As I was mulling this over, I realized that married people – especially married women – are identified. In some cultures, it is through a different kind of hair covering. In others, it’s through a wedding ring. We learn to categorize wedding ring wearers as married and those without the band as unmarried. Once a person is categorized, all the stereotypes are flooding our system (they are primed by the environment – in this case, the presence or absence of a wedding ring). Wedding ring wearers are considered happier, healthier, and wealthier. People without the ring are lonely losers. Since couplemania and singlism are still largely unrecognized prejudices, we are unlikely to counter-act these beliefs to reduce the influence of the prejudices. This then perpetuates the myths that, well, married people are just somehow better (or at least better off) than singles. I never realized the importance of the obvious marker of marriage but clearly, it helps to maintain the status quo.
I’ve been reading a lot about stereotypes and prejudices lately. Fifty years after Allport wrote his Nature of Prejudice, a compilation came out that reviews and updates his work. Underneath stereotypes and prejudices is the process of categorization. Allport suggested that and empirical research confirmed it. When we see something or someone, we categorize the perception – fast and unconscious. The categories are probably culturally determined, so it would be difficult to content that it’s natural, say, to categorize people by gender. Just like bones, there is no such thing as something entirely natural. But there is a process that allows us to categorize.