Bachelor is an affectionate term for a single man of any age – and this moniker doesn’t have an upper age limit, an 80-year-old man can easily be referred to as a sweet elderly Bachelor. It also doesn’t have a lower age limit, which is concerning because bestowing societal presumptions of masculinity, male promiscuity and sexual prowess on children, is helpful to exactly no one.
The female equivalent to Bachelor is Spinster but ‘Spinster’ initiates connotation of an ugly bitter evil Ms Havisham, whilst Bachelor suggests a suave competent desirable Man. Spinster and Bachelor were words initially used in public records to describe single women or men of the age in which they were expected to be married but were still SINGLE. But whilst Bachelor has become a mostly positive noun, Spinster has become the exact opposite.
The acceptable upper age limit of being a ‘singleton’ has obviously changed a lot since the terms Bachelor and Spinster were coined, and very drastically so in the past fifty years. Whereas fifty years ago a single unmarried childless woman above twenty-five was considered an anomaly; that age bracket has now increased by about 10 years. Now a woman has until she’s a generous thirty-five before the real crackdown of concern begins for her biological clock, shelf life and subsequent life purpose.
As men don’t face this biological timer the same way women do the pressure is much less intense and as such their ‘use by date’ is much less definitive and constrained. And herein lies the issue which seems to be the ‘family life’ yard stick by which female accomplishment is measured; by way of marriage, 2.4 kids and a car and a house in the suburbs.
Which in turn brings us to the core difference between the connotations of a Bachelor compared to a Spinster. A Bachelor is considered single out of choice, whereas a Spinster is considered single out of circumstance; unwanted goods.
A woman who chooses to be single still seems to be such an ‘alternative’ concept. A woman who doesn’t want to get married or have kids or is even undecided about wanting kids is met with curiosity and (again) concern; “but why don’t you want a small replica of yourself to inherit all your faults and sub-conscious self-consciousness self-esteem issues and bleed you dry of all and any cash and resent you whilst you do it?” Procreating isn’t actually the be all and end all of all human life, and there are loads and loads of us humans on this planet, so if some of us don’t want to have kids, I don’t think humanity is under threat of extinction as a direct result.
So, if we set aside the still ever present daily casual sexism, gender pay gap and misogynistic entitlement, (and that’s just naming a few and that’s just in our ‘first-world’ society), being a single woman at any age is not a chore. It is not a terror afflicted upon us. Being a single unmarried childless woman can be a choice to be self-reliant and independent. It’s a choice to not sacrifice our own happiness to appease anybody else.
So, should we embrace the word Spinster in order to rid it of being a disparaging and offensive term, and flip it into a positive descriptive word for a single woman living her best life?
Then if Spinster simply becomes a term for a single unmarried childless woman, then can we establish The Spinsterhood as a positive lifestyle choice of self-reliant women who are supporting and are supported by each other (and society in general).
A modern-day Spinster is not a 2018 Ms Havisham crying into a bottle of wine stalking her exes on social media and clutching her womb picking out baby names for her unfertilised eggs. A modern-day Spinster is a single woman who is making her own choices about her own life, is not defined by and does not base her self-worth on her relationship status and how and when and if she plans to settle down.
Long Live The Spinsterhood