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All the Single Ladies by Rebecca Traister

All the Single Ladies: Unmarried Women and the Rise of an Independent Nation - Rebecca Traister

You never know when it comes to books about pop culture and feminism, but this is a really good one! It’s a combination of historical information, interviews with modern women, sociological statistics and analysis, and stories from the author’s life; Traister, an experienced journalist, weaves it all together in a seamless and readable way.

More women are single in the U.S. than ever before – whether that means marrying late, never marrying, or not staying married forever. Single women are nothing new though, and the book chronicles the stories of many of the most influential women in American history, who happen to have been single for much or all of their lives. But mostly the book explores how single women live their lives today, dealing with work and money, urban and rural life, female friendship, sex and dating, single parenthood, and how having been a single adult affects later marriages. The author also writes about societal pressures – how the meaning of singlehood has changed, and the conservative backlash.

I suspect most young and many not-so-young American women would enjoy the read and recognize something of themselves here. The book celebrates singlehood for the opportunity it provides to become independent, create one’s own life and career, and build intense friendships. At the same time, it’s hardly anti-marriage; Traister herself married in her 30s, and credits her single years with making her marriage better. If nothing else, had social pressures forced her to marry young, she wouldn’t have been available when Mr. Right came along!

And it’s probably the most inclusive book about modern womanhood that I’ve read. Rather than being relegated to one separate chapter, women of color appear throughout and inform every section of it. While the book is tilted toward educated, urban women – though as it discusses, single women have always flocked to cities, so the focus is perhaps not disproportionate – poor women and single mothers appear as well. There are no glib attempts to generalize all single women: on sexual choices, for instance, whether you have tons of sex, some sex, varying amounts of sex depending on where you are in your life, or have never had sex, you’ll see your decisions reflected here. Traister interviewed people from all walks of life, resulting in sensitive portrayals and spot-on analysis.

There is the criticism that the book’s contents aren’t new and surprising, and that’s fair. But it would be strange to be very surprised by a profile of one’s own demographic. It definitely kept my attention, and there’s enough solid research here that I did learn some things. While single American women may not find a great deal of new information, this should at least be an affirming read.