I watched a film the other day called Spinster. It was about a single woman in her late 30s with no kids. It follows her journey of choosing to be single after a break up. A lot of the conversations she has with other characters are ones we’ve all had. People asking when you’re going to settle down, when you’ll have kids, if you’re worried you’ll regret not having kids if you don’t etc. At one point her best friend in the film says it clear -We treat single women like crap. And after thinking about it for a bit I have to agree.

Single women in media

Beyonce can sing about all the single ladies and how women run the world all she wants, but the fact remains that most of the time we still expect single women to want to get married and have children.

There’s loads of hype about women being able to make their own choices and live their life how they want to, now more than ever. MTV is full of women singing about how they want to get off, and if you want to take them home you better be good in bed. But we’re also still dealing with fairy-tales where the woman can do nothing for herself until a prince comes along who makes everything in life instantly perfect. I mean we haven’t even moved on from them being a princess, for crying out loud. And even when they’re not a princess yet, they will be once they’ve been rescued, because they’ll marry the prince as soon as they meet him. Ridiculous. Surely we wouldn’t have to do as much stranger danger education with kids if we stop showing them this crap.

We’re still bombarded by reality shows of women talking about how they’ve visualised their dream wedding since they were a child. That’s great, but why aren’t we ever shown women who don’t want that too? The only time you see a woman not interested in getting married or having kids is as a career driven maniac with a life at home that’s falling apart due to her not committing to her relationship or housework. Why? Why are we still constantly shown that when it comes to work/life balance, for a woman, the balance should definitely be in favour of home?

Single women through time

It got me thinking about a book I read recently too- “The Five” by Hallie Rubenhold. The book is about the women killed by Jack the Ripper. You may think this sounds gruesome, but it’s actually not. It’s not about him, or about murder. It’s about the actual women themselves. It goes over the life of each woman, telling us about her social standing in society from birth, the opportunities they had, the places they worked, and ultimately what they were doing around their time of death. Everyone thinks that Jack the Ripper killed prostitutes. In fact there is only proof that one of the five was a prostitute at the time of her death.

Back in the 1800s women were judged by their “femininity”. This was how well they kept house, how well looked after her husband was, and how they tended to their children. A woman’s reputation was solely based on how she looked after others. A woman with no attachment to a man was nothing really. If a woman was homeless or a beggar then they would also be counted as a prostitute. Witness testimony that they did not sell themselves didn’t matter. In the eyes of the law a woman with no fixed address who “tramped” for a living was a “prostitute”. And I think it’s this flippant nature that we’re still inheriting today.

History has dictated women to us through the ages. The facts of women’s lives didn’t really matter. They didn’t keep a respectable home and were therefore not deemed worthy enough bothering about. Has much really changed?

Why argue?

Single women today are still having to argue with people about the way they have chosen to live their lives. Why should you have to sit at a dinner party and justify why you don’t have children to someone? What business is it of theirs? Would a man have to do the same? Would a man be asked why he does have children and not see them? No, because that would be deemed awkward and rude. The same as it’s perfectly acceptable to go up to a woman in a bar and say “Your tits are massive”, but if you went up to a guy in a bar and pointed out something physical about him like “Your hairlines receding” people would be outraged.

Women are not here to be wives and bear children. If they want to do that great, but sometimes they might not do these things- whether through choice or not. And they should have the right to not have that personal information cross-examined in public. We’re finally getting used to the fact that women like sex the same as men do. Isn’t it time to realise that we also like living other parts of our lives the same?