Hi. I had the very enjoyable experience of interviewing Bella DePaulo after being quite inspired by her writing an views on singlism. Thanks Bella! Before reading the interview below, please check out the bio sent by Bella:
Bella DePaulo, an expert on single life, is the author of Singled Out: How Singles Are Stereotyped, Stigmatized, and Ignored, and Still Live Happily Ever After and of Singlism: What It Is, Why It Matters, and How to Stop It. She also writes the “Living Single” blog for Psychology Today. Dr. DePaulo has a Ph.D. in psychology from Harvard, and has been a Visiting Professor of Psychology at the University of California, Santa Barbara since 2000. Visit her website at http://www.BellaDePaulo.com.
How did you first become interested in doing scholarship and activism regarding singlism?
In an interview that a friend conducted with Bella, she expressed, “For years, I kept a secret file folder of observations of what I would later call singlism. Some of them were stories in the media. Others were my personal experiences. The thing about my personal experiences, though, is that I really didn’t know if they had anything to do with the fact that I was single, or whether there was some other explanation entirely.
For example, when I first started at a new job, my colleagues invited me to lunch during the week, but over the weekends, the couples would socialize only with other couples. Were they excluding me because I was single or because they didn’t want to spend time with me (and felt obligated to include me during the week when they left from work to go out to lunch)?”
Please read more of this interview at: http://www.psychologytoday.com/blog/living-single/201110/personal-history-passion-single-life-and-singles-advocacy
In your groundbreaking book, “Singled Out,” you cogently identify 10 myths associated with singles. The most emotionally intense is that singles are lonely, tragic, and miserable. I like how you described research to combat that stereotype. What are some ways folks can become involved in activism to work against singlism?
In a post on Psychology Today, Bella recommended,”Are you someone who is willing to engage in conversations about the issues? Keep posting your comments at relevant blogs and other media sites. If you have the time and the inclination, write your own blog (and let me know about it if it is not already on my list).
Lots of stories in online newspapers, magazines, and television sites allow for comments. Jump in and have your say. Whenever possible, post your comments early so you have a better chance of influencing the subsequent conversation. Don’t just point out the stereotyping and stigmatizing of singles – also let writers know when they get something right.
For more ideas, please visit: http://www.psychologytoday.com/blog/living-single/201103/stopping-singlism-what-will-work
After being inspired and informed by your work and as a single person myself, I am wondering if there is a more affirming term for “singles.” What are some of your thoughts about this?
I have to confess that I don’t love the term “single,” but I have never been able to come up with something I like enough to use instead. Here’s a discussion:
How do cultural, gender, and national identities affect the experience of singlehood?
I think these are very important distinctions. (I don’t have one article or blog post I can point to that addresses these distinctions comprehensively, but I have written a few articles here and there about specific groups.)
In what ways can politicians reach out respectfully to single voters about issues that can be compelling for them?
How has the progress regarding marriage for LGBTQ+ individuals affected the zeitgeist about singles?
A key argument in the same-sex marriage movement is that you should not have to be a certain kind of couple (heterosexual) in order to have access to fundamental rights and benefits and protections. I think all of the conversations around that issue should have made one particular question very salient – why should you have to be any kind of couple in order to qualify for basic rights and protections? Although there have been writings here and there expressing that point of view, they have not taken hold the way I would like them to.
How can workplaces make systemic improvements for people who are not partnered?
Please describe how you developed the single at heart concept and what has the reaction been to it from readers?
I think it started when someone once asked me how they could tell if they were “meant to be single.” When some people use that phrase, they mean it in a bad way. But I just loved the idea that some people really are single at their core – single is how they live their most meaningful and authentic lives. That’s how I think of myself.
Many people seem intrigued by the idea. People who identify with it, well of course they love it. Others just can’t fathom that there really are any people who really are single at heart – they believe that people who claim that they love their single lives are just fooling themselves.
Please see more here:
How have your friends, students, and colleagues responded to your research and advocacy?
It has been a very telling experience. I learned some things about the people around me that were not always obvious or predictable. Some responded very enthusiastically, and that was great. But others were very resistant. I had been studying the psychology of lying and detecting lies before I started studying singles and singlism, and there were clearly some colleagues and even some friends who wished I had just stuck to that.
I understand why it was difficult for some of them, perhaps especially the ones who were coupled. In my talks, I often pointed out ways in which coupled people act in privileged ways and treat singles unfairly, and that did not go over well. What compounded the problem for some of them is that they think of themselves as very progressive people who are not prejudiced or unfair, yet they could see for the first time that some of the ways they thought about and behaved toward single people were not very enlightened.
What has been the most surprising part of your research about singles and singlism?
I can tell you about the most surprising – and discouraging – thing about the work I do in debunking myths about single people: Those myths are entrenched in our culture. We are so sure that getting married transforms miserable, lonely single people into happy, healthy, connected married people that it sometimes seems that no amount of data can dislodge those beliefs. It is especially exasperating to me when fellow scholars, who should know better, eat up these myths.
What was it like collaborating with other authors to publish, “Singlism; What It is, Why it Matters, and how to stop it?”
I loved doing that. On my Living Single blog, I put out a call to readers to contribute. Some published authors responded, but so did some people who had never published before. One of the things I loved about the result was the variety of perspectives and experiences and domains of singlism that were explored, from religion and politics to teaching and research and the workplace, the marketplace, and the media.
I just learned of National Singles Week even though it is about as old as I am. Are there ways you commemorate it? How can the media increase visibility of it?
What are some examples of positive media images of people who are single?
In a blog post, Bella indicated, “Before the 60s, producers worried that a single woman “would fail to carry a series and capture viewers’ loyalty.” As the number of single Americans continued to climb, though, single women (usually called “girls”) began to be cast in lead roles. Concerns about viewer loyalty were forcefully addressed by the success of series such as The Mary Tyler Moore Show, That Girl, Charlie’s Angels, Cagney and Lacey, The Bionic Woman, and many more.” To learn more, please read the link that follows and the subsequent ones:
Has the media in the United States made progress in its portrayal of those who do not wish to partner? If so, how?
Singles rule! The surprising media phenomenon of 2012
What future projects you are considering?
I really want to learn much more about people who are single at heart, so I will be continuing to do research on that. I have also been interviewing people about innovative ways of living and how we all find our place, our space, and our people. http://belladepaulo.com/2013/07/07/new-book-project-is-on/