Cultural Trends/Popular Culture

Media View of Single Women Laced with Contradictions

Saturday, October 8, 2011

Single women are often depicted as both superwomen, doing it all on their own, and as pathetic and unsuccessful for not having a man, says Samhita Mukhopadhyay in "Outdated: Why Dating is Ruining Your Love Life." An excerpt from her new book.

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Unforgiving Success Examples

And if we're searching for powerful or successful examples of single women, the images are not much more forgiving: think Elena Kagan, Sonia Sotomayor, Martha Stewart and Oprah (who is in a long-term relationship but never married), all of whom are considered castrating and desexualized, and/or to be lesbians, in addition to being powerful. Femininity and power, it would seem, are mutually exclusive.

Single women's stories are often stories of success, of choice, of failure, of overconsumption, of overburdening the system and of being social pariahs. The identity of single women is always wrapped up in their marital, romantic, or parental status. Single women are anything we want them to be, but whatever they are, we are obsessed with their lives because they disrupt mainstream notions of gender, relationships and family.

Lore has it that women are fine being single and making choices for themselves, but structurally there is very little support for single women, especially single mothers. And women who do it on their own bear the financial, social and emotional cost of being single in a society unwilling to truly support their lives.

We are painted as sexy, sinful, successful and pathetic--you name it, both good and bad--but ultimately we live outside the norm and are not ultimately considered a success.


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From the book "Outdated: Why Dating is Ruining Your Love Life" by Samhita Mukhopadhyay. Excerpted by arrangement with Seal Press, a member of the Perseus Books Group. Copyright copyright 2011.

Samhita Mukhopadhyay is a writer, teacher and speaker residing in Brooklyn, N.Y. She is the executive editor of

For more information:

Buy the book Outdated: "Why Dating is Ruining Your Love Life":

Samhita Mukhopadhyay's website:

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I think there is one important element of the portrayal of single women missing from your description. They are rarely portrayed as being happy on their own. More often then not, even the most seemingly contented female is really looking for love, the one, her soul mate. While I do agree that, at the end of the day this is something a lot of women relate to, I just wish more single women were portrayed as being content with themselves as a single person.