Singletude: A Positive Blog for Singles

Singletude is a positive, supportive singles blog about life choices for the new single majority. It's about dating and relationships, yes, but it's also about the other 90% of your life--family, friends, career, hobbies--and flying solo and sane in this crazy, coupled world. Singletude isn't about denying loneliness. It's about realizing that whether you're single by choice or by circumstance, this single life is your life to live.

Tuesday, January 5, 2010

Singles in the News: 12/27/09-1/2/10

As you know if you've been following along with Singletude, "Singles in the News" is in transition. As popular as the column has become and as important as I think it is to draw more attention to events concerning singles and the way they're portrayed in the media, there are simply too many stories for me to read and summarize them all as a free service. In one way, that's a great development because it means that singles are in the public eye more than ever before. But, sadly, it also means that I can't bring "Singles in the News" to you in the same way that I used to.

Specifically, the original goal of "Singles in the News" was to both highlight stories of interest to singles and to present a broad snapshot of how singles are characterized in the media. To accomplish the latter, I collected as many stories as I could. I will no longer be doing that. Instead, starting today, I'll be wielding a heavier editorial hand, selecting maybe 10 or so articles a week for coverage. As in the past, these reports will have to be from legitimate, unbiased news sources and not from blogs or from web sites with a stated political or religious agenda. However, I'll be tightening my criteria further to only include articles that either have some important new information to impart or that exemplify either encouragingly progressive or disturbingly regressive attitudes toward single adults. That means "Singles in the News" won't feature articles about dating unless they display a new or unusual perspective on the topic or demonstrate a markedly pro- or anti-single philosophy. You also won't see as many stories about very common problems such as homelessness or poverty among singles; these issues are simply too widespread to cover local stories unless they're standouts in some way. Speaking of "local," there will be less local news in general unless, again, the subject is distinctive or applicable in a larger way.

So, as "Singles in the News" changes in 2010, let's review some of what we learned in 2009, especially since we may no longer be able to keep up with all of these topics:

1. Homelessness and poverty are significant issues for single people. Single adults and single parents are particularly vulnerable to economic hardship even though the public tends to have more interest in and sympathy for families. Singles are more likely to struggle with inadequate food, housing, and necessities than are married couples. Fortunately, many homeless shelters and food banks are aware of this and are actively seeking to support singles. However, many of them are underfunded.

2. In some developing countries in Asia, the Middle East, Africa, and South America, singles are still subjected to severe social and legal discrimination. Single women in particular are victimized by laws that deny them the basic rights available to single men and married women. Many single women in these nations cannot do things that we take for granted in the Western world such as owning property, receiving an inheritance, starting a business, or even accessing education, job training, and health care. In the most repressive countries, they are viewed as the chattel of men and refused free movement, speech, and choice in such defining decisions as whether or not they will marry. Thankfully, some of these single females are organizing coalitions in their own corners of the world and petitioning for reform. Slowly but surely, change is happening as third-world governments learn that these women won't be silenced.

3. In most industrialized nations, the outlook for singles is much the same as it is in the United States. Their numbers are increasing as marriage is delayed or shunned altogether, and retailers are scrambling to keep up with the trend. Singles web sites (mostly geared toward dating), singles tours and travel agents, single housing units, single servings in the supermarket, single-sized products...all are enjoying increased popularity worldwide.

4. Some journalists, politicians, researchers, religious officials, and civilian matrimaniacs have been left wringing their hands at the demographic changes sweeping the US and other nations. Singlism is alive and well, and many people are horrified that single adults are growing beyond minority status. Some of these same people make incredibly offensive remarks about singles and use fallacious research claims to back up their statements. Typically, their rhetoric is grounded in the firm belief that singleness is not normal; that marriage is preferable to singleness and confers a host of benefits such as health, happiness, sexual fulfillment, security, and personal growth; that married people should be entitled to legal, economic, and social privileges that singles do not deserve; and that married-couple households are far better for children than single-parent households.

5. Refreshingly, more and more journalists "get it." They understand that the single life has many advantages and that singleness is a legitimate, even desirable option for some. Their op-eds and how-tos validate singles and help them make the most of their single status instead of trying to convert them to happily marrieds. They also recognize that singles often get the short end of the stick and draw attention to it through honest, unbiased reporting. They sympathize with and publicize the injustices that singles face in employment, health care, housing, banking, taxation, travel, insurance, and other dimensions. Their writing increasingly advances the cause of singles who want to be treated fairly and equitably and affirms their value to the world.

Today, "Singles in the News" debuts in its new format. Feedback is welcome and appreciated. Hopefully, readers will be as enthusiastic about it now as they were about it before. If not, then perhaps I'll have to reevaluate whether to replace it with something else entirely.


"Dating and Divorce, Facebook-style"
By Eilene Zimmerman
Summary: A truly thoughtful piece about how social networks in general and Facebook specifically have transformed the contemporary dating scene. While it's become fashionable to condemn Facebook for all the world's ills, Zimmerman departs from the blame game to explore how the site has restored and expanded on the dating sensibilities of a community-based, low-tech era, citing commentary from the influential voices of 2009. Of course, the flip side is that the "neighborhood" environment both pulls us together and tears us apart by offering up temptations accessible with just the click of a mouse.

"How Women in Their 30s Put Having a Baby Before Love"
By Fay Schlesinger
The Daily Mail
Summary: A poll of 3,100 thirty- and forty-something British singles examined attitudes toward relationships in light of their desire to conceive. Fully 42% of single women and 30% of single men agreed that even if they met an "ideal partner," they would think twice about getting involved if they knew that individual had fertility issues. Over two-thirds were concerned about their ability to have children and worried that pregnancy would be problematic if they waited too long. In addition, three-quarters said it was possible that fertility problems could end their relationships. All this is very interesting, but notice how the journalist takes these facts and "rearranges" them. First of all, her headline implies that most women in their thirties are more interested in children than in romantic partners. But, in fact, only 42% stated that they would reject an "ideal partner" who might not be able to have children. That means the majority, 58%, would still prefer an "ideal partner" to the chance for a baby. Second, the headline and opening paragraphs frame this value system as uniquely female. However, the study shows that a significant number of single men (30%) also place a higher emphasis on children than marital partners. Finally and most importantly, the report approaches these findings from the stance that they are automatically troubling. Looking again at the headline, Schlesinger's use of the phrase "put having a baby before love" suggests that the parent-child bond isn't really love; only romantic feelings count as love. "In a growing trend dubbed the 'breeder relationship', [sic] women who wait until their 30s or 40s to start a family are then rushing into loveless partnerships for the sake of having an instant family," the article warns ominously even though modern notions of love have only recently been a requirement for doing just that. What this poll really reveals is that some single women and some single men prioritize having children more than having romantic relationships. Why are their values automatically worthy of denunciation?

"Iran Bars Single Women From Working in Gas Field"
Summary: Wow. From the article: "Iran has barred single women from working for a state firm that operates a huge gas field and petrochemical plants on the shores of the Gulf....More than 18 months ago, Iranian newspapers carried an instruction by the company requiring that 'single employees start creating a family.'" For some reason, the article has made this a women's issue, but actually this affects all singles, and single men are the ones more likely to be working in the Iranian petrochemical industry. The injunction continues, "'As being married is one of the criteria of employment, we are announcing for the last time that all female and male colleagues have until September 21 to go ahead with this important and moral religious duty.'" Can you imagine your boss telling you that you had 18 months to marry or lose your job? I'm not a big supporter of the Iraq War, but reports like this make me so thankful our troops are defending us against people with this mentality. We may moan and complain sometimes about how bad we have it as singles in the US, but this is a whole other level of bad.


"Marriage Insulates Men From Health, Financial Shocks"
By Vivian Luk
The Vancouver Sun
Summary: Results of the Canadian Survey of Labour and Income Dynamics, conducted between 1999 and 2002, show that when husbands are stricken with long-term illness, their wives help by picking up more slack around the house. Supposedly, this enables men to "focus solely on their jobs." Not surprisingly, the study also found that better health and more years together were correlated with greater marital stability. This, of course, turns into an opportunity for study author Giovanni Gallipoli of the University of British Columbia, to extol the virtues of marriage as good "insurance" for men. Notice that the study apparently couldn't make the same claim for women or else Gallipoli surely would've raved about it. Could it be that this is another case in which marriage is good for the gander but not so much for the goose? To put it more bluntly, is it possible that when working wives get sick, they don't tend to get the same support from their husbands? Furthermore, if I were a man, I don't think I'd be sold on marriage just because my future wife might help out a little more around the house if I were incapacitated. It would be more convincing if I could expect her to get a job so I could concentrate on getting well! In explanation, the article says, "According to the research, women tend to marry men who earn relatively more, so wives also find it unnecessary to work longer hours." So, the man can roll out of his deathbed and traipse off to work every day because he's the breadwinner while his healthy wife continues earning disposable income and maybe vacuums a few more times a week? I fail to see how that's much of a security blanket for the man. Furthermore, though it's nice that so many Canadian families can seemingly survive with one earner, I wonder how generalizable this study would be to dual-income populations. Would most wives already pushed to the max juggling full-time professional jobs and the "second shift" really be able to pick up the slack for their husbands? If not, is marriage really such good "insurance"? If anything, this study shows just how much spouses don't contribute when one is indisposed.


Singles With Singletude Award
"Nepal's Widows Reject Govt's Remarriage Proposal"
By Danielle Shapiro
We news
Summary: The Indian Supreme Court is now deciding whether to overrule legislation that would pay men to marry single women, further entrenching female dependence and raising the specter that single men may marry for the money, only to abuse or abandon their new wives. The in-depth article further details social customs that oppress single and even remarried women, the work of singles advocacy groups, and other passed or pending legislation regarding inheritances and social security for single women.

"Sayonara to the Rabbit Hutch: Living with Roommates in Japan"
By Mariko Sanchanta
The Wall Street Journal
Long-term singleness is a relatively new concept in Japan. So are roommates. But hard times have convinced some young single adults to give up their shoebox studios for more spacious digs with strangers.


Singleschmucker Award
"Need to Curb Crime in Jleeb"
By Khaled Aljenfawi
Arab Times
Summary: In many Arab countries, singles are demonized and segregated from the rest of the population. In this op-ed, the author argues that a city in Kuwait has a high crime rate because of its disproportionate population of single men. His solution would be to haul them off to their own version of a penal colony on the outskirts of the city. Says Aljenfawi, "Such a phenomenon where one finds groups of single men living among families is uncommon in other societies. In addition to its being socially inappropriate, it is out of place to allow single men to mingle with families....We have no other option, but to outlaw the clustering and gathering of huge number [sic] of single laborers in one particular geographical area." Perhaps, due to enforced segregation, it is uncommon for single men to live among families in Muslim nations. But in most of the rest of the world, it happens all the time, and many of the countries in which it occurs have very low crime rates. But, then, this argument wasn't based on logic in the first place, was it? I know this article was written within a different cultural context, but the fact that anyone, anywhere would condone what is essentially apartheid by marital status is horrifying.


"Japanese Singles Wish for Marriage in New Year, Government Wishes for More Babies"
By Jonathan Day and Ma Jie
China View
Summary: Although the article's title suggests that the majority of Japanese singles can't wait to get married, in reality, the growing throngs of the unmarried fall into two distinct groups--those who are single by choice and those who are single by circumstance. The article differentiates both groups while paying special attention to the factors behind the explosion in singles and the potential consequences for a nation with a falling birthrate.


"In My View: What Can We Do to Save Marriage?"
By Kirk and Anita Boyenga
The State Journal-Register
Summary: Building their case for marriage on the rigid gender roles of the past, these smug marrieds want to persuade us that 1) "tax codes should be structured to benefit married husbands and wives," 2) "public funds for those in severe need should be given priority to intact husband-wife households" because "we are destroying entire communities by financially rewarding single women who bear and try to raise children without a male presence," and 3) "educators at all levels need to teach the importance of the natural family in sustaining the culture, paying the bills and upholding communities." I wonder if the Boyengas are aware that the "natural" (aka, nuclear) family didn't even exist until the twentieth century and that its track record for community involvement and cultural innovation isn't exemplary. Then, without any real support for that model as the standard, they want to financially penalize everyone else who lives differently including the innocent children who are born to single mothers. I'm sure the kids won't mind, though, once they're informed that they are single-handedly "destroying entire communities." Yes, it's obvious how much this married couple supports their community.

"Single Women Seek Sub-quota Within Women's Quota"
The New Indian Express
Summary: Single women in India are petitioning for the establishment of legal quotas for their employment.

Do you have thoughts on any of the stories above? (When commenting, please reference the title of the article.)

Want to stay current on changes in the world that impact singles? Read the latest news about singles every day! Check out the Singletude newsreader under Singles in the News on the homepage!

Do you have a question for Clever Elsie about some aspect of the single life? Have an unpublished rant or rave about singlehood? Write in, and you just might see your question in a "Singletude Q&A" or your rant or rave in a "Singletude Sound-off"! Singletude makes every effort to republish submissions in their original form but reserves the right to edit your submission for length and clarity.


The Singlutionary said...

Thank you for all the wonderful work you've done in bringing these reviews to us. I've really enjoyed it and I look forward to the next incarnation. I'm trying to figure out how to post regularly and contribute usefully stuff and be able to have a job and a life at the same time-- trying to be more efficient in this labor of love. I see that you are too! YAYYYYYYYYY for the new year!

Clever Elsie said...

Singlutionary: So nice to see you around these parts, hon! I think all of us who do this in addition to regular work have to make these compromises. I feel like a lousy blogger; I know I haven't been keeping up with everyone. I promise I will stop by and visit the Singlution very soon!

Special K said...

I would totally move in with a friend in order to prevent foreclosure....if I could "settle" somewhere and live there permanently. I love these articles, although, I don't read all of them. You are a VAST reader! I would love it if if you picked one, emailed it to me and I'd post up your commentary about it on a weekly guest post!

Clever Elsie said...

Special K: I would totally move in with a friend in order to prevent foreclosure....if I could "settle" somewhere and live there permanently.

So would I, but good point about the impermanence of the arrangement! That makes me think about how those of us who are interested in singles issues often bemoan how little respect friendships get, but friends themselves don't necessarily want to commit to each other at the level that couples do. In fact, I suspect that if most friends were expected to establish more permanent, binding ties to each other, we'd see a lot more negativity, fighting, and, ultimately, "divorce" among friends. I still wish more people were open to making long-lasting platonic commitments, though.

I'm probably not as voracious a reader as you think! I fear my efforts have been flagging. Even with cutting back some, it's so hard to keep up.

I'd love to send you an article review every week! I'll be in touch about it.