her current home in Maryland. I will be attending the Maryland event.

Usually here at Onely we focus on singles’ advocacy and marriage privilege, not babies, and not baby showers. This is because baby showers do not discriminate against single people. Both married and single people have babies, and therefore, both married and single people usually get baby showers (at least in the U.S.–this doesn’t happen in every country). So when we here at Onely freak out about showers, we’re usually talking (or sniping) about wedding showers. For wedding showers, there is no singles’ equivalent, even though unmarried people too may have significant events in their lives that perhaps require crystal bowls, dish towels, or friend-financed trips to Tahiti.

However, singlism (pithy word defined by Dr. Bella dePaulo, meaning discrimination against singles) is tied to childfreeism (stupid-sounding word defined just now by me, meaning discrimination against people without kids) because unfortunately our society still largely normalizes the marriage-children trope. Therefore, in this post we will talk about baby showers.

There is no baby shower equivalent for childfree/childless people. Like singles, they can’t throw a party for a big life event–such as their dog recovering from major heart surgery, or them raising 5,403 dollars by running a marathon for a starving children’s charity (there’s irony for you)–and expect to receive tribute from their friends and family, without very likely being whispered about: Wow, can you believe how selfish she is? How greedy! Shocking. I’m going to come up with some excuse not to go.

Because I am terrible about coming up with excuses not to go places (Oh, too bad, that was the day I was going to shampoo the curtains), I will be attending the baby shower.

Now, don’t get me wrong, I’m not an ogre–I often like to give a friend a congratulatory gift–but I just don’t want to be forced to do so by some discriminatory and presumptuous social custom.  The host of the shower told me flat out, “If you are getting clothing, get something larger than newborn because babies in our family have weighed a lot at birth”.  Roger that.

Hopefully there will not be too many outfits, because all the requisite cooing and aww-ing over teddy, duck, and “Mommy’s Little Girl” patterns gives me a throatache. My plan is to get something for my friend to use personally because I’ve heard that often the mother, buried under a pile of strollers and footie pajamas, neglects to pamper herself. But then I’ll feel guilty about not buying something for the baby, so I’ll do that too.

Copious readers, any thoughts? Things to consider: Twins. Second pregnancies. Recent relocations.

–Christina

Photo credit: Pixabay

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