a negative evaluation of a social group, or a negative evaluation of an individual that is significantly based on the individual’s group membership.
In their discussion of this definition, which contrasts with the usual one from Allport, they point out that prejudice should be defined independent on the normative environment: Some prejudices are culturally accepted. Sexism – although still widespread – is mostly no longer acceptable. It is no longer okay to discriminate against women. However, singlism is mostly, well, ignored. Most people don’t even recognize the term let alone the existence of discrimination of single people.
In studying prejudice, social psychologists have identified implicit and explicit biases. For example, racism is no longer practiced openly (mostly). Yet, many of us hold lingering biases based on race, as studies around the implicit association test have brought home. I think that by studying singlism we can learn more about the mechanisms that underlie these various biases because in the case of singlism both the implicit and the explicit biases push us into the same direction. For example, many people implicitly associate being single with loneliness. This assumption is certainly implicit in a recent NYT column, otherwise Maureen Dowd would not have suggested that Elena Kagan might want to come to D.C. to look for a husband (as if going to D.C. to be one of the Supreme Court justices isn’t enough of a reason!). She also explicitly states the bias: “You’re unmarried — meaning it isn’t your choice to be alone.” Holding these biases prevents us from seeing that single people are perfectly happy being single and that we are not alone (unless we want to be solitary). So, in a lot of ways, it’s easier to see the implicit and explicit parts of singlism because – sadly – singlism is still socially accepted.
Something else we can learn from singlism: There’s always a flip-side. Singlism – the stigmatization of singles – always comes with couplemania – the overvaluation of the couple. Hence, there is a devaluation of one group and an overvaluation of another. Noticing this, we clearly see this with other prejudices: Devaluing women comes with an overvaluing of anything male, for example. This is not really news but we often forget that there is a flip-side because we focus on the devaluation of the one group. Take another look at the definition of prejudice above, for example. There is nothing in there about overvaluing another group. But it seems to me that this is the door through which the implicit biases sneak. We no longer openly discriminate against women but because we think that men are better/more able/smarter/whatever, we implicitly discriminate against women by not hiring them, paying them less, etc. So, it’s important to remember that prejudices come in a package: The negative evaluation of one group always comes with the positive evaluation of another.