The Single Women’s Workshop

The following seven articles are about the Single Women’s Workshop, held in September 2017, near Boston, Massachusetts, USA.

I am proud of what we accomplished at the Single Women’s Workshop. It shifted the assumed reality of single women’s lives.

I led the workshop, Tokumbo Bodunde assisted me, and Jeannette Armentano organized. Over a hundred women attended, including a number who participated using Zoom [a kind of video conferencing].

Here is some of what formed the basis of our work:

  • Single women are an oppressed group, and our oppression has a negative effect on all women.

Throughout the world there is a long history of women who have not married or had an “acceptable” primary relationship with a man. They haven’t been seen as “legitimate” or having any economic viability. In the United States single women have been viewed as “the undesirable” and assumed to live lonely lives. Because of racism, the message of undesirability has been magnified for women of color, particularly Black women.

This oppression leaves us single women believing that something is “wrong” with us, which could be “cured” by getting a man and accepting sexism. Of course this is not true. We are fine.

  • Our existence has been a threat to male domination and sexism and has sometimes felt like a threat to married women and the institution of marriage.
  • Our numbers are growing, particularly in the United States and the Western world.
  • Single women have voted more progressively than married women, including in the recent U.S. presidential election in which there was a twenty-six-point marriage gap. This surpassed the twenty-four-point gender gap found in the CNN exit poll.
  • Women are defined by their relationship to marriage. Men are not. Often when signing official papers, women are asked to identify as Ms., Miss, or Mrs., while men identify only as Mr. (Master).

Women who don’t have some kind of marriage-like relationship are treated as if they lack legitimacy. This is internalized by all women and is accepted and perpetuated by men. Of course women do not need a man to be a real person (a real woman).

  • Humans can have many kinds of relationships and commitments—with men, women, and young people. It makes sense to question whether we need one relationship that is primary in our lives. Single women can take the lead in changing the “norm.”
  • Women who are independent and autonomous need to be celebrated. It is great to be single. Throughout the workshop women kept saying, “I am proud of being single.” Being single is not a passing phase we want to get out of. It can give us an important platform (especially in current times) from which to fight sexism and male domination.
  • A strength of single women is having a life that can be removed from everyday sexism.
  • There have been many great single women. Single women have led big lives and made important contributions to humanity.
  • Single women represent all oppressed groups except men. We need to find each other and unite. Together we can make much personal and large-scale change. We, more than any other group of women, have been expected to take full responsibility for our lives.
  • In RC we need to build a permanent home for single women. This is an important contradiction to the oppression.
  • The society continually offers quick fixes [superficial “solutions”] for the struggles of people in general and single women in particular. Oppressive Internet dating sites are an example. The beautification industry, the sex industries, and the media continually make women, in particular women without men, feel bad about themselves, and these institutions thrive during this stage of capitalism.
  • We get to work on the struggles we have as single women by discharging on our early lives as females. We need to work on our relationships with other women, our relationships with men, our histories as females, and our battles against sexism, racism, Gay oppression, and sexual exploitation. We can do this from the perspective of our rightness as females, our brilliance, and our power.
  • Having a base of support groups, Co-Counseling relationships, and workshops is powerful. This was evident at the workshop. There, and afterward, I was able to discharge better than I ever have on my earliest incidents of victimization.
  • Single women can and should take the lead in societal transformation. We have revolutionary potential.

Great thanks to all the women who played a role in making this workshop such a success.

Diane Balser

International Liberation Reference Person for Women

Jamaica Plain, Massachusetts, USA

Reprinted from the RC e-mail discussion list for leaders of women

(Present Time 193, October 2018)

Last modified: 2022-12-25 10:17:04+00