Opinion: Single People Actually Are Treated Worse in Our Society

Elle Silver

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If you're single, you may have recently gone home for the holidays, only to find yourself bombarded with questions about when you're going to find somebody "special."

When are you going to get married? When are you going to have kids? When are you going to settle down like everyone else?

You may be trying as hard as you can to meet that special someone, to no avail. Or you may have stopped trying altogether. The pandemic has been especially damaging to many people's dating lives.

Or then again, you may be perfectly happy as a single person. It's just no one can understand that.

Everyone is so concerned about how lonely and unhappy you must be, and how you must be coupled to live a fulfilled life.

What no one realizes is that by treating you this way, they are being singlist.

What is singlism?

Singlism is the unfair treatment of people who are single. In her book Singled Out: How Singles Are Stereotyped, Stigmatized, and Ignored, and Still Live Happily Ever After, social scientist Bella DePaulo, Ph.D., writes:

People who do not have a serious coupled relationship (my definition, for now, of single people) are stereotyped, discriminated against, and treated dismissively. This stigmatization of people who are single - whether divorced, widowed, or ever single - is the twenty-first-century problem that has no name. I'll call it singlism."

In her piece in Psychology Today, DePaulo assures:

Singlism is not as vicious as some of the other isms such as racism or heterosexism. No one has been dragged to their death, or assigned to separate drinking fountains, just because they are single. Still, ... singlism touches so many aspects of single people's lives that it simply cannot be dismissed. Over the course of a lifetime, the unfair treatment adds up.

This is true. According to the Cambridge Dictionary, an example of singlism in the workplace "might involve single people covering unpopular shifts for those married employees with parental responsibilities."

Think about when President Barack Obama nominated Janet Napolitano, a single woman, to be the Secretary of Homeland Security. Pennsylvania Governor Ed Rendell immediately remarked: "Janet’s perfect for the job. Because for that job, you have to have no life. Janet has no family. Perfect. She can devote, literally, 19, 20 hours a day to it.”

As if because Napolitano is single, she didn't deserve to have a humane work schedule. As if single people don't also need time off from their jobs. As if single people have "no life."

But singlism in the workplace is hardly the worst form of singlism out there. Singlism can be found amongst doctors when prescribing life-saving treatments—or not. Doctors have also been shown to be less likely to recommend single people for an organ transplant.

Apart from that, singlism comes down to whether a single person is made to feel like they belong in society. By default, coupled people are looked at as normal.

Single people are either viewed as lacking for something. Worse, they're seen as peculiar in some way.

Seeing single people in such a light is yet another part of singlism.

Recognizing singlism exists is the first step toward change.

Next time you meet someone who's single, don't assume they're looking for a mate. Don't assume they even want to get married. Don't assume your life is better because you are.

Stop feeling sorry for your single friends and family members. Stop believing that their life is sad or they're missing out on something by not having a relationship.

This is the first step toward drawing more attention to the injustices of singlism. Hopefully, with more discussion surrounding this issue, people will wake up and stop being so singlist.

The government will stop giving tax breaks only to married people. Insurance companies will stop making rates higher for those who are single.

Doctors will stop giving preferential treatment to coupled patients. And single folks will no longer be made to feel like there's anything wrong with them simply because they're single.

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I'm a relationships expert with a focus on post-divorce dating and family. Everything I've learned about love, I've learned the hard way. You can learn from my mistakes.

Los Angeles, CA
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