Reclaiming “Spinster”

BlogHer Original Post

What do you think of when you hear the word “spinster?” In addition to thinking of an unmarried woman, you probably picture a woman who is unattractive, or dowdy – someone who would have a hard time attracting a member of the opposite sex due to her appearance, or personality, or both. But if you look at the dictionary definition, being a spinster doesn’t have anything to do with looks.

1. A woman who has remained single beyond the conventional age for marrying.
2. A single woman.
3. A person whose occupation is spinning.

But still, there aren't a lot of attractive single woman out there referring to themselves as spinsters – or at least, there didn’t used to be.

When I did a blog search for “spinster,” I came up with a list of women who are using the word not just in posts they’re writing, but as part of their official blog name. And why not? There are other terms used to describe females that women have taken control of and reclaimed as their own – look at the popular usage of the word “bitch.” (Or Jane Fonda’s casual use of the c-word on the Today show, when she was describing the title of her monologue as part of The Vagina Monologues.) I see no reason why “spinster” shouldn’t be added to the mix.

I can’t help it – I love when women proclaim loud and proud that they’re fine with being single. This doesn’t mean they wouldn’t be just as happy with a partner; it’s that they don’t require the presence of someone else to lead a happy, fulfilling life.

Spinster in the City likes her title and is ready to claim the word for popular use.

As it turns out there are many self-proclaimed spinsters out there online. When I googled Spinster Blog I got 366,000 hits. [...]

So why are we so ready to calls ourselves spinsters? I was starting to call myself spinster at 23! Did that become some sort of self-fulfilling prophecy? I don't know. Maybe we want to call ourselves spinster before anyone else has a chance to. Maybe we have resolved to stay single, so spinster just sounds appropo. Whatever the reason the word spinster doesn't have to be a bad word, actually it sounds kind of hip when you strip all past connotations from it. So lets do just that, let go of the past and embrace the future as single swingin' SPINSTERS!

Devin wrote an interesting post called “The Modern Spinster.”

To a woman in her late 30’s or early 40’s, there are few words that provoke a more negative connotation than spinster. […]

Today’s spinsters are stuck in a temporary time warp. They are creating the role models that the boys of today need to accept the professional women of the future. However, by performing this role for society, they face their own form of discrimination. How many times have these women been asked, “why are you still single?” Or the backhanded compliment, “I can’t understand why men aren’t beating down your door.” Perhaps the men who ask these questions should simply look in the mirror. Modern spinsters are beautiful, successful, confident and interesting. They no longer wear dowdy clothing and blue glasses. They wear the latest fashion and tinted contact lenses. They do not live with their parents. They live in $500,000 condos decorated with antiques and fine art. They wouldn’t even know what to register for because they already have everything.

Maiden Metallurgist likes being single. I bet she wouldn’t mind calling herself a spinster.

At the end of a long day, all I want to do is get home, cook up some supper, and sit down on the couch. I don't want to compromise on dinner or share the remote. I don't feel like talking to anyone. I want to read my book or write a little. Maybe I want to knit or drink wine in a bubble bath. I might watch a Keeping Up With the Kardashians marathon and pick my nose for a while. Make a big bowl of popcorn for dinner and lay in bed watching DVD's on my laptop. I'm not ready to give up this strange behavior, and I expect I'd have to were I to marry.

This is one reason that I'm not just happy, but some days I'm down right relieved I'm single. At a party on Saturday night with maybe 12 couples I found myself a little overwhelmed. Not because I felt lonely but because it occurred to me just how big a commitment marriage is. I find some solace in the absolute truth that I haven't met the right person yet. I know this absolutely because I've not met someone for whom I'd be willing to make these compromises and change my ways. […]

I guess I'm just not sure I'm looking to settle down just yet.

Blue explains why she prefers the term "spinster" to “single.”

To me a 'spinster', is an unmarried, childless female of a certain age, who lives alone. That describes me perfectly & fits me better than the word 'Single', which can be used to describe anyone without a partner, male or female, previously married or not.

Kim had a nice dinner with her mother, and on the drive home she broached the subject that she might never get married. Her mother admitted she’d told her prayer group at church that she had a 30-year-old daughter who wasn’t married. This was Kim’s reaction:

It doesn't surprise me that she wants so badly for me to get married. She's Asian, it's their thing. If she could have she would have bound my feet and arranged my marriage a long time ago. She has actually told me on more than one occasion that I can't take care of myself and need someone to look after me. What gets me is that, after all these years, she won't let it go and chalk it up to a lost cause. Instead she turns to her God for help. […]

Is it wrong that I now want to stay single for the rest of my life out of spite?

A 25-year-old single girl in Silicon Valley calls herself a “spinster-in-waiting.”

Now that my cousin, Audrina, is married, it means that I am the next girl in line in my family to get hitched. So there is my aunt, asking me if I considered trying Match.com and my own grandmother readjusting my cleavage so that I could attract some men. My mother calls me weekly to tell me how she prays each night that I will find a good husband. Because, you know, nothing else is quite as important...like, world peace, ending poverty, etc.

Here I was, thinking all along that I was still young and had plenty of time. But apparently, being 25 and single is akin to being a desperately, hopeless, outcast of society. But with so many other women choosing to focus on their career before settling down, am I really so different from all the other women my age?

Jen (from The Inner Voices of a Spinster in the Making) doesn't like when married friends assume she has more time on her hands just because she’s single.

Now, I'm sure that if we were to add up all the hours of free time for both single and married people, the married people would have less...but not by much. I think it's a common misunderstanding by married people that we singles have nothing to do but twiddle our thumbs because we don't have to take care of a spouse and children.

Don't get me wrong, I am not trying to belittle the wedded bliss of screaming babies, hungry husbands, dirty children, stinky diapers, and all the things in between. I recognize that they are busily trying to keep track of jobs, homes, children and spouses. I applaud them for their hard work. Someday, I hope I will be lucky enough for my nights and days to be filled with each of those things.

But because I'm not married doesn't mean I'm not happily active. It just means my life is hectic in a different way. And I understand that a lot of it is of my choosing but nonetheless, I'm busy.

What would you think about calling yourself a "spinster?" It is time to reclaim the term?

Zandria also blogs at Keep Up With Me, and would have no problem with being called a spinster as long as it wasn't said in a negative way. Cuz then she might have to kick some ass.

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