There's a stigma in our society associated with being single — even though we're all single at some point, and often by choice. This stigma exists across genders, but there are some things single women deal with that men just don't have to. From receiving pity to facing a hostile dating market, single life can be especially tough on women.
Most of these dilemmas have to do with more general problems women face that men don't. First of all, women are taught to constantly think about and value themselves based on their appearances, and whether or not a woman is in a relationship is often viewed as a metric of how physically attractive she is. (Of course, it's not; plenty of beautiful women are single.)
Women also live in a world that isn't very safe for them. Walking around unaccompanied poses risks, and so does dating, since most sexual assaults are at the hands of someone the victim knows, according to the Rape, Abuse, and Incest National Network.
And then there's that good old notion that an essential ingredient to women's happiness is their ability to get married and have kids. Women's marital status gains far more attention that men's, and single women are often pitied.
For these reasons, being single stands in the way of women's lives in ways it does not stand in the way of men's lives. Here are seven things women have to deal with when they're single that men often don't.
1. Internalizing Society's Perceptions Of Single Women
Singlehood is often treated as a sign that someone — especially a woman — has been unable to garner anyone's interest. Women are taught that the sexual or romantic attention they receive symbolizes how physically beautiful they are and, by extension, how much they matter. Internalizing the perception that we're not beautiful enough to be in a relationship can lower our self-esteem. Whether we're single, how attractive we are, and how much we matter are all completely unrelated, but it doesn't always feel that way.
2. Receiving Sleazy Pickup Lines Referencing Our Singlehood
"It's a shame you're single." "How are you still single?" Most single women have received these insulting pickup lines implying that our singlehood is a shortcoming or a problem to be fixed — and that the person picking us up is a hero there to save us from the terror of being a single woman. These serve as yet another reminder that we are viewed negatively by society.
3. Debating Whether You Should Lie And Say You're Taken
Given that we receive these pickup lines and others that are even worse, can anyone blame women for trying to tell their picker-uppers that they're in relationships? Women in relationships have an easy out when they're receiving unwanted attention (though sometimes even that doesn't work). But women who are single often end up debating whether they should compromise their honesty or their personal bubble.
4. The Spinster Stereotype
Look, I think having cats around all the time sounds awesome. But I cringe when I hear the word "spinster" because it's a way to put women down for being single. A spinster is a woman who doesn't care enough about being attractive to follow social convention, so she hangs out with cats, wears grannie panties, and whatever else oblivious women do. (Although again, there's nothing wrong with doing or enjoying any of those things.) It's really just a gendered, often ageist form of "loser." And it rarely describes men.
5. Walking Home Alone
It's embarrassing to be reminded every time you walk home alone that, no matter how independent and feminist you are, you still wish there were a man there to diminish the likelihood that someone on the street will harass you and scare the living daylight out of you. Between this feeling of dependency and the fear itself, single women have a harder time leaving parties by themselves than those with an automatic escort; men, however, rarely feel the need for such a companion.
6. Fielding Annoying Questions
"Have you met any nice boys?" is a common question for women to receive when they visit relatives they haven't seen in a while, along with offers to set them up or bring them to parties where lots of single men will be. Such comments make it clear that the pressure's on women to get into relationships as soon as possible, and if they don't, they've failed.
I am including this real and unfortunately typical screenshot of a message I received on a dating app to prove how much harassment and disrespect women receive when dating, and it's not even just online. When we go out with someone for the first time, we have no way of knowing whether they respect women or whether they are capable of sexually assaulting us. This is frankly terrifying. While everyone faces the risk of rejection when they go on a first date, women more than men feel afraid for their safety, and they have good reason to feel that way.