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Single Middle-Aged Women Are Makin’ Stuff Up! June 5, 2013

Posted by Onely in As If!, Look What Google Barfed Up.
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9 comments

421px-Roman_-_Head_of_a_Woman_-_Walters_23143_-_BackI know I promised in my previous post to follow it up with The True Story of the World’s Bitterest Single Woman, but this news piece preempted it. Sorry. Next time.

Copious Readers, intermittently you may have heard me refer to the fact that I have a chronic illness. It is the terrible (if I may be so melodramatic) and controversial Lyme disease. I have been told numerous times that my pain is in my head. Which is why I was so upset about about this news article that our Copious Reader Beth O’Donnell flagged for me and Lisa. Have you ever been accused of making up symptoms, either on purpose or subconsciously?

This Science Blog post cites–practically sings about–one study in a series of studies by the University of Gothenburg. It followed 1,500 women since the late 1960’s. According to the article, the study “showed” that when middle-aged women are under stress, they manufacture pain in their heads (somatization). And single women apparently somaticized more, because they had the highest degrees of stress (they tied with smokers).

Problem: There was no word on how the study defined stress or determined that singles (and smokers) had more of it.

Problem: The study seems, according to the article, to have based itself on a notion that the researchers already had: that the women were somaticizing already, prior to being studied. The article describes the study thus:

 [It] focuses primarily on stress linked to psychosomatic symptoms.

Um. How did the researchers originally determine which symptoms (if any) were psychosomatic? Via some kind of Vulcan mind-meld? I hope so, because the researchers apparently used their belief that they could determine somatization as a baseline for their study of the effects of stress on somatization.

May Be Not As Problematic As It Appears: We at Onely hate what this article is saying both about sick women and sick single women, but we must acknowledge that all our information comes from the article itself. As you know if you read Dr. Bella DePaulo’s blog, many studies are flawed and don’t show what they claim to show. Even more often, the media misrepresents the results of a perfectly well-designed and valid study–which I think is what happened at Science Blog. So Because we have not read the original study ourselves, the only thing we can get foul-mouthed about is the writing in the actual article itself.

This (luckily anonymous) Science Blog author is a shitty science writer. He uses the word “showed”. I consider this word on a par with “proves”. And as any halfway-educated sciencey type person knows, you can never “prove” anything. You can only disprove. Studies can only “indicate that. . .” or “reveal that possibly. . .” or “possibly show. . .”

I have two Masters’ degrees in English/Writing, plus a Bachelor’s in Health Science. You can’t imagine how excited I am to have the opportunity to be a word snob across my educational spectrum! (more…)

Beating a Dead Horse: Or, More on Elena Kagan’s Gay/Single/Unmarried/Lonely Status May 21, 2010

Posted by Onely in "Against Love"...?, Heteronormativity, Singled Out.
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3 comments

Thanks to Copious Reader Rachel A. for calling our attention to this op-ed in The New York Times by one of my favorite columnists, Maureen Dowd. In it, Dowd astutely questions the (gendered) implications of calling a woman (in this case, Supreme Court nominee Elena Kagan) “single” versus “unmarried.” She writes:

Single carries a connotation of eligibility and possibility, while unmarried has that dreaded over-the-hill, out-of-luck, you-are-finished, no-chance implication. An aroma of mothballs and perpetual aunt.

Men, generally more favored by nature as they age, can be single at all ages. But often, for women, once you’re 40 or 50, or simply beyond childbearing age, you’re no longer single. You’re unmarried — meaning it isn’t your choice to be alone.

Intriguing as this analysis is, Dowd’s primary argument — that calling Kagan “unmarried” instead of “single” carries stereotypically sexist negative connotations — is grounded on the decidedly singlist premise that in order for Kagan to be seen as “young” and “fun,” she must also be seen as “datable” and, more importantly, looking for a romantic relationship. Here’s how Dowd puts it:

Why is there this underlying assumption that Kagan has missed the boat? Why couldn’t she be eager to come to Washington to check out the Obama-era geek-chic bachelors, maybe get set up on a date by Michelle Obama, maybe host some single ladies fiestas with Sonia Sotomayor, maybe even sign up for JDate with a new and improved job status?

(For a more expansive review of similar problems on the media’s “debate” about Elena Kagan’s gay/single/lonely status, you should also check out Bella DePaulo’s posts here and here).

Copious Readers, I’m eager to hear your thoughts!

— Lisa

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