A feminist journalist argues that single women, who now outnumber married women in the United States, are changing society in major ways.
Between 2010 and 2015, New York Magazine writer at large and Elle contributing editor Traister (Big Girls Don't Cry: The Election that Changed Everything for American Women, 2010, etc.) interviewed nearly 100 women across the country, selecting from them some 30 whose stories she relates here. Many of them are women like herself—college-educated New Yorkers—which gives her book a definite slant. Before letting these women talk about their lives, the author turns to prominent women of earlier decades—Anita Hill, Betty Friedan, Gloria Steinem—and to single ones of earlier times who were abolitionists, suffragists, labor agitators, and social reformers. The present, writes Traister, “is the epoch of the single woman, made possible by the single women who preceded it.” Through her interviews, she explores their friendships with other women, relationships with men, sex and social lives, careers, freedoms, activism, independence, loneliness, living arrangements, and choices about children. At times, the author inserts her own story into the narrative, but she underrepresents the lives of poor women, minorities, and older widows. Although too often absent from the text, the needs of such women are recognized in an appendix that outlines changes in policies in wages, insurance, housing, welfare, and health care and in attitudes toward reproductive rights and family structures that single women must demand. If single women possess the political power that Traister attributes to this growing population (“a citizenry now made up of plenty of women living economically, professionally, sexually, and socially liberated lives”), big changes are on the way.
An easy read with lots of good anecdotes, a dose of history, and some surprising statistics, but its focus on one segment of one generation of single women is a drawback.