Lisa Wade of Sociological Images wrote a post about the demonization of single people, the sociological explanations of why people remain single, and why she is single. Now that the never-married represent a sizable proportion of the population (almost a third), there’s no doubt we’re going to switch to demonization mode. It’s a “deviation” too widespread to ignore.
If you go by the essay, written by the thrice married and now single Tracy McMillan, marriage is an ideal state that we all should, or do, desire. In her reality, if you aren’t married, it’s because you’re doing something wrong. Marriage is normative. In actual reality, though, the state of being married is not any more normal than the state of being unmarried.
Only if marriage is normative does the non-normality of marriage become something that needs explaining. McMillan jumps in with hateful stereotypes, but social science has much better explanations.
Low-income women often do not take-for-granted (as many middle class people do) that they can sustain a marriage through tough times. Accordingly, they wait much longer before marrying once they meet someone they like (as long as 10 years or more), so that they can be as sure as possible about the match. In other words, they take marriage very seriously and are reticent to just jump right in. They know they’re “good enough,” Tracy; in fact, they value themselves and their relationships enough to really put them to the test. (Read Promises I Can Keep for more.)
Other women get divorced because men don’t do their fair share. Unresolved conflicts over childcare and housework are one of the top reasons that couples dissolve. Women struggle to keep up when they’re working a full time job and doing 2/3rds to 3/4ths of the childcare and housework. They may not see the data, but they may intuit that single mothers do less housework than married ones (it’s true). So they divorce their husbands. They’re not “selfish,” they’re just trying to survive. (Read The Second Shift for more.)
Other people aren’t married because they’re in love with someone of the same sex. They’re not “sluts,” they’re discriminated against.