Watching the classic movie, Ghandi. Am struck by the fact that his incredibly powerful non-violent resistant efforts began in South Africa where they were highly effective because they were set up against LAWS. Yes, Indians had to carry ID cards when no one else in S. Africa did. They were required to do X and Y by law–a clear and present ruling against which they could fight.
How unlike the prejudice against single women in our society today. There are no written laws against which to stand. There are no formal regulations to contest. What single women face is only unwritten prejudices and informally sanctioned exclusions. Restricted or impossible access to loans, shame for being in need as a single mother, embarrassment at coming alone, without a "date," for a social or even a business occasion, missed opportunities because there is no man at the head of your business. The list goes on.
Even when women fought for the vote 100 years ago, both married and single women could fight alongside each other. And still the married women had the sanction of their husband's power behind them–or they risked divorce, at the time an almost impossible choice for a woman to give up the financial security (not to mention the social approbation) associated with marriage.
Elibabeth Cady Stanton was the married agitator. Susan B. Anthony was the lifetime single woman advocate. Blessedly they became closest friends. Today, the gulf between single and married is as great as it has ever been since the Victorian era and before. But the separation is more disguised because today single women have at least a greater chance of supporting themselves independently. Less room to be openly pitied–but no less room to be resented, stigmatized, ignored, or marginalized.
But then we see Ghandi turning to help his own country gain greater respect within the world community. Here is where we may take a lesson. There were no laws against being an Indian citizen. There were no laws against being strong and independent as a nation. But there was an overwhelming sense of unworthiness among the people. Ghandi said, “Poverty is the most powerful kind of violence.” So that is what Ghandi began to fight–the expectations, the systemic setup against success. That is where we can find inspiration for single working women.
Today we are creating change in the world.