All the Single Ladies

Today, only around 20 percent of Americans between the ages of eighteen and twenty-nine are wed, compared to nearly 60 percent in 1960. Rebecca Traister sets out to investigate this trend at the intersection of class, race and sexual orientation, supplementing facts with vivid anecdotes from fascinating contemporary and historical figures.

All the Single Ladies is a remarkable portrait of how single women shaped contemporary American life.

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All the Single Ladies: Unmarried Women and the Rise of an Independent Nation by Rebecca Traister is part sociological study, part memoir and part feminist polemic that combines to create a compulsively readable and intersectional text that, for me at least, was as empowering as it was educational.

Through extensive research and interviews with women from a range of racial and economic backgrounds, Traister paints a fascinating portrait of female singlehood in the US  – though as a single woman living in the UK most of it felt entirely applicable.

I don’t think I’ve ever read such an intersectional feminist text written by a white lady. It’s an exploration of the decline in marriage and rise of female independence that consistently holds the feminist movement to account for its failings and exclusion of women of colour, queer women and working class women throughout history and today. Traister makes sure to acknowledge at every step that the barriers and obstacles white women face are so often different than those faced by women of colour, and that the standards those women of colour are expected to meet are unrealistically and absurdly higher.

All the Single Ladies casts a huge net, looking at women’s careers, friendships, unmarried and single mothers, sex, adult virginity (chosen and somewhat accidental – the I was busy doing other things  people we very rarely acknowledge), religion and fertility. Traister manages to tackle it all with a relatively neutral brush (apart from when Phyllis Schlafly came up but you kind of have to give a girl a break as far as that can of worms in concerned), covering a wide range of lifestyles without casting judgement on any of them – single through choice or circumstance, married happily, unhappily or divorced, there was no sense any particular lifestyle was superior.

Ultimately, that’s the point I took from the book. That women – all women – should be able to live however to hell we want. You know, like white men have been doing for literally the whole of history. Get married or don’t. Have kids or don’t. What we want, and what I desperately hope we’re heading towards is a future in which women can live however they like without all the misogynistic bullshit.

Single, partnered or in a long term relationship, I can’t recommend this book enough. Looking at the strides we’ve taken in redefining womanhood, married and single life in the last century was inspiring – and looking at where change still needs to happen totally motivating. Traister is a fantastic writer, and I had a great time being enlightened by her.

‘A true age of female selfishness, in which women recognised and prioritised their own drives to the same degree to which they have always been trained to tend to the needs of all others, might, in fact, be an enlightened corrective to centuries of self-sacrifice.

Amina Sow agrees. The advice she gives everyone is “Always choose yourself first. Women are very socialised to choose other people. If you put yourself first, it’s this incredible path you can forge for yourself.” Amina too understood how she sounded as the words were coming out of her mouth. “If you choose yourself people will say you’re selfish,” she said. “But no. You have agency. You have dreams. It takes a lot of qualify a man as selfish.”’

Heck. Yes.

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Podcast of the Month: Call Your Girlfriend

Call Your Girlfriend is a podcast on which Aminatou Sow and Ann Friedman – both awesome ladies – discuss pop culture through a feminist lense.

Obviously I would love this.

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Should you have any burning desire to know the history of a certain rapper’s melt down on Twitter the other week… this is the place for you.

If you’re less interested in Kanye and more engaged with news about menstruation, they cover that too. In detail. Moon cup horror stories and all.

If all that weren’t enough, they also provide us with regular shine theory updates. Shine theory, for anyone who doesn’t know by now, is the idea (by which I actually mean obvious truth) that powerful women make the best friends. This is because powerful women lift each other up.

It’s kind of revolutionary when you consider we’ve been socialised to tear each other down our whole lives.

Call Your Girlfriend is a celebration of being a smart lady and having smart lady friends.

As well as the usual shows, they recently started Phone-a-Friend episodes, in which either Aminatou or Ann – you guessed it – call one of their highly accomplished, hilarious and generally friend-jealousy-inducing girlfriends. So far guests have included Tavi Gevinson, Shani Hilton and Stephanie Beatriz, just to mention a few of my favourites. If you don’t know who any of them are, I implore you to Google. They are all wonderful people.

Call Your Girlfriend is the perfect plug for the feminist podcast shaped hole in your life.

Even if that’s something you don’t think you have… you totally do. I would venture to say that the majority of people have a feminist podcast shaped hole in their lives.