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Single Mothers

  • Date Submitted: 11/23/2012 08:46 AM
  • Flesch-Kincaid Score: 57.7 
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Women's History Month is a time to celebrate the achievements of women past and present but also to assess areas where women are still stigmatized and unequal. Single women is one such category.

The image of a ``single girl'' is an improvement over spinster. Cosmopolitan Editor, Helen Gurley Brown, began to popularize single life for young women in her 1962 bestseller ``Sex and the Single Girl.'' This book opened up new cultural acceptance for single career women and for sex outside of marriage. For Brown, ``the single woman, far from being a creature to be pitied and patronized, is emerging as the newest glamour girl of our times.'' But Brown did not reject marriage. Indeed, she admitted that it was her husband who suggested she write ``Sex and the Single Girl.'' She saw marriage as ``insurance for the worst year of a woman's life.''

The glamorous image of a young single woman -- especially for a woman in her 20s or early 30s with a good job -- survives to this day. The four heroines of the television show ``Sex and the City'' are direct descendents of Brown's philosophy. But there are many problems with the image of a single girl. A primary one being that the very word ``girl'' indicates immaturity and impermanence. Either the girl matures into marriage or she faces a void. We don't use the word anymore, but the image of ``spinster'' or ``old maid'' fills the empty space. It is the slip from single girl to spinster that creates so much anxiety for single women in their 30s.

Journalist Peggy Orenstein in her recent book, ``Flux,'' found that many single women in their 40s and 50s have satisfying lives but that single women in their 30s still believed that they would be miserable if they remain single past age 40. They looked horrified when Orenstein raised the possibility of their being permanently single. ``God forbid,'' said one woman. The vulnerabilities of single women in their 30s, and obsession with marriage, found in television's Ally McBeal and in...


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