‘All the Single Ladies’ by Rebecca Traister

August 18, 2016 at 6:39 am 1 comment

Since it came out earlier this year, Rebecca Traister’s All the Single Ladies: Unmarried Women and the Rise of an Independent Nation seems to have skyrocketed to the top of every feminist booklist. And with good reason! Traister is curious, thoughtful, and thorough in her examination of the current state of affairs for unmarried women in America.

In All the Single Ladies, Traister explores the multi-faceted experience of being a single woman with sensitivity, insight, and more shocking statistics and facts than you can shake a stick at. Did you know the U.S. House of Representatives didn’t have a women’s restroom until 2011? That the median net worth of a single African American woman in 2014 was just $100? That the American marriage rate is dropping, but so is the divorce rate? All the Single Ladies is, if nothing else, a parade of thought-provoking factoids.

But it is so much more. Much like my reading of Only Child, All the Single Ladies made me think much more deeply about my own personal experiences, in this case as a single woman. Traister looks at every aspect, from the importance of female friendships to the choice to have or not have children to the effect of singledom on one’s career. Her sensitive, even-keeled approach to all these potentially explosive topics was revelatory.

Which isn’t to say there weren’t things that bothered me about the book. Trainster’s early chapter on the history of women in America betrays her lack of historical training. As she jumped back and forth between decades and centuries trying to build a march-of-progress version of history, I found myself tremendously frustrated. Historical trends are more frequently nonlinear and not as simple as “we started here and moved forward smoothly until we came to there.” Simplifying them for the purposes of your argument only weakens it.

Also, and saying this feels so nitpicky, but a married person writing a book about single women in America? Really? Traister’s personal stories about her previous singledom were great – and used to good effect – but her perspective still reminded me unfavorably of Kristin Newman’s What I Was Doing While You Were Breeding: with the end of a story still firmly anchored in the traditional happy marriage ending, doesn’t that kind of spoil the positive, non-marriage narrative you’ve spent a whole book building?

But these are minor qualms. On the whole, All the Single Ladies was a thought-provoking read that I would recommend to pretty much everyone. There was something I exclaimed over on almost every single page, desperate to share and discuss with whoever happened to be sitting next to me at the time.

We’ve come so far as women in America (a point hammered home during Traister’s excellent discussion of Second Wave Feminism); All the Single Ladies should be required reading for those eager to do more and those who think there isn’t anything left to do. Roll your sleeves up, ladies! Equality starts with us and our understanding of the current place of women in America, bolstered greatly by Traister’s book. So pick up a copy today – your dog days of summer will be greatly improved, I promise!


Entry filed under: Non-fiction. Tags: , , , .

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1 Comment Add your own

  • 1. Maria Oldal  |  August 18, 2016 at 7:02 am

    Added to my reading list!


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