Single shaming is a bit of a tongue twister for me. It also happens to get my blood boiling. If you haven’t heard the term before, you might assume it’s a product of the over-sensitive and easily offended. As someone who doesn’t consider herself overly sensitive, easily offended, nor single, I can assure you it’s real and it’s time we stop doing it.
Single shaming usually starts innocently enough with asking a question like, “Are you seeing anyone?” These tactics are primarily focused on women. It absolutely happens to men, but it’s not as prevalent.
We are a culture with a subversive belief that women are more valuable when coupled with a man. We idolize and reward women who get married, have babies and take care of their family unit.
The sooner you can couple off the better. The older women get, the more we hear things like, “You’re not getting any younger” or “What are you waiting for.” If you’re a woman over 30 and still single, the assumption is that YOU have done something WRONG.
So what is Single Shaming exactly?
Single shaming is the expectation that couple hood is right and that being single is a problem. It is asserting that expectation on others and assuming there is something wrong with them for not following the norm. It is then making comments and suggestions that “help” the single person move towards being a couple or at least making them acknowledge that being single is the worst thing that could ever happen to a human.
If a woman isn’t actively trying to find a relationship or find a mate, she’s considered weird. Or worse, she’s considered lazy, or broken, ugly, overly career focused, or a slut who’s trying to steal your man. By pushing a women towards couplehood, we make her normal and therefore, safe.
What does single shaming look like?
It tends to start off with questions. Innocent to begin with maybe, but ultimately annoying to the single person who deals with these questions regularly – maybe daily. The assumption is that single is bad and therefore, being a person who is single, possibly even by choice (gasp!) is problematic:
- But you’re so pretty/smart/sweet/compliment of choice. How are you still single?
- You’ll change your mind when the right one comes along.
- Don’t you want to be in a relationship? Maybe you’re just being too picky.
- What are you waiting for? Prince charming?
- I have a uncle/cousin/dolphin who’s single. You two should meet up.
- You’re over 30. You know you’re not getting any younger, right?
- Are you one of those “career women?”
Why is single shaming a problem?
Outside of the fact that it’s annoying, generally sexist and rude, it’s flat out wrong. Shaming someone (intentionally or unintentionally) for not needing another person in their life is pretty ridiculous.
Assuming that a person can’t be whole without another person assumes that we can’t be good enough on our own. We can’t be happy without someone else. Only I have the capacity to make me be happy. Only I can complete myself.
Assuming a woman needs a partner ties back into the belief that a woman’s worth is tied up with ovaries. Assuming she needs a partner, is assuming that her worth doesn’t exist on its own. I don’t know about you, but I personally consider myself pretty outstanding all on my own. I have a partner and I choose him. But there is a big difference between choosing and needing someone. I don’t need my partner. He doesn’t need me. That’s what makes it work for us.
But being a couple is better! It’s normal.
I’ll be the first to admit I enjoy being part of a couple most of the time. And because I choose to couple up, I benefit from the privilege of not being single. But it is a fallacy to assume that everything is better and everyone is happier because they’ve found a partner.
- 40-50% of all marriages end in divorce in the US
- Many couples get stuck in a rut; they’re less social, their sex life fizzles
- Coupling means compromising for someone else’s needs and someone else’s family
- It can mean the loss of individual freedom
- Relationships often end and that ending can be heartbreaking
I’m not suggesting that becoming a couple, getting married or choosing a partner is bad. It can be wonderful but let’s not paint it out to be the holy grail. Being part of a relationship can also be really hard, unrewarding and frustrating.
I have had some of my loneliest moments have been spent sitting next to my partner. Some of the most loved I’ve felt has been when no one was around. Being a couple doesn’t solve the issues you have when you are alone. All being a couple does is align you with a cultural norm.
If being part of that norm makes you happy, then go for it! But let’s not assume that because that choice works for you that you can apply it to someone else. By shaming someone for being single or assuming it’s a lesser status, you’re imposing your values on them. And we’re not talking about “don’t murder” values. We’re talking about a random state in life that you’ve associated with a (un)related morale value.
Being single isn’t wrong. It isn’t sad. It isn’t good or bad. It’s a state that a human is in, either intentionally or unintentionally. And it’s none of your business. So knock off the shaming.
Looking for other good posts on single shaming? Start here:
- Stop Single Shaming
- Over 30, Single and Shamed
- What to do when being single shamed
- 9 Benefits of Being Single
Thoughts? Questions? Leave me a comment.
Photo credit: Flickr user Paul Bence