Friends, are your fingers nimble? Do you feel capable of coordinated, rhythmic snapping? Let’s hope so, because a rumble looms. You must be prepared.
Yesterday, it was called to my attention that our blog title might be the tiniest bit dreary. What particular word drags us down to the blues and grays? Spinster. According to western society, there is nothing so depressing as an unmarried woman. The word conjures images of a sad, gray-haired maiden aunt obsessively knitting sweaters for her twelve cats. (Captain Whiskerby gets so cold! He needs a Fair Isle!) Why would we name our blog for such a pitiful creature? Twenty-something women should be out in the dating world, trying to land men before their ovaries shrivel up. Blogging about phallic cakes is best left to those who’ve found
Y’all, I’m so sorry! I didn’t realize that we were inflicting emotional damage onto our readers by declaring ourselves spinsters. You see, we think it’s a positive term. Shocking, I know. How could we not realize the frightful connotations of such a moniker? Well, probably because they make zero fucking sense. When you hear the term bachelor, spinster’s male counterpart, do you cringe in horror? No, you don’t. Otherwise, ABC wouldn’t have its rose-festooned cash cow. When Americans hear bachelor, they think George Clooney. When they hear spinster, they think Jennifer Aniston. One is lauded for his firm stance against marriage, while the other is bombarded with tabloid stories about her supposed longings for a husband.
This is ridiculous. This is why we named our blog for spinsters. It’s not because we’re unmarried, it’s because we want to take back the word. Spinster wasn’t always a four-letter word. Its original definition, dating to the mid-1300s, meant a woman who spun thread for a living. Spinning thread was one of the earliest professions a respectable, unmarried woman was allowed. Spinning, religious devotion, widowhood, or prostitution – for centuries those were some of the only paths to female independence. Later, of course, we could gain employment in shops or service, but spinning came to be so associated with unmarried women that the word took on that meaning. Now, according to Merriam-Webster we have three modern definitions:
- A woman whose occupation is to spin.
- An unmarried woman and especially one past the common age for marrying.
- A woman who seems unlikely to marry.
Nowhere does it say: A woman who pines away for a husband, slowly becoming bitter and sad as she ages, lonely and unloved, until she finally gives in and purchases the first of many feline companions. The negative connotations placed on unmarried women? That’s all society’s doing. Unmarried is, in and of itself, not a bad thing.
If we take the original definition to its logical conclusion, we actually find something positive. We discover women who were independent, able to support themselves without the aid of either husband or father. Destiny’s Child would be so proud! Anyone, man or woman, who blazes their own path through the world is to be applauded. (Well, unless that path includes actual blazes. Pyromaniacs need not apply to our membership ranks.) The word spinster shouldn’t be reviled or pitied.
If you’ve read our blog these past few months, you’ve realized we’re anything but desperate for marriage. I’m desperate for a six-figure book deal, desperate for a truly great piece of chocolate cake, but not for marriage. It’s not that we’re anti-men. If anything, we love men! Most of the guys in our lives are totally awesome. But…our lives aren’t defined by whether we’ve caught one or not. Marriage doesn’t make one automatically happier or more fulfilled, just like singlehood doesn’t automatically make one reach for a pint of mint chocolate chip. Optimistically, I think the world is accepting this. After all, hasn’t bachelorette begun to replace the more archaic term of spinster? Sure, we mostly apply it to almost-married women, but it still exists. Just having a word that means single woman, without negative connotations, can be seen as a victory.
Still, we chose A Confederacy of Spinsters. “A Coterie of Bachelorettes” doesn’t exactly roll off the tongue. Plus – quite frankly – we like spinster. We like its history of independence. We like the tongue-in-cheek nature of three happy young women taking its societal baggage on. We embrace spinster, with its cats and all, because there’s nothing wrong with the word. Calling ourselves spinsters does not hurt our self-esteem or our chances with men. In fact, one of your dear spinsters (*cough* Mae *cough*) will soon be joining the ranks of the happily married. She’ll keep the label, however. After all this angsting over taking it back, we’ve grown rather fond of it. If anyone takes issue with that, we’ll meet you outside. Prepare your snaps!