Monday, February 14, 2011

Singled Out (it's a book review, yo)

Some people call Valentine's Day "Singles Awareness Day". I prefer to view it as a day to worship almighty Chocolate. However you celebrate (or don't), you should read this awesome post that Lanafactrix showed me. I love the title: Living Single, and was glad to see that the writer doesn't like the term "single", either.

And now, a related book review where I'll be forced to use the word many times.

I'll be honest...I picked up Singled Out due to a sense of obligation. I was expecting it to be full of "well, DUH" information, and to therefore be boring. Luckily, I was wrong on both counts. It ended up being a fairly absorbing read, and author Bella De Paulo has a sense of humor. For example: "Still, compared with women, men get a break. They can turn on Monday Night Football in full confidence that the game will not end with a wedding (16)". (I'm sure plenty of women watch football, and maybe that's exactly one of the reasons.)

In terms of new information, I was glad to learn more about the experiences of single men. Apparently, they get paid less than married men for doing the same work. The "breadwinner bonus" still applies, even though so many women work. Common stereotypes were also explored. To me, one of the more interesting ones is the idea that men need to be "civilized" by marriage. This manages to be insulting to men and women alike: To men, because it assumes that if they're single, they're just sitting around eating pizza all day. And to women, because it assumes that rather than partners, we're just looking for DIY projects.

Additionally, I'd always assumed that most single people were "looking", and I was an exception. Not so. According to a 2005 survey, 55% of single people were not looking. Another good point from the book: Why aren't single parents just called "parents"? Married parents aren't referred to as "married parents". If the name is a holdover from days when single parents were unusual, then it's definitely out of date now.

Unless you're Betty Friedan, it's hard to talk about a problem that has no name. One helpful thing about Singled Out is that it introduces the term "singlism". While not as dangerous as sexism or racism, De Paulo still shows how single people can face discrimination in terms of health care, wages, and obtaining housing. After reading this book, I immediately identified some singlism on a TV show I watched that night, which I doubt I would have recognized before. It is indeed insidious. And, finally, I would call the book ace-friendly: "Apparently, there is little room in the mythology of singlehood for women who are getting exactly the amount and kind of sex they desire-- including, for some single women, no sex at all (147)".


SlightlyMetaphysical said...

Thank you for the link to that article. The idea of singleism is something I'm going to look out for more- I expect an awful lot of it comes when people are expected to have spouses- see 'single parents', and the legal ability of a spouse to speak for you when you are dead or terminally ill.

Rem Anon said...

For some reason I'd assumed you already knew about Bell DePaulo, else I would have linked you!

So you know, she also has a pretty good blog at Psychology Today: I very much recommend it. She has also posted on asexuality in the past!

maddox said...

A singles book that's not only NOT misogynous and doesn't tell women to curl up into a ball and cry, but points out society's double standard as well? Now you've made me curious enough to read the book. (Although I'm more of the scientific inclination... would this count as my sociology/anthropology read?)

Ily said...

@Slightly Metaphysical: You're welcome! It's disturbing to me how single people get the short end of the stick, legally speaking. If a married person can leave their Social Security benefits to their spouse, a single person should be able to designate a person to leave their benefits to.

@Rem Anon: Thanks for the link! I'd seen her blog in the past, but not the asexuality mention, it's cool that she's posted about it.

@Maddox: Yeah, it's definitely not a dating book, and would count as a sociology read. I believe that the author is a sociology professor.

Rem Anon said...

Well, DePaulo is doing her bit for us! Her most recent blog post just touched on asexuality again, and she linked not only her original post on asexuality but AVEN too!

Eli said...

I read the post on the crunk feminist collective and really liked it! "I want a community that takes interdependency seriously, that doesn’t assume that it’s only a familial or romantic relationship responsibility to be there for each other." <3 One thing in your book review stood out to me especially, because it's something I've been thinking and hearing about--the "marriage civilizes men" concept.
That's a horrifying thought. Makes me think of that vile "why you're not married" huffpo article.