If you’ve ever sat through a rom-com or a chick-flick, you’ve probably come across representations of ‘the single girl.’
Maybe it’s ignorance, maybe it’s laziness, or perhaps it’s a combination of the two; but the media likes to present us with one dimensional, over-simplified images of what it means to be a single woman in society. In the dominant mainstream media discourse, two discrete archetypes of ‘the single girl’ emerge.
The first is the sad single girl; she is lonely, desperate, aching for a man to come along and fill the gaping hole in her life. She often compromises herself in her painstaking, all-consuming search for the elusive ‘Mr Right.’ Examples that pop into mind include Bridget Jones, moping at home, drinking wine in her pyjamas and tearfully singing along to All By Myself.
Or consider Ginnifer Goodwin’s character, Gigi, who was all-consumed by her quest for finding the right man in He’s Just Not That Into You. Another example can be found in the ubiquitous magazine covers of Jennifer Aniston. Highlights include ‘Jen’s Baby Dream Shattered’ and ‘Dumped after 21 days.’ Such titles suggest that being alone, unwed and childless are the worst possible things to happen a woman. They also serve as a cautionary tale; you don’t want to be that girl. You don’t want to be alone and childless.
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But, on the other hand, you also don’t want to be desperate (as suggested by other ‘Poor Jen’ headlines such as ‘I can’t stop loving Brad’ and ‘Obsessed with Ange!’) As much as we might hate to admit it, we buy into such warnings: I mean, come on, isn’t that why we caution our friends not to send that second message, or warn them not to seek an explanation as to why they never heard a peep from that guy who bought them a drink at the bar last weekend?
This representation seems to be very much driven by the narrative that women are, at least according to traditional views, needy, dependent and emotional, desperately awaiting the presence of a man to ‘complete’ them and/or validate their existence.
In stark contrast to the sad single girl, we have the sassy single girl; she is independent, carefree and certainly don’t need no man to make her happy (snaps fingers and flicks hair). This image conjures up characters such as Kim Cattrall’s infamous Samantha Jones in Sex and the City. Confident, promiscuous and almost devoutly single, Samantha Jones embodies the quintessential sassy single girl. She finds fulfilment in her female relationships, her high power career and her no-strings-attached flings and hook ups with various men. She refuses to depend on men and never expects anything more from them than sex.
This narrative is somewhat progressive, challenging the traditional story of women being needy, dependent creatures. For so long, women were dependent on men. But times have changed; women now have the power to create their own identities. They can earn their own money, buy their own house and stake a place for themselves in the public arena. These are all fantastic markers of progress, and indeed should be celebrated. But it seems that this narrative ignores a very human (and certainly not exclusively female) desire: companionship.