The concept of the single woman has gone through many stages. The lonely spinster, the 20-year-old waiting for her future husband to finally find her, and the radical, non-shaving hippy feminist. Where does that leave the single woman today? A Gloria Steinem quote — “We are becoming the men that we always wanted to marry” — declares where the single woman is today.
I am a proud, single feminist. That dirty, ugly word causes cringes from those around you when you declare your title. How did that word come to hold such negative connotations? A word that should inspire women to unite rather causes women and men alike to react in disgust. Rebecca West stated, “I’ve never been able to find out precisely what feminism means: I only know that I am accused of being a feminist whenever I express opinions that differentiate me from a doormat.”
I believe that being a feminist means something different to everyone who claims the title. However, I think all feminists can agree that we strive for treatment and status equal with men’s. Our branches of thought may differ on certain subjects and our radicalism may be on different points of the spectrum, but we all have this goal in mind.
Rebecca West’s 1913 statement carries the same weight that it did nearly a century ago. The single woman. The feminist. The two titles that, when combined, make you an easy target of ridicule and endless eye rolling.
I have had many conversations with fellow single women who share the same feminist sentiment. The sentiment being the eternal paradox: a single man who pursues an education and a career is someone to be admired. A single woman who pursues the same is someone to be pitied. A single woman’s career and education is only something to distract her from her loneliness. The comments I receive when people find out that I am single are always the same: “Oh don’t worry, you’ll find him!”; “You’re still single? But why, I don’t get it?”; “Oh, you’re single; who can I set you up with? Let me ask my boyfriend which of his friends are single!” The thought that I may enjoy being single never seems to occur to these people.
The fact that I am single does not cause me grief. It does not cause me to doubt myself. I do not sit around at night wondering when my prince charming will find me. In fact, my single status is something that I have chosen and embraced. I have chosen to focus on myself, on my education and on my career. I have chosen to not settle for men that I know do not meet my needs or desires in life. Furthermore, if I go through life never finding that man, I will be okay. I will not only survive, but will thrive. If I spend my life as a single woman, I am not to be looked at as a creature to be pitied, but as a creature to be admired. Moreover, the fact that I enjoy my singleness does not make me bitter. It does not make me a man hater, bruised by past relationships. It makes me content. It highlights the feminist thought that I can look to myself to find happiness. The fact that I am a feminist causes me to embrace my single status.
It is a great time to be a single woman. Marriage is no longer a criterion for young women’s happiness. Statistics show that single people in Canada are beginning to outnumber married people. Women are defining themselves in who they are rather than whom and when they marry. Unhappy marriages are avoided through the art of waiting until you are secure in yourself before you get married. This article is in no way an anti-marriage argument. However, it is a pro-single argument. An argument based on the thought that women do not have to be in a relationship to be content. It is a declaration that the stigma of being a single woman must disappear.
While women have reached many milestones through the different waves of feminism, there is still work to be done in order to gain equal status. Evidence abounds: from the recent sexual harassment claims that emerged from a female RCMP officer, to the fact that women make up 53 per cent of the world’s population but control only own 1 per cent of the wealth, to women only holding 11 per cent of corporate board seats. Statistical and qualitative evidence show that feminism is not a thing of the past. It remains useful and needed in contemporary society. Single (and non-single) women everywhere must unite together to fight these inequalities.
March 8 marked International Women’s Day. This year, women must stand up to fight the single stigma and the looming inequalities that remain in our society. This stigma is directly related to the inequality, as many believe that women are still not capable of being successful without a man, and this is evident in the numbers above.
Do not accept the myth that feminism is a thing of the past. Feminism is still every present and should inspire all women to reject the stigma of their feminist, single status. It is only through uniting as women that we can fight it. United together: gay, straight, transgender, asexual, single and married, we can declare that our relationship status does not define us.
To quote Gloria Steinem again, “Any woman who chooses to behave like a full human being should be warned that the armies of the status quo will treat her as something of a dirty joke. That’s their natural and first weapon. She will need her sisterhood.”
Rachel Wood wants to see an end to the stigma against single women.