Rhetoric of Singledom

There’s something really important about the language & rhetoric used to talk about single people. So much of it is so horribly negative – in fact most of it. You might say this is the very reason I am writing this blog, to lend my voice to a different rhetoric around being single, discussing whats good, as well as hard about it – to normalise is.

Researching whether there are in fact, many others like me out there – that is that they believe that people should have the right to freely, and without shame, choose to be/end up being single as a life style not ‘just for now’, I came across two very distinct forms of rhetoric around the subject.

One is a very negative and shaming kind of rhetoric
about being single and/or without kids

‘childlessness’, ‘biological clock’, ‘too picky’, ‘something wrong with you’, ‘selfish’…

Yes this is stuff I read online/hear on TV but more than this – it is so entrenched in our thinking because its just what we have been brought up with – we ‘know’ it through the beliefs our families have that they never even thought to challenge, we ‘know’ it from the TV we watched as kids because its so normalised within our culture that the idea of even challenging it doesn’t occur to anyone. We ‘know’ it from Facebook, from Twitter, from Instagram – from all the happy couple photos we see, from all the wedding photos that we see (never mind the frequently messy aftermath and problems people endure which we certainly DON’T see them posting about on social media). So it all perpetuates this lie.

The lie is that relationships are the be all and end all and that they are a more preferable state of being than being single.

The reality is that relationships work for some people for a period of time, and others don’t. And the reality is we are completely OK & acceptable as single people. Just as we are completely OK & acceptable when part of a couple.

There is another, emerging rhetoric out there to support this viewpoint – more positive, and less shaming

 Firstly, new language around the rhetoric of not having children;

  • ‘Otherhood’ (Melanie Notkin; http://melanienotkin.com/)
  • ‘NoMo’ (Not a mother)
  • ‘Child-free’….as opposed to ‘less’. So much more positive, and quite frankly, very often – like it is (and my personal favourite of this bunch) http://www.xojane.com/sex/40-plus-and-single-and-very-much-ok
  • Rachel Lloyd describes, in this great article how Esther McVey, then Employment Minister, said she didn’t have children because she never met anyone to ‘‘wind up’ her biological clock. There was no dodging the question on her part; no apology, or admission of some great disservice to mankind’.
  • In the same article, Rachel Lloyd describes her delight at TV Historian Lucy Worsley saying she’d been ‘educated out of the reproductive function’.
  • Article about this woman coming to terms with the reality of her situation as opposed to the unchallenged assumption about what her life would look like; http://gateway-women.com/forty-single-and-childless-dammit/ quote below;

‘I often meet single women around the age of 40, still hopeful of having a family, and yet strangely unwilling to talk about their own dreams, their own lives.  Intelligent, educated, hard-working, emotionally intelligent women – yet they seem to be living like wombs-in-waiting – a vacancy where their ambition and passion used to be.’

This is one of the main arguments I hear people round me say, unquestioningly – they don’t even think about what they are saying its been so drilled into them…. thinking just of the same old rhetoric, never the reality; that people die, get sick, children move away, that having children is absolutely no way of ensuring you have someone to look after you when you are old. And in my opinion a highly selfish reason to have children in any case.

‘As for women who fret, ‘If I don’t have children, who will care for me when I’m old?’, Dr. Remen says, ‘I have to laugh. My life experience is that people with children are often alone in old age. Having children is not a safety hedge.”
(Source: http://thenotmom.com/women-on-the-cusp-of-30-beyond-single-childless-stressed/)

Secondly, language around the rhetoric of being single

I have to admit, I have, to date found less new language out there to talk about being single as a positive, perhaps permanent thing (or at least not an assumed precursor to coupledom).

There are those reclaiming the word spinster; http://www.spinsterjane.com/p/why-spinster-jane.html

And the rhetoric is out there, is changing, people are thinking & writing about it but of course its not yet as mainstream as it should be. Here are some people & resources to look up if this interest you;


  • Germaine Greer (the original and best)
  • Lindy West
  • Eric Klinenberg
  • Bella DePaulo
  • And because she’s one of my heroes – the first to show me you can be single & happy, playful & unapologetic…Miranda Hart 🙂


‘Careful studies and meta-analyses have often shown that there is no clear well-being benefit to getting hitched’ …..enough said!!

If you have other people/resources to add to this list do share! I plan to amalgamate them and create a page of resources, so contact me with any others you find.

Big love to all!

Related posts;

Its not being said enough

Not necessarily so

New Paradigm

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