Single Women: When Is Society Going To Give Them Due Respect?

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“By what time you will be back?” “You can’t go out at that hour!” “With whom you were talking for that long?” These are some of the common questions, a young single woman faces every day in her life. Her character is put through a litmus test by the family, relatives, and neighbours for everything she does. Women are always a burden on the male authority who heads a family. But when a woman challenges the male authority and remains single we again have a problem. Why it is so hard for us to accept women as individuals capable of being on their own? Why do we still believe women need to remain in the shadow of male authority?

The criticism that falls on her ground when a woman makes choices for herself is implausible. Remaining single is one such choice. On an hourly basis, there is a lot that a single woman has to go through, by the simple virtue of being single. From not getting a house of her own to social marginalisation in family functions, is considered “available”, labelled as being unlucky, unaccommodating and so on. Discrimination in the professional environment to social stigma about her mental health, there is no end. 

Why do we behave biased towards single women?

Our society finds single, independent women managing their own lives not only inadequate but also an aberration. Perhaps, it’s too much for our society to see a woman happy and single altogether. So they choose to consider them as ‘failures’ even if they have highly successful careers. But just because they do not have a husband and children to flaunt they are misfits. Society seems to leave no gap in calling these independent women, rejected goods. 

A woman’s identity in India still revolves around her marriage and marital status. Following the footsteps of patriarchy, most girls are raised with the ultimate goal of finding a good and prosperous husband and being an ideal wife and daughter-in-law. And non-conformity to this established norm is considered an abnormality to be questioned, commented upon and discriminated against.

There are assumptions galore associated with a single woman. When a woman says she is single by choice, it’s typically assumed that she has either gone through a tragedy, leads a forlorn and depressing life, or is not of respectable character and is ‘readily available.’ They are even considered man-haters or lesbians.

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Popular culture definitely has a role to play as they perpetuate the perceptions, assumptions, and hegemonic images associated with single women – the partying young girl, the tragic widow, the cantankerous spinster, or the frustrated divorcee. Very few single, independent, and successful women are portrayed as leading accomplished and perfect social lives with normal and healthy lifestyles. But why?

Suggested Reading: Single Women Stereotypes : Are You Subject to These?

Author and journalist Sreemoyee Piu Kundu’s book, Status Single: The Truth About Being a Single Woman in India recounts the lives and experiences of urban single women from across the country. The author also narrates her personal experiences and struggles of being a single woman which she describes as challenging, eye-opening, difficult, and sometimes embarrassing. Importantly, she talks about the culture of stigma, shame, silencing, stereotyping, slut-shaming ascribed to being single, no matter how professionally accomplished a woman is.

The choice of many women to remain single is still inconceivable to many, even though they might be leading much more fulfilling lives. But with more and more women choosing to remain single, free, and happy and not tying the knot for the heck of it, the tags of ‘proud to be single’ and ‘single and happy’ are gaining momentum. What we need is genuine acceptance, solidarity, and respect for women’s choice and their singlehood identity.

Views expressed are the author’s own.