Science supports the SWWAN mission

Just finished a brilliant book, “Singled Out: How Singles Are Stereotyped, Stigmatized, and Ignored, and Still Live Happily Ever After,” (St. Martin’s Press, 2006). Author Bella DePaulo, a Harvard-educated PhD who happens to be an ever-single, brings to light all the subtle, hidden, insidious ways in which American society discriminates against singles.

If you thought it was just you, or you thought it was just a few people around you with whom you sometimes feel less-than, you’ll be very pleased to know that, in fact, not only are you not alone, but it’s pervasive. Getting married in America gets you all kinds of perks and privileges you are pointedly–and often smugly–denied because you’re single. And that includes a not-insignificant number of government-issued free passes and discounts. We’ll talk more about that another time.

And today, when 51% of women in this country are single, these truths become not just appalling but incredible. I love how she says about certain facts, try saying this with the word “married” instead of single and see what kind of hell you’d raise. DePaulo calls this discriminatory pattern–and it is a pattern, not a few isolated incidents–singlism. She compares it–quite aptly and with scientific proof–to sexism, racism and every other case of widespread discrimination still practiced (with varying degrees of subterfuge) today.

Fifty-one percent? And listen to how arch-conservative Time magazine “yes, buts…” its way through an analysis of the book’s carefully researched statistics.

“The Times got to 51% only[emphasis added] by including 2.4 million American females over 15 (of the 117 million total) who are married but aren’t living with their husbands–but not because the marriage is troubled, according to Robert Bernstein, a press officer with the Census Bureau. Instead, they live in different places because of, say, a temporary work assignment such as military deployment. The paper also counts widows as women living without their husbands. Right. They’re dead. Except for the infinitesimal number who killed their spouses, these women didn’t give up on matrimony.”

And there’s more. How about this: “…it’s true that Americans wait longer than ever to wed. But the rise in marrying age almost exactly mirrors the rise in life expectancy.” What does maybe-living til 80 have to do with refusing to give up your freedom to be uniquely yourself when you’re 22, 23, 24 and 25? Methinks though dost protest too much, Time.

But in the end, they can’t nay-say the truths laid bare in this scholarly but very passionately written book about singles in America. They end with this: “There’s good evidence that it is freedom that makes us healthy and happy, not the bonds of marriage.”

We’ve invited Bella DePaulo to talk with us on the SWWAN Dive radio show. Stay tuned and we’ll let you know when she’ll be appearing.

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