Don’t mock Emma Watson – there’s a reason people like me are fed up of being described as ‘single women’

Maybe it’s time to reject the labels prescribed to us altogether. Creating new ways to describe ourselves and the way we choose to live is nothing to be ashamed of

Abby Young-Powell
Tuesday 05 November 2019 17:21
Emma Watson says she is ‘self-partnered’ rather than single

Emma Watson isn’t single; she’s “self-partnered”. Or at least, that’s how she chose to describe her relationship status in a new interview with British Vogue.

The activist, who turns 30 next April and who is currently not in a relationship, explained that when she was younger she didn’t believe people when they said they were happy to be single.

“I was like, ‘This is totally a spiel’,” she said. “It took me a long time, but I’m very happy [being single]; I call it being self-partnered,” she now says.

As someone who is also single, I understand. And, while I probably won’t be calling myself “self-partnered” any time soon, I welcome new ways to describe those of us who are not currently in long-term monogamous relationships.

I’ve long cringed at the word “single”. I find it hard to identify with when I see generalised articles about “singles” loving or hating life, or hear Beyonce sing about all her “single ladies”. It’s never sounded like a club I want to be in.

The dictionary tells us that to be single is simply to be “only one; not one of several”. Or more specifically; “unmarried or not involved in a stable sexual relationship”.

But that seems too simple for our modern, messy, chaotic world and the many different types of relationships people have, or for how relationships change over time.

In a Tinder age, perhaps Watson is right; we need new definitions.

Because it’s hard to identify with a label that defines you by your relationship status when your relationship status feels fluid. Over the years I’ve been single, I’ve sometimes been dating and sometimes not. I’ve spent several months dating the same person, or seen people casually, and I’ve had many close friendships. I’ve rarely been completely alone and I’ve not always felt “single,” even when I technically have been.

The word “single” also feels old-fashioned and a bit sad-sack, to me. It makes me think of Bridget Jones, a desperate dinner-for-one, and of being alone at a party. But my life doesn’t look like that – and I doubt Watson, a famous actress and activist, lives her life that way, either.

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Society often makes people – particularly women – feel inadequate if we are not partnered up in a conventional way. From a young age, women are encouraged to place their self-worth on their relationship status. We are defined by whether we are perceived to be available sexual partners or not and then judged if we don’t play by the rules.

In recent years, I’ve noticed that single women have started to speak up, to say they enjoy being single, actually, or to more accurately describe the shades of grey in their lives.

But maybe it’s time to go a bit further than that. Maybe it’s time to reject the labels prescribed to us altogether if we want to and in the space that’s left, we can create new ways to describe ourselves and the way we are choosing to live. Maybe you’re “self-partnered,” maybe you’re single-ish, or maybe it’s complicated and you’re still figuring it out.

Whatever your relationship status, it’s up to you how you want to define it. So, single or not, I applaud Watson for breaking the rules and for being bold enough to define herself.

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