October 2013 FEW Meeting Recap: The Marginalized Majority – Media Representations and Lived Experiences of Single Women

Recap “The Marginalized Majority – Media Representations and Lived Experiences of Single Women” – October 10, 2013
By Christina Hanazawa-Gallagher, Vice President of FEW

Does Single Equal Unhappy?

Are single people destined to be unhappy? It’s less a question than a statement in a media landscape awash with the hyper-feminist or sexually free woman. Nevertheless, “Why do I always have to account for my singleness?” is a question that intrigued FEW October speaker, Kristie Collins, author of, “The Marginalized Majority: Media Representations and lived experiences of single women.”

The curiosity eventually led her to survey self-identified, single women ages 28-65 about their single identity. Somewhat surprisingly, despite media constructs that marriage equals happily ever after, the survey revealed that women ages 50 and over who had never been married were the happiest.

The  Marginalized MajorityCollins calls the idea of a soulmate a “North American concept,” whereas in Japan women seem to make more calculated choices
about marriage. “For many women in Japan, if they want to stop being single they can,” she said. But more often than not, it’s an either-or decision: to continue with their jobs or get married. Ironically, Collins said the young women in her media and gender studies class at the University of Tsukuba were very responsive to notions of women’s equality. But reality is often different. “(Most) will apply to jobs that they will do for four years before they get married,” she said.

In addition to Japan still being a traditional society when it comes to women’s roles, Collins sees media as partially to blame. She analyzed three popular television shows depicting women at different stages of success in their careers. When the option of marriage came up, the moral dilemma of love versus career sidetracked even the overachievers. “There should be an option C, “ she said. “Women in Japan need to see more examples of women who go back in the workforce.”

Despite decades of broadcasting female-centered shows on television, Hollywood isn’t fairing much better. “Media create templates that help us make sense of our lives, give us characters to fit into,” said Collins. “If no single women are happy in life [on TV], how do you [as a single women] tell them you are?”

According to 2011 statistics, 31.5 percent of households in Japan are single-headed households, while the female average marrying age is 30. By contrast, in the United States, 27 percent of households are single-headed, yet the average female marrying age is 26.9. Even if people are waiting longer to marry in favor of their careers, it doesn’t mean singles necessarily have it easier in the workplace.

In Japan at least, single women are often perceived as the ones who have more free time to work longer hours, while married women seem to be given some kind of invisible pass to return home earlier, said Collins. She recommended having allies at work. “It is important to understand that everyone has important things to do outside of the workplace.”

Ultimately though, no matter what your relationship status is, Collins said it comes down to a common truth, “We all arrive in the world as single individuals, and, to all intents and purposes, we all depart that way as well,” she said. “I am not actually advocating for being single. I am advocating for being happy.”

About our speaker
Kristie Collins is an associate professor in the faculty of humanities and social sciences at the University of Tsukuba, where she teaches gender studies, literature, and intercultural communication.

To learn more about her book “The Marginalized Majority: Media Representations and Lived Experiences of Single Women,” click here.


November Strategic Partner News

Check out the latest member offers and opportunities from our Strategic Partners here! Our Strategic Partners are committed to bringing the best services and products to FEW members. And go to our Strategic Partners page to learn more about all of FEW’s Strategic Partners, who not only support FEW’s activities but also provide professional and personal services […]

Published on 31st October 2017

November Community Services Feature with Charles McJilton of Second Harvest

By Tia Haygood, Community Services Director With Winter and the holiday season around the corner, many of us are mapping out our plans for the upcoming thanksgiving dinners, bonenkai, Christmas celebrations, and the like. As we make merry in our end-of-year celebrations, we should still be mindful that in Japan there are 20 million people […]

Published on 31st October 2017

How I Got Here: Aya McCrindle

In my life, I’ve experience five personal ‘tsunamis’ that threatened to leave me broken, but instead gave me strength and led to the creation of the Find Your Element Workshop, a 12 week creative evening program that takes participants on a step by step journey of self-awareness and exploration. I was 24 when the first […]

Published on 30th October 2017

Strategic Partner Spotlight: Sarah Furuya Coaching- Celebrating 5 Years in Business

As I write this, it is 5 years to the day since I quit my job, hopped on a plane to NYC and went to a three-day event called ‘Rich, Happy and Hot Live’ with 500 entrepreneurs and the world’s finest soulful online entrepreneurs. It was a brilliant way to enter my entrepreneurial life and […]

Published on 29th October 2017

Special Event Recap: Make the Connection: Practical Networking Strategies that Work for You

What is networking? How do you prepare for a ‘networking’ event – your approach, look, conversation points, questions? How do you overcome shyness to approach others? Or how do you elegantly end a conversation? What is way the best to follow up and maintain new relationships? Helen Iwata, CEO of Sasuga Communications K.K., answered these questions […]

Published on 26th October 2017

Upcoming Events