What do you call a female bachelor?

Yes I do wish that title was a funny joke, yet after a fascinating experience typing the “term for an unmarried older women” and then following that with the “term for an unmarried man” into the Google machine I was not laughing!

The results…

Spinster

“An unmarried woman, typically an older woman beyond the usual age for marriage”

Bachelor

“A man who is not and has never been married”

Given the term ‘bachelor’ is the title of one of the world’s most popular reality TV shows, whilst spinster conjures visual images of an old lady obsessed with cats, I think that it is fair to say that as ‘International Women’s Day’ is celebrated around the world, we still have some way to go in the equality stakes.

Yes, there has been change in our society in regards to the roles of women, yet when it comes to equal pay, the glass ceiling and how we view women in relationships, perceptions and new realities are much needed.

This particularly applies to how single women are viewed, and even in our modern society there is an expectation for women to marry and have children. And there would not be a fellow sister, who when single, had to answer the ‘why don’t you have a man’ question from well-meaning relatives and friends.

Whilst in the decades past women would face such questioning in their early 20s, the ‘don’t be left on a shelf’ pressure now kicks off in the early 30s today in some earnest.

This is despite the social norms changing for women today, with women choosing to take responsibility for their own financial security through education and taking on high profile positions.

Some, like myself, even choose not to marry!!

Yes that is right, I said ‘choose’ not to marry, in the same way men choose to be ‘bachelors’, women make the same decision and yes we desperately need a better word than ‘spinster’ to describe it.

That is not to say that I have not had some wonderful relationships with men through my life, simply put, I chose to not evolve those relationships to marriage, a decision that I am very happy with.

The connotation in the community when we say that a women is “unmarried” is that she has “not been chosen” by a man, which links back to our patriarchal heritage of a man asking a women to marry him.

When a women was not asked it was deemed she was ‘left on the shelf’, unwanted like a piece of spoilt produce, destined for the ‘dustbin’ of life.

This can place great pressure on a women as she begins to age and I can reflect upon a women I know who recently turned 40 and feels as though she has somehow failed in life as she not found a man to share her life with.

These are societal pressures that women face, to marry, to have children and right now she is contemplating IVF as a solution for her yearning for a child, convinced she will never find a man.

She even has had to begin to answer questions around her own sexuality, simply because society says we must be partnered, whilst friends and family say “Oh poor… She cannot find a man”.

It is utter nonsense of course and as any women who has chosen to not marry well understands, life can be fulfilling and wonderful with or without a man, and it is up to us to find the vitality and fun in life.

As we well know, there are plenty of unhappily married men and women in this world and I do wonder how many of those relationships turned into marriage simply due to that societal pressure to partner up, even if the relationship was far from perfect before the ceremony.

So this ‘International Women’s Day’ I would like to raise a glass to my fellow sisters who have chosen to be unmarried, and encourage them to take advantage of the flexibility that being single in life offers… Enjoy ladies!

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