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The Marginalized Majority

Media Representation and Lived Experiences of Single Women

Kristie Collins

This book presents a cultural analysis of social discourses and lived experiences of single women, a demographic category that census figures indicate to be the statistical «norm» in the United States and Canada – and yet, it remains a group that largely sees itself as marginalized. While singleness and other forms of non-normative lifestyles have been gaining interest from academics and society at large, a distinct commitment to female singleness studies has yet to emerge.
Each chapter looks at distinct features of social constructions of female singleness and/or lived experiences of single women, and textual analyses and cultural critiques are used to develop a richer investigation of the data. The theoretical framework is grounded in a cultural analysis, not only using the concepts thematically to more clearly understand the data, but also calling into question the utility of the concepts themselves.


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It is not an overstatement that feminist theory is one of the most challeng- ing, important, and even far-reaching intellectual developments of our time. Scholars—even those who do not identify as feminists—are aware of the achievements of feminist theory over the past 50 years. They may be sur- prised, then, to be reminded by Kristie Collins’s provocative book about a lacuna that remains unaddressed: the relative indifference of feminist theory to “single” women’s lives and its failure to develop a critical vocabulary to describe, explain, and analyze their condition. Collins’s book performs the invaluable service of putting female singleness on the map of feminist studies and underscoring its relevance to the present moment in history, when single/nonmarital status women curiously figure in what she terms the “marginalized majority.” “Singleness” is never just a civil status, a social identity, or even a lifestyle; it concerns the ways in which marriage, compulsory heterosexu- ality, and coupledom shape (female) human experience. A pro-marriage society structures women’s lives around the twin poles of marriage (norm) and singlehood (stigma). Yet as feminism’s history attests, the relationship between women and marriage as a political institution has always been an uneasy one. In the Declaration of Sentiments (1848), Elizabeth Cady Stanton demanded women’s rights, cataloguing fifteen grievances against “man” (read: the despot). One grievance was “He has made her, if mar- ried, in the eye of the law, civilly dead.” In The Feminine Mystique (1963), a groundbreaking book that heralded the second wave of the...

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