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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). All the rah-rah-singledom rhetoric in the world isn’t going to help a single mother who is paying more taxes then her married coworker, or a disabled person who can’t use their close friend’s health insurance because the two of them aren’t having regular government-sanctioned sex.

Maybe I need to take breath, back up, and give some definitions: By socio-cultural singlism, I mean relationship status discrimination (RSD) that is informal. An example is not being offered a plus-one to a wedding, if you’re not married or dating someone seriously. Another example is the wedding shower–there is no equivalent gift-grab for people who don’t get married. By institutionalized singlism, I mean RSD that is formally codified in our federal and state laws, which largely means marital status discrimination (MSD). MSD  filters into other large commercial and financial institutions. Problematic examples include: retirement account laws, estate tax laws, income tax laws, health insurance policies, and social security policies. (See here for examples from Onely via The Atlantic and from Dr. Bella DePaulo via the nonprofit advocacy site Unmarried Equality.)

When people become involved in advocacy against RSD/MSD/singlism, they usually progress through various levels of awareness, like leveling-up to different belts in Tae Kwon Do.  I myself was in my thirties before I even recognized singlism was a thing. It happened after a particularly mind-bending breakup. At the time, I didn’t even have my white belt in singles’ advocacy and was feeling sorry for my single self. Then my soon-to-be-coblogger and master rhetoric scholar Lisa asked me,

Have you noticed that all articles about being single and happy say ‘you need to be happy with yourself before you find a partner’? Well, why can’t we just be happy with ourselves without the ultimate goal being a relationship?

My brain went boom, and Onely was born. That was over ten years ago. Nowadays it’s a lot easier to find cultural think pieces, films, and books with the message “you don’t need a partner to be complete”.  However, much of that media stops at white-belt or yellow-belt level advocacy. To say, “I love being single, because I appreciate the privilege of living alone and not needing to clean up the cat hair unless I start choking on it” is yellow-belt-level. It’s fine, and certainly we’ve made our share of such comments on Onely, but that rhetoric doesn’t really rise to a force that bruises the System’s shins. For that, we need black-belt singles’ advocacy–this means we need talk that challenges the laws and corporate policies that privilege married people over singles. This discussion becomes complex, as it’s tied to the worlds of commerce, law, and finance, which have specialized rules and vocabulary, where the average advocate may struggle to articulate the problems and offer solutions.

I can easily count on one hand the singles’ rights advocates who have written at brown-to-black-belt level about institutionalized singlism and called out the U.S. government (or others) for blatant discrimination based on marital status. (more…)

Single? Blogfest Explains How to Get Screwed 1,000 Times! April 15, 2013

Posted by Onely in As If!, Bad Onely Activities, Food for Thought, Guest Bloggers, Guest Posts, Marital Status Discrimination, Singled Out, Singles Resource, Take action, Your Responses Requested!.
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Screen Shot 2013-01-15 at 11.43.08 PMMarital Status Discrimination: Today, Onely joins forces with dozens of other bloggers to highlight the problem of Marital Status Discrimination. Why? Because on Tax Day, Uncle Sam picks the pockets of singles at the same time he’s rewarding couples for getting married.

So what? So this: The U.S. government–a democratic government, a government “By the People and For the People” and all that–discriminates against fifty percent of its population: unmarried people. Our federal code alone contains over 1,000 laws where marital status is a factor, and in most cases single people lose out.

Because this phenomenon was a problem with no name, we at Onely christened it “institutionalized” Marital Status Discrimination. In January we made a big slam-dunk stink about it in The Atlantic.

The Million-Dollar Difference: According to our very conservative and basic calculations, a single person earning $80,000/year could easily pay at least a million dollars more over her lifetime than her married counterpart, based on only a few of the most discriminatory laws (such as Income Tax, IRAs, and Social Security).

What’s more, our hypothetical scenarios did not consider state laws, nor the many ways Marital Status Discrimination shows up in corporate policies–such as when singles pay more for all sorts of insurance. These factors could easily push the million-dollar figure higher. Much higher.

But money isn’t everything:  That’s why our government has thoughtfully provided other laws that don’t impact single people’s pocketbooks. These laws instead impact single people’s peace of mind. For example, as we described in 2010 on Psychology Today, an anti-stalking law promises protection to the victim’s spouse. Phew! But a single person being stalked is offered no such additional protection for a loved ones.

Any stalker who does his research (and we imagine this is all of them) would know exactly whom his stalkee loves most. R.I.P. Grandma; if only you had married your grandson maybe there would have been cops by your door when his stalker came calling. . .

The U.S. Government thinks being unmarried means: a life free of connections and cares, and full of discretionary spending. Unfortunately, even if this were true (and we at Onely fervently wish it were), no society is at its best when half its members are treated differently from the other half.

So let’s get started obliterating Marital Status Discrimination! Our first step is to. . uh. . . We will start by. . . ahem. . . Our next move should be. . . um. . .  Well, as you can see, while we at Onely are skilled at pointing out these problems, we aren’t so sure what we should do next.

So, Copious Readers, here’s where we need your help: Now that we’ve gotten the dialog started, what do you think our “next steps” should be? How do you think we should take action (and by “we,” we mean the collective blogosphere standing up for single people everywhere)? What subject matter experts are best positioned to spread the word or propose legislative change? Do you know tax professionals or legislators friendly to our cause? (Or can you convince them to embrace our cause?)

Please share your insights and spread the word: Comment below. Or tweet #UnmarriedEquality and #SinglesBlogfest. Or share this article on Facebook!

If you have more questions about Singles Blogfest, please write to Onely@onely.org or to contact.clue@gmail.com. Huh? Clue? Yes:

The Communication League for Unmarried Equality (CLUE):

We at Onely were not the only ones who instigated this effort. We were honored to have had lots of help from three of the most active voices in the progressive singles’ movement, who jumped on board the Singles Blogfest project with unparalleled enthusiasm and expertise:

Bella DePaulo (Ph.D., Harvard), author of Singled Out and the “Living Single” blog at Psychology Today (belladepaulo@gmail.com)

Eleanore Wells, blogger and author of The Spinsterlicious Life (Eleanore@TheSpinsterliciousLife.com)

Cindy Butler, of Unmarried Equality  (cbutler@unmarried.org)

Thanks Copious Readers, We Love You!

–Christina Campbell and Lisa A. of Onely.org, (pronounced wun-lee), a blog that challenges stereotypes about singles (Onely@onely.org)

Photo Credit: The Atlantic.com

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