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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…)

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