Have you experienced singlism?


Whether single or married, one isn’t better than the other. It’s a matter of personal choice and sometimes, circumstances. So, people shouldn’t judge or be prejudiced against a person just because of their marital status. Photo: Freepik

While the common perception is that singles have a lot more freedom and independence to do the things they want, the reality is that they also face biases, discrimination and social stigma.

StarLifestyle speaks to Malaysians (both single and married) to find out their thoughts on the topic of singlism which is defined as the “unfair treatment of people who are single/not married or partnered”.

Some people think that being single means being lonely or incomplete. But as a single – and many of my other single friends will agree – we lead very full and complete lives. We have the freedom to pursue our dreams, do what we want, go where we want. We aren’t sitting around at home, feeling lonely with nothing to do or nobody to talk to. Our social calendars are very full and happening! — Myra M, 27, post-graduate university student

I think it’s Malaysian or Asian society in general that is traditionally very family-and-couple focused which results in biases against singles. As a single, we’re stereotyped and discriminated, even though these biases may not be as obvious as in the case of other “marginalised groups”. It’s important for society to realise that in order for a country to progress, we need to encourage inclusivity and respect people’s diverse lifestyles. — Geetha N, 35, lawyer

There are companies with policies that favour or benefit employees with families. They assume that such employees will be more stable and responsible, and less likely to job hop. This may be unintentional and could put singles at a disadvantage. For example, for certain managerial positions, they may prefer an employee not just of a certain age and gender but also status (eg married and has kids). — Ravinder S, 45, manager

Singles might face certain issues such as housing because some landlords prefer to rent to families or couples. They think the latter are more stable and responsible, and will keep the place clean, and that they won’t invite the opposite sex over, have wild parties, or destroy the premises. — James, 38, consultant

Hiring a maid or domestic help may be difficult for singles. Some agencies are unwilling to let singles (or those living alone) hire maids from them for various reasons. They believe that individuals with families will be more responsible and trustworthy. — Sally K, 50, administrative manager

In my previous company, I was often told: ‘You’re single so you don’t have to rush home to your husband and children. Someone needs to stay back and get this work done urgently so you’re the best person for the job’, and, ‘Can you go outstation to meet this client? I know it’s a public holiday but you don’t have a husband or children to attend to so you can do it, right?’ Worse is that is was not just the bosses who requested it – my married colleagues also expected me to cover for them regularly! At that time, I didn’t realise this was discrimination or that such a thing as ‘singlism’ existed. A single person’s time is also valuable and our days off matter as much as those who have families, so it should be reciprocal – I cover for you, you cover for me – and not one-sided. — Lee, 31, IT manager

Among my group of friends – which consists of both married couples and singles – we take turns to organise informal gatherings and day trips. The singles are always expected to pay for one pax (eg RM100 per single), while the marrieds usually pay a lower rate for their spouse (eg RM150 per couple). I understand if kids are half price but why should two working adults have a special rate just because they’re married? If I attend with a friend, we don’t get that special rate even though it’s two of us! While I’m not a calculative person, I think it’s unfair because, whether single or married, aren’t they eating the same amount of food at the restaurant – sometimes more! – or having the same sightseeing activities? So, why do the singles have to fork out more to “subsidise” or “cover” for the costs for married people? — Margaret, 60, retiree

Whether single or married, one isn’t better than the other. It’s a matter of personal choice and sometimes, circumstances. So, people shouldn’t judge or be prejudiced against a person just because of their marital status. Just because a person is single today, doesn’t mean they’ll be single in the future: they may meet somebody, fall in love and get married. And just because someone is married, it doesn’t mean they’ll still be married in the future – unfortunately, nowadays divorce is also quite common. — Mohd M, 70, businessman

It isn’t accurate to say that singles have fewer responsibilities. That may be true for some singles, but for others, it’s quite the opposite. Some singles are expected to be the primary caregiver for their aged parents or differently-abled sibling. We may not mind doing that, but as a result, we’ll have less time to meet people, go dating or have a relationship. And even if we do eventually have a relationship, our future spouse may not be keen to take on the additional responsibility of caregiving for our family members too. — Ryan, 40, physician

Some singles are divorcees or widows/widowers, and they may have kids. So, they have the responsibility to care for their kids, and unlike married couples, they have to do it single-handedly. So we can’t assume that single people have fewer responsibilities. — Aminah, 50, cafe owner

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