The terror of the single old maid: On the insolubility of a cultural category

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Contemporary feminist research is highly preoccupied with dismantling social categories and challenging binaries which have long underpinned social thinking. Surprisingly, such deliberations have left the nexus of age and singlehood resistant to deconstructive analysis. Addressing recent literature on age, feminist theory and singlehood we are concerned with re-evaluating the image of the old maid image alongside the omnipresence of age and ageism in current discourses on singlehood, family life and intimate relations. Drawing on a content based analysis we argue that single women are faced with a triple disfranchisement based on their age, gender and single status. We further argue that the aging process of single women should be viewed as a situated symbolic practice disguised as a natural imperative, and not as it is customarily grasped, as a given biological category. Thus, this paper is set to critically revisit the authority of age and ageist practices by offering a new conceptual lens through which a revised feminist sociology of singlehood and age could be developed.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)127-136
Number of pages10
JournalWomen's Studies International Forum
Issue numberPA
StatePublished - 1 Nov 2014


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