mad anthony

Rants, politics, and thoughts on politics, technology, life,
and stuff from a generally politically conservative Baltimoron.

Wednesday, September 21, 2011

Are singles the last group you can be prejudiced against?

Are singles the last group you can be prejudiced against? That's the claim made by a psych prof quoted in this NY Times blog post about the plight of singles in America.

As a chronically single person, I understand the point. I work for a very family friendly organization, whose benefits includes free college tuition for the spouse and kids I don't have and lots of family leave. But it also includes other things, like that our annual employee picnics have become family picnics, with employees encouraged to bring spouses and children. If you are someone who doesn't have either, it's kind of awkward - a reminder that you are a loser who doesn't have the relationships that other people do. And there may be organizations out there where it's more serious than the awkward family-themed picnic, where managers would rather promote someone with a spouse and a few kids than a single guy because the latter needs the money more for their family.

Of course, there are two kinds of singles out there - people who are single by choice, who are happy to be single because it keeps them unconstrained, and then there are people like me, who would rather not be single but just haven't found someone. For the former, it's an annoyance, because at some point they have made the choice that they don't want those things, but for people like me it's like rubbing salt in a wound - a constant reminder of something that you are unhappy about.

But organizations and society should probably have larger concerns than hurting people's feelings when setting policies. But the other problem with workplace family-friendly policies is that they have a cost, and that cost sometimes ends up falling on single people - the person who ends up having to work harder or postpone their own time off because they need to make up for the work done by their non-single coworkers while they are out because of birth or a sick kid or a honeymoon or whatever.

But beyond the workplace, there is the awkwardness of trying to have a social life when you are single and most of your friends aren't - you either end up spending your nights alone or become a third wheel. You watch the people you grew up with post pictures of their spouse and kids on facebook, but the best you can do is pictures of your cat. You pay higher car insurance rates because unmarried deviants like you can't be trusted to be as careful as those responsible married types.

But do these add up to prejudice? That seems to be stretching the term - I do think singles get treated worse, that policies in both government and the workplace are often tailored to and give advantage to married people, and that single people are often looked down on. But it's not on the level of groups that can have a legit claim on prejudice - as much as I hate being single, it beats being, say, a slave .


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