Image: The influential women of HBO's Sex and the City
HBO  /  Reuters file
The influential women of HBO's Sex and the City
By
updated 12/31/2003 2:08:03 PM ET 2003-12-31T19:08:03

‘Tis the season of the single woman.

On the eve of this New Year, we learn that staying single leads to better mental health in women, courtesy of a new study conducted in England.  Stateside, the decades-old image of the single girl as "discarded spinster" has been upgraded to one of a savvy stiletto wearing power broker, thanks to an influential run and final season of Sex and the City.  Meanwhile, single moms are facing less stigma and more choices as one-person households outnumber traditional ones for the first time ever, and in mid-December an advisory panel winked at an established "right to choose" by voting to recommend that the FDA place a morning after pill on counters next to cough medicine and condoms.  At the same time, Hollywood takes a previously unthinkable commercial gamble this holiday season with Something’s Gotta Give – a middle aged love story that concludes an aging single woman’s wrinkles and experience are sexier than her daughter’s dewy glow of youth.

Changed cultural iconography, marked demographic shifts, and a political study released by the San Francisco-based Tides Center set the stage for the unprecedented political courtship of America’s Single Woman.  Unmarried women could decide the 2004 election if they register and vote in large numbers, especially since many remain unregistered in critical states including Pennsylvania, Florida, Michigan, and Illinois, the study says.  Though single women tend to lean to the Left and favor the aims of big government, concerns about security and terrorism provide the Right an "equal opportunity" for persuasive wooing.

  1. Promise a secure future for singles
    While today’s college educated single woman feels relatively certain her future promises something more than an apartment full of cats, she retains founded fears about her financial future.   A study conducted recently in Massachusetts by the Employee Benefits Research Institute and the Milbank Memorial Fund showed that a mere 32 percent of single women who are presently age 32 to 41 - as compared to 76 percent of single men and 98 percent of couples – would be able to cover their basic retirement expenses.  This happens because women live longer, earn less or take time off from their careers to raise children, and because many existing policies are "marriage centric."  Candidates should consider proposing revisions to these policies that take into consideration the evolving circumstances of the hardworking single woman.
  2. Fight the “new” wage gap
    Though it has been men versus women for decades, there is a new gap emerging between singles and married couples.  Propose a change in laws to eliminate taxes on benefits extended to family members other than a spouse, pledge to equalize insurance rates irrespective of marital status, and reconsider the marriage related tax provisions.
  3. Equal access to property ownership
    In the footsteps of famed literary heroine Scarlett O’Hara, many single women have learned to appreciate the value of land in the past few years as other investments crumbled.  Yet female headed households still trail behind the population at large when it comes to home ownership rates. Candidates should appeal to our presumed domestic impulses with a simple pledge to abolish any existing gender discrimination in the lending and credit practices essential to home ownership status.

This is just a starting point.  But what’s clear is that it is time to replace the "family values" platform with one that recognizes the definition of "family" has already changed.  Married couple households, the leading household configuration since the country’s founding, has slipped from 80 percent in the 1950s to just over 50 percent today, and the U.S.’s 86 million single adults may soon define the majority.  April will see the launch of Segue magazine, a new national publication aimed at 30-55-year old affluent, professional singles, and unmarrieds comprise 42 percent of the workforce.  So, a candidate romancing single women with the proffered suggestions might also "pick up" more than a few men along the way.  He (since there is unfortunately no qualified she in the race) will also win points as a visionary by hastening the implementation of inevitable revisions that will lead to major changes over time.

Lia Macko is writer and media consultant.  She has served as a Senior Producer at CNN, MSNBC, and COURT TV and is the co-author of a book about Gen X working women titled "Mid-Life Crisis at 30:  How the Stakes Have Changed for a Generation" (Rodale Press:  March 2004).  She can be reached via email at liamacko@hotmail.com.

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