Academic journal article Resources for Feminist Research

Single Women: On the Margins? // Review

Academic journal article Resources for Feminist Research

Single Women: On the Margins? // Review

Article excerpt

How does "singleness" inform the range of women's lives and how could one's existence as "single" construct marginality? This was the question I asked of Tuula Gordon's latest book, Single Women: On the Margins? The answers I found were sometimes surprising, often affirming and occasionally unsettling. The analytical themes of the book centre on individuality and marginality as revealed through the patterns and contexts of single women's lives. Throughout the text, the thesis is developed that marital status has not disappeared as a crucial category in establishing normality even though the surface features of single women stereotypes have changed somewhat, from spinsters of the nineteenth century and old maids of the 1950s. One of the most thought-provoking arguments deals with the contradictory aspects in the construction of single women's locations in society. The consequent tensions between ideals and reality may afford us opportunities for various ways of constructing our lives.

In a patriarchy where women are defined in relation to men, single women defy stereotyped definitions to form a unique heterogeneous group. Tuula Gordon articulates this point through a series of interviews, with 72 women in three different Western countries (USA, Finland and Britain). She traces the tensions between separateness and connectedness that individual women negotiate in order to find a "space" of their own. That single women do not fall neatly into the stereotypes of old maid or swinging single is obvious, yet Gordon explores the textures of their lives to portray a diverse sounding ground of women's experiences. While acknowledging that white women in skilled occupations form the majority of respondents, her sample was more or less reflective of a heterogeneous group in terms of age, sexuality, ethnicity, nationality, ability, social class, and parental responsibilities.

Overall, the author locates single women's statuses within a cultural and historical framework. Having established the framework, she then gives voice to women's experiences of singleness in the present. …

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