All the Single Ladies by Rebecca Traister

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I must admit, I’m starting my 2017 reading list much better than 2016. I started this one on New Year’s Day and finished the other night. My reading challenge goal on my Goodreads Account last year was 50, and I only read 39 books. This year I adjusted to 45, and if I keep up this pace then hopefully I’ll meet my goal!

Anyway, I really enjoyed this book! Reading it put me in a very “Girl Power” kind of mood, and I felt so much more comfortable with myself being a twenty-six-year-old single woman. On a very basic level, one of the things that struck me about “All the Single Ladies” was that most (if not all) of the women interviewed are so successful, and they are all relatively young! I was so impressed with the accomplishments of these women, and just reading about them has given me motivation that I’ve been lacking recently. I’m not going to lie, since I started this book I’ve begun putting together a new five-year career plan, something which I’ve never bothered with before. I feel like I have always been a “go with the flow” kind of person, and since I’m reasonably smart and hard-working I’ve just always assumed that things would work out in good ways. But reading about the amazing women in this book who are starting companies and nonprofits, and they’re socially and politically active, it just really hit me: I could be doing so much more. Instead of just reading about amazing women I could actually be one myself.

“All the Single Ladies” also provided a view of women’s rights that I’ve never really considered before. It never occurred to me that by default, the system is pretty much designed to make it much harder for single women to live a happy, independent life (compared to married couples and men). And I’m a single lady myself! You would think that I would’ve thought about this, but I haven’t. And now that I am thinking about it, I’ve realized that I’ve had conversations with co-workers and colleagues circling these ideas, though framed in different contexts. One of the things I really appreciated was the appendix of this book, where Traister listed policies and attitudes that she believes must change as single women move forward in the world. It’s a good resource for talking points, as well as what to look out for in politics.

When it comes to feminism and what that means socially and politically, sometimes I feel like I’m just not as knowledgeable as I would like to be. Though I’ve always identified as a feminist, it wasn’t until I joined Our Shared Shelf (Emma Watson’s feminist book club on Goodreads) last year that I really started learning more about what that actually means for different people. Feminism is all about equal rights for men and women, and there are so many different perspectives you can examine. That book club has really opened up my eyes to women’s experiences that are vastly different from my own, and it’s been a great learning experience. This book, however, looks at it from the perspective of single women in the United States, who face their own set of troubles and limitations, which is something I relate to very much.

In its most general sense, “All the Single Ladies” is an investigation of the current trend of delaying (or opting out of completely) marriage. In this book, Traister has put together a comprehensive study of all aspects of single women: history, politics, relationships (both friendships and sexual), poverty, independence, city life, and more. Some of the chapters I felt really hit home, and I was able to identify with them very well. Other chapters, not so much, but I was still invested in the discussion.

In the introduction, Traister quotes Simone de Beauvoir’s observation about real life women: we “are married, or have been, or plan to be, or suffer from not being.” For most of history (and often still today) women are expected to marry and raise children, and if they don’t they are viewed as incomplete or damaged or selfish or any combination of these. This topic came up at work yesterday, and was directed at me. One of my (female) co-workers said that she was “looking out for a man for me.” Trying to speak lightly about it, I responded by saying that I wasn’t really looking anyway, and her answer was that that’s why she was doing it for me. And that conversation isn’t the only time my singlehood has been discussed at work; it happens on a fairly regular basis, which becomes very annoying and sometimes hurtful. But seriously, I’m happy that I’m not married or trying to get married anytime soon. I’ve come to the realization lately that I am generally more unhappy when I’m in a relationship, compared to when I’m not. And for the first time in my life, I’m really focusing on myself and what I want, and it’s freeing! I feel like I’ve been much more excited about things lately, and this book added to that feeling. It was probably one of the best ways to start off a new year, and I’m looking forward to seeing what I accomplish, as well as all the other single ladies across the country.

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