Is our culture predisposed to celebrate and reward married people over singles? According to a recent post on the NY Times health blog Well there’s a growing concern among social scientists that singles are getting a raw deal in a number of areas; an inequity, which, in the interest of social parity, needs to change.
One author has even come up with a name for single discrimination: Psychologist Bella DePaulo calls it “Singlism”.
Researchers argue that many government policies often favour married people over single people. This kind of exclusion is unfair when you consider how single people contribute to the economy and community, say experts.
Sociologist Naomi Gerstel tells Well writer Tara Parker-Pope that single people often pick up the slack in their communities and families. Many married people, especially those with children, can’t devote the same amount of time and energy to these areas. For example, she cites a recent report that finds 84 percent of single women provide practical and consistent help to their parents.
More importantly, single people are more active socially in their neighbourhoods and take part in volunteer work. There’s even evidence to suggest they’re more politically engaged citizens.
This is not to say that single people are better people; only that they’re equal partners in the health of the culture and should be valued accordingly. (Now if only my grandmother could wrap her head around that idea I might not shrink from her interrogations into my personal life.)
Our cultural affection for the ideal of marriage isn’t exactly a social evil— it’s kind of nice to think that even in a Jersey Shore world we still idealize love and commitment—but all those wedding shows and rom-coms do take their toll on singles emotionally and psychologically. It makes them feel like losers.
Many single people, women especially, feel stigmatized for being single. Educated, gainfully employed women still occasionally harbour the unhappy suspicion that they are seriously lacking because they’re not married—threatening to become ‘cat ladies’ with a high risk of fading into social invisibility at the tender age of 35. (Whew, thank god, I’m only 34!)
As one of the Well experts points out, there is a general feeling in society that if you don’t marry by a certain age there’s “something wrong with you.”
It’s probably wiser to ask what’s wrong with a culture that wants to punish men and women for trying to do their best by their families, communities and employers?
Are you listening, grandma?
Do you think we discriminate against single people? Please leave a comment below or share your thoughts here.