What is Singlism?

by JRO on October 29, 2013

  • SumoMe

Some people have argued that society puts pressure on all of us to get married, preferably before we reach middle age. It may be acceptable and even encouraged in some circles to be unmarried in our 20s, but once we start approaching 30 we’re expected to “settle down” and “find somebody.” Of course, this doesn’t mean that everybody has found a spouse by the time they reach 30. On the contrary, there are millions of people in their 30s, 40s, and beyond who are unmarried and happy, despite what society sometimes has to say on the subject. Still, the pressure that people feel to find someone is very real, and it has led to a kind of prejudice that, appropriately enough, has been given the name “singlism.”

Singlism Defined

Just as its name implies, singlism is the discrimination against and negative perception of unmarried people. Some would argue that singlism doesn’t exist or that it isn’t as serious as other “-isms” like racism, sexism, or ageism, but others would argue that it is very real and can be just as painful as other forms of discrimination.

Those who have experienced singlism at its worst usually feel the sting of this kind of prejudice in their social lives. Since we as a society place so much emphasis on finding our “One True Love,” getting married, and having children, people tend to stereotype singles as lonely, miserable, and desperate for romantic attention. They assume that a single person’s life will be incomplete until he or she finds romance. Anybody who has known more than a few people who are single by choice should know how insulting this sounds. Many single people have very active social lives; it just so happens that their lives don’t include spouses. They often have friends and family members to keep them company, and many are perfectly happy with not being married. Unfortunately, that doesn’t stop people from making assumptions about them.

Singles in the Workplace

Although singlism is more likely to affect people’s social lives, it can have an affect on one’s career. Simply put, the assumptions that people make about singles outside the workplace can creep into the office and cause problems. For example, a single person might be seen as more likely to put in longer hours at work or come in on the weekends. The assumption is that, since they aren’t married and probably don’t have children, they don’t really have a life outside of work. There is more pressure on these employees to put in extra hours, and when they have other plans it might come as a surprise and be held against them. This can get especially difficult for those who work in “family-friendly” companies that all but reward people for having spouses and children. On average, married men make about 27 percent more than single men in the workplace. They are also more likely to receive tax incentives and other bonuses than their unmarried coworkers.

The stigma faced by single people today is not nearly as severe as it was a few generations ago, and it has become more socially acceptable to remain uncoupled well into middle or old age. Still, singlism does exist, and it can hurt those who experience it. Marriage is not a requirement for happiness, and we as a society should stop punishing people for choosing the single life.




Gregory Meyers is a practicing divorce attorney who frequently writes on topics such as family law, employment law, business law, property law and other related areas.

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