If you’ve ever been single, you’re likely well aware of the weird comments people make about your love life. Is there someone special in your life? (My extended family has been asking me this literally since middle school). Why aren’t you dating? Don’t worry, you’re amazing! You’ll find someone eventually. It’s so empowering that you’re single and happy. Eye roll.
These comments get even weirder when you reach an age where *everyone* assumes you already have a partner, and if you don’t, you must be sad and lonely. While of course, these feelings do ring true for some, they are wildly false blanket statements. Not every single woman is looking for a partner or a long-term relationship or is making a feminist statement by being single.
When I was single, I remember feeling like people either saw me as hyper-independent, working on myself, or that I must be “too damaged” from my past relationship to date. BIG ew. Can I just be single and enjoy life on my own? Or why can’t I be single and struggling without it having to be a classic stereotype?
These stereotypes aren’t just annoying, they’re a structural issue.
For all the single ladies out there, the comments you receive, stereotypes constantly thrown in your face, and life challenges you face are more than just annoying assumptions, they’re actually part of a system that favors married and partnered people over single people.
Social psychologist, Dr. Bella DePaulo, has dedicated her career to understanding exactly what you, my single friend, are struggling with. DePaulo calls this “singlism,” which is basically the constant praising and adoration of marriage, and stereotyping and stigmatization of single people. While singlism is nonviolent and a far more gentle form of discrimination than racism, for example, it’s still quite real, pervasive, and has a significant impact on people’s lives, DePaulo explains in Psychology Today.
8 Single Girl Stereotypes We Need To Leave Behind
Exactly what are these stereotypes that single women experience though? Are they really that bad? If you’re a single woman, or a single woman’s friend or family, here are eight stereotypes you, or your friend, might be facing, that need to be left in the trash.
1. Single women are less mature
While this is absolutely not true, people subconsciously believe this, and it needs to stop. DePaulo published a study in 2008 that sampled 1,000 undergraduates and found single people were more often called immature, insecure, self-centered, unhappy, lonely, and ugly (my jaw is on the floor), while married people were more likely than singles to be described as mature, stable, honest, happy, kind, and loving. So yea, it’s an entirely untrue but common stereotype.
2. Single women don’t choose to be single
I asked readers what stereotypes about single women need to go, and this was by far the most common. Countless women said they’re sick of strangers, friends, and family assuming that they aren’t choosing to be single and that ultimately, they want a relationship, but can’t find one.
“A stereotype I HATE as a newly single woman (after a 15-year relationship) is that I need to find someone else. Ummm no, no I don’t. I can be alone and be just fine,” Sammy* says. She says all her friends keep asking when she is going to get on Tinder. They automatically assume that finding a new relationship is what she wants.
While it’s true that some women are single because they can’t find the person they want to be with (and trust me, this can be an incredibly challenging experience), this is not true for everyone. Believing that being single is not a choice reinforces the idea that a person is only single because there’s something wrong with them. Even if you are struggling as a single woman to find a partner, it doesn’t mean there’s something wrong with you.
3. Single women would be happier if they were in a relationship
Let’s get real, it’s widely believed that people are happier when they’re partnered. In fact, researchers set out to answer the question, “When people marry, do they become happier than they were when they were single?” and basically, the answer is no. Surprise!
In DePaulo’s 2008 study, they break down one study that followed German adults for 18 years and found “a small increase in happiness around the year of the wedding, but then their happiness returned to the level it was before.” In contrast, “People who stayed single throughout the study started out slightly less happy (0.2 points on an 11-point scale) than the people who would eventually get married and stay married. However, their mean happiness level was always squarely on the happy end of the scale (never more than 0.6 points lower than the continuously married).” Contrary to popular belief, getting married does not necessarily make people happier.
4. Single women have unlimited free time
While it may be shocking to hear, it’s actually quite common for single people to be asked to stay late at work or cover shifts because it’s assumed that they have more free time without a partner, or even that holidays are less important and they don’t have plans.
While single people may not have a partner to spend their free time or holidays with, it doesn’t mean they don’t have anything to do. Many people who choose to be single have strong communities of friends, chosen family, or relatives they spend their free time and holidays with, and not having a partner doesn’t make this time less important or less valuable than someone with a partner.
5. Single women are sexually unsatisfied and want to sleep with you
I cannot count the number of parties I’ve been to with friends, and the single woman in the group is assumed to be sexually unsatisfied and “desperate” to get with someone. This is often based on the idea that a single woman cannot be satisfied by solo sex, that they are so desperate for a relationship they’ll sleep with anyone, or that they need a deep emotional connection with someone in order to be sexually satisfied.
It’s an old, worn-out myth that sex is always emotional for women. Not just that, but not everyone needs another person to be sexually satisfied. Even if they do, there are women who choose to be single because they want to sleep with several people, whenever they’d like.
6. Single women are “high maintenance”
“She must be single because she asks for too much.” This is old, misogynistic, and needs to go. Having needs doesn’t make you high maintenance, and being single doesn’t automatically mean your personality is flawed.
7. Single women are too independent
One of the few positive associations with being single is being independent, but somehow this positive association quickly fades into single ladies being *too* independent. Most often, we see this double standard when we praise and expect women to raise kids on their own, financially support themselves or their family, or balance work, family, or perhaps even school.
Yet at the same time, these women suddenly become “too independent” when it appears that a potential partner might not feel needed by them, whether that’s because the woman has been living alone for years, has a high-achieving career, raises kids on their own, are content without a partner, or even just have strong boundaries about who they do and don’t spend their time with. Can we please stop expecting women to be independent and then see them as undateable when they are?
8. At the end of the day, there must be something wrong with a woman who is single
We’ve heard it over and over again in these examples. Most of the stereotypes about single women boil down to the idea that a woman is single because there’s something wrong with her, whether it’s that she’s too needy, too independent, immature, broken, or undesirable.
While it can be powerful to recognize the harmful stereotypes that single women face, I want to be clear that it isn’t just about empowering single women to be single. Yes, this may be the takeaway some women need, however, uncovering just how biased we are toward single people also shows just how hard it can be to be a single woman. It’s OK if you’re single, sad, wish you were in a relationship, and tired of feminist quotes about being single and satisfied.
Our world is centered around couples, relationships, and marriage. This can make it pretty damn hard to live your single life when the world constantly tells you you’re lacking something because of it. Not to mention, restaurants don’t have tables set for one, and being single doesn’t give you social security or tax benefits like marriage does. No matter where you’re at as a single woman, know that the weird, invasive comments you get are biased and baseless. Whether you’re struggling and single, single and loving it, or somewhere in between, your feelings are valid.