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Singlism: the new racism

By in Opinions

CHANTELLE BONOGOFSKI
Opinions Writer

Most of us have been there — go to any family gathering or even a first meeting with someone and the questions, “Are you in a relationship? Do you have a significant other?” are bound to pop up.

What is worse than the actual questions is the look of pity you get when you simply say, “No, I am single.”

Bella DePaulo, author of Singled Out, describes singlism as “the pervasive discrimination single people face in politics and everyday life.”

Single individuals are often dubbed as selfish, lonely, desperate, emotionally unstable or having problems with commitment. All these personal and stigmatized “defects” prevent the single from achieving life’s greatest goal: marriage — or so discriminators believe.

I have indisputably been the target of many singlists. My own grandmother once said to me, after she asked the annoying question of if I was single or not, “Oh, one day, hopefully, you will find a nice guy.” Another relative suggested that maybe I was a lesbian. My former employer dismissed my hopes of taking some time off during the summer since it would cut into her time with her family.

People I barely knew were trying to set me up with eligible men.

And finally, my most notorious act against the singlists was to find a date, any date, to accompany me to a wedding just so I wouldn’t have to be subject to their interrogation. The plan backfired as I had no intention of actually dating my “date,” but by the end of the wedding night we were a “couple.” The relationship lasted six weeks, mostly due to people telling me to give him a chance. I was unhappy, but I was dating.

Singles are not only targeted at family gatherings or in social settings, but in general public too. Most gyms offer a couples or family package that enables the “chosen” ones to get access at discounted rates. The tourism industry caters to couples. Go on any airline website to book a vacation and the number of guests is always set at “two.”

Even the workforce, where most single people make up a significant sector, undermines those who are not married. The unmarried are often pressured to work more weekends, travel more frequently, work late and take less time off during school holidays.

Being single, especially being a single female, has been such a topic of discussion that it created the pop culture phenomenon Sex and the City. The television series that began in the late ’90s became a huge hit and created thousands of devoted fans.

singlism

The show made numerous statements such as being single meant you were either a “loser, leper or a whore.” The main character Carrie’s boldest action against this idea, after someone stole her beloved Manolo Blahniks at a baby shower and the mother chastised her for spending so much on shoes, was that she sent the woman a gift registry card with a note proclaiming, “I am getting married . . . to myself.” Carrie goes on to argue that there is not one single event to celebrate the single girl after graduation.

With such in-your-face attitude and support for the single woman, however, even Sex and the City fell victim to singlism. If the women were so content in being single, why did the majority of the plots revolve around men? And why did they all end up with a guy by the series finale?

Rest assured, Sex and the City fans, I am not attacking the television series as it has definitely done a lot for single women. What I am trying to point out is the obvious discrimination that singles face.

We still, unfortunately, live in a society that looks down on us if we do not have a partner. Since I am in a long-term relationship, I don’t get heckled as much. But since I am neither married nor engaged, the question most often asked of me is, “So when are you getting married?”

I am not adverse to marriage at all, yet I do not think it should be the ultimate goal in one’s life. I have known many people in unhappy relationships who stay in them because they are scared they won’t find anyone else or that they will have to start over.

I say dump someone who is not fulfilling your life and revel in your singlehood for as long as you wish.

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