When one thinks of discrimination, the first idea that usually comes to mind is that of racism or sexism, as these are the forms of discrimination most highlighted by the media. In the past few years, a different form of discrimination has been identified and increasingly discussed – singlism.
According to psychologist Bella DePaulo in an article titled “Living single”, singlism is the act of defaming single adults through the use of negative stereotypes and discrimination against those who are single.
From your parents insisting you should find yourself a significant other to employers feeling that they can overwork you because you don’t have a romantic partner to go home to, singlism can occur at any time and in any social situation, which may have very different implications.
In her article, DePaulo lists a number of stereotypes often associated with single people, which include being thought to have less self-confidence and life satisfaction, being seen as less agreeable and conscientious, and being thought to be lonelier than those in relationships and focused on entering a new intimate relationship.
In an effort to determine whether the stereotypes associated with single people are true, German psychologist Tobias Greitemeyer performed four studies using adults from across Europe and found that most stereotypes were largely untrue, with married and single people showing similar ranks of all attributes, such as self-confidence.
The only stereotype that Greitemeyer established had some basis was that of a desire to enter into a relationship. It is important to keep in mind that most married participants, in general, would not have this desire unless they wanted to end their relationship.
Some experts have marginalised the influences of singlism. In studies performed at the University of Waterloo and Stanford University, researchers attempted to apply cognitive dissonance theory to relationship status. The theory, as put forward by Leon
Festinger, suggests that people generally attempt to maintain consistency between their beliefs and behaviour. Researchers found that people are more likely to agree or identify with others in a similar position to themselves and promote their relationship status. Therefore, those who were single were being discriminated against, but were also discriminating against those who were in relationships.
It should not really matter what others think or feel about your relationship status. Whether you are single or in a relationship, you should always keep in mind that the most important thing is that you are happy with where you are. It may also be beneficial for society if you are accepting of the relationship decisions of those who surround you, but personal happiness is good too.
Photo: Praise Magidi