By Chet Yarbrough
All the Single Ladies (Unmarried Women and the Rise of an Independent Nation)
By: Rebecca Traister
Narrated by Candace Thaxton, Rebecca Traister-introduction
Rebecca Traister (American author.)
In a broad context, “All the Single Ladies” is about freedom’s two edges. One edge lets people be themselves. The other edge makes people conform to societies’ rules.
Rebecca Traister begins by summarizing the history of unequal treatment of women. The truth rings loudest because of today’s “Me To” movement.
“Me Too” is a movement long delayed, and figuratively disfigured by a sharp edge of male’ power, domination, and social conformity.
Freedom is a function of power. No one is free. All nations have rules that limit freedom.
America’s founding fathers recognized freedom is defined by power. That is why government “checks and balances” were created.
The weakness of “checks and balances” is that they continue to be influenced by the power of human (principally male) rationalization.
Human beings do not see themselves as others see them. In that light, Traister notes one of Patrick Moynihan’s blind spots.
Daniel Patrick Moynihan (1927-2003, NY State Senator, author of The Negro Family: The Case for National Action.)
Moynihan affixed “The Negro Family” break-down as a cause of ghetto poverty. The cause of poverty is not single-parent homes. Poverty is a consequence of discrimination.
Singlemom homes are a choice for some mothers. Sometimes for reasons of independence, as explained by the women interviewed by Traister. But also because of a history of misogyny, and dysfunctional marriages or partnerships.
Too often it seems the choice of single-parent homes is because of abuse, loneliness, loss of emotional commitment, adultery, financial crises, or some other extrinsic cause.
Single-parent homes are not a cause of poverty. If women are employed and compensated at the same rate as men, they could afford child care for their children while they work. Like some low wage workers, women may have to take two jobs. (Of course, what’s new?–Working women have always had two jobs. Working at home and working at a job.)
The cause of poverty is systematic discrimination. Discrimination denies educational opportunity. Discrimination denies equal pay for equal work.
The rules of freedom are based on power, not science, not truth, but on human rationalization. Traister indicts male domination of the rules of freedom. She also notes societies’ discrimination based on race.
Discrimination against women may have begun with male domination when physical strength meant survival (not suggested or inferred by the author).
The growth of society, and the ascendance of religion, reinforced gender roles. Gender roles may have had some validity in the stone age, but they became rationalizations as humanity and society developed. Here is where Traister strikes at the heart of gender inequality.
Traister interviews many single women, some high achievers, others just making a living. What she finds is that some women choose to be single because of a lifestyle that offers freedom. It is the freedom of choice.
Freedom requires no cooperation from another to do whatever one wants, with the caveat of doing no harm to others.
With freedom, Traister is not saying single women choose to be anti-social. On the contrary, she argues single women are likely to be more socially connected than married women. In her interviews, Traister notes that single women are likely to have more social contact because they are not constrained by a life-partner’s interest or attention.
An irony of Traister’s observation about the consequence of marriage in “reducing social contacts” is that Traister chooses to marry. Her book is not meant to be anti-marriage, but to recognize the difference between single-hood and life partnership. Her unspoken belief is that both have equal potential for happiness and fulfillment. Her intent is to explain how happiness and fulfillment can be equally satisfied by single-hood.
Traister identifies a social construct that might be labeled “slammed relationships” that are not necessarily sexual but deeply, emotionally connected.
A great number of “…the Single Ladies” interviewed by Traister recount slammed relationships.
Though not suggested by Traister, a slammed relationship between men seems less likely because of the gravitational pull of “power”.
To many humans, the sexual act is pursuit of power over another, not emotional connection.
As tasteless as this caricature may be to some, it reflects an attitude of many men, and undoubtedly some women.
Real intimacy is not about a player’s control, or an actor’s act. A truly slammed relationship is not about power. A slammed relationship is about common interests and emotional connection.
Traister gives the example of a single lady in Boston that has a slammed relationship with another woman that chooses to move to California because of a job. Their emotional connection is so close that the woman who stays in Boston feels abandoned.
The Bostonian is told, by acquaintances of both people, that her friend will return and their slammed relationship will resume. But, as Thomas Wolfe wrote, “you can’t go home again”. Her friend does return from California. They renew their friendship, but they never reconnect at the same slammed friendship level.
Interestingly, the slammed relationships Traister writes about are between women, not men.
That raises the question of whether men can have slammed relationships, but that is not the subject of Traister’s book.
(From this reviewer’s perspective, most men are unlikely to develop slammed relationships. They have little reason to–because society has been dominated by men since the stone age. Men have power; most women do not. Men have little need for slammed relationships.)
Traister notes many of today’s women gravitate to singlehood because of its freedom. The freedom to stay or leave, to be alone, or to be with someone.
The freedom to choose has consequence. It has the potential of destroying the value of slammed relationships. Losing emotional connection is a criticism of society. One might conclude from Traister’s book, the world needs more “…Single Ladies”. “…Single Ladies” have the tools for slammed relationships.
Men can hugely benefit from women that take control of their lives. It is liberating for a driven man to be married to a driven woman because each takes responsibility for themselves.
Traister acknowledges; from her personal experience and interviews of single women, that there are consequences for choosing single-hood. All singles have vulnerabilities. They are vulnerable to loneliness.
Being single makes one vulnerable to accidents without help from someone living with them. People who are alone have less financial support when they become ill. However, all of these vulnerabilities are common to both sexes. The difference is women receive 73% of what a man gets for the same work. The difference is power of employment, advancement, and financial opportunity remain disproportionately in the hands of men.
Traister notes that loneliness can be equally present in marriage as in single-hood. Vulnerabilities are a consequence of living life whether with someone or no one. The difference is that today’s society has more men than women with power–power that aids or obstructs equality of opportunity for all.
Equality of opportunity is what every man and woman deserve. Life takes care of itself.
There is an increasing lack of empathy from world leaders because they are mostly men. Losing emotional connection is one of the reasons America is unable to eliminate homelessness. This book offers praise to “All the Single Ladies” of the world. Women seem better at emotional connection. It may be why America needs a woman for President.
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