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Kate Bolick

It's A Long Story

Sydney Opera House

As a middle-class girl from a happy family, Kate Bolick’s life was on track: go to college, get a job, and then, become a wife. But after losing her mother, Kate began to question this predictable trajectory. In 2011, when she was in her thirties and still unmarried, Kate wrote an article that wove together her personal story with an economic analysis of singledom in the 21st Century. It was called All the Single Ladies and it became an online sensation. It served as the catalyst for Kate’s first book called Spinster: Making a life of one’s own. The memoir reflects on the intergenerational lessons and legacies of feminism, and is a call to arms for autonomous women everywhere.

Feminism for me

“I tend to think of feminism as being the basic definition of equal rights for everybody. That is what feminism is to me. And being conscious of that, too. To have a 'conscious feminism' rather than a 'taken for granted feminism'.”

“As a third wave feminist, I grew up taking for granted the gains of the second wave and taking my feminism for granted as well. So, I thought of myself as a feminist, I called myself a feminist, I don't even really know what I thought that that meant. It just was something I did without putting too much critical thought into. And I think that was unfortunate in that there was a lot more that needed to be done in terms of the progress of feminism, and I'm so glad that there were people who were being so much more conscious about feminism than I was at the time, who were pushing that conversation forward. And so I feel grateful that I eventually grew into being not only a de facto feminist but also a conscious feminist.”

All the Single Ladies

"I was working freelance and my editor called me up and said 'would you be interested in writing a cover story about changing marriage trends and how men's worsening economic prospects are changing the future of dating, marriage and the family'. And 'could you write this in the first person drawing on your own experiences on a never married woman?' And I said absolutely yes, yes I'll write a cover story for you, Atlantic Magazine, sure! I have no idea like what this contemporary situation is about, but I'll find out.

“And as I started the reporting I was really anxious about figuring out my way in, how was I going to write this story in the first person. Because men's worsening economic prospects has nothing to do with the reason why I'm still an unmarried woman, so what would the intersection be? It wasn't until I came across the statistics around single people ... that we are living at a time when there were more unmarried people than married people in the United States ... And I  realised that this is my way into the story, this is what I'm going to find out is why am I 38, about to turn 39, why am I not married? And to me the answer had everything to do with the second wave of the women's movement and the gains that had been made had given my generation a kind of power and ability to live with agency in the world that hadn't happened on a mass scale like this before.”

Kate Bolick speaking with Jess Scully at All About Women 2018
Kate Bolick's New York Times bestseller Spinster: Making a Life of One's Own

Spinster

“It's a hybrid of my own experiences as an adult single woman, the lives of five women from the turn of the last century whose lives and writings influenced my own thinking around marriage versus not marriage as I was going through those years of singledom ... I didn't want to write something that felt kind of boringly pedantic: 'here's what singledom is, here's what to think about'. So if I thought if I put these five women in, I could really be putting a lot of ideas through their mouths, you know, through the things that they had said, and that that would make for a more dynamic reading experience than if it had just been me and my voice the entire time.

“After the “All the Single Ladies” story, the way the media was packaging me as this woman who had it all figured out and who was just this like badass – 'forget marriage, I don't need it' – and I think that that's really damaging. I think that that kind of figure doesn't actually inspire women, I think it makes them feel bad about themselves. And it's not real! That's not who I am, that's not who I was. And so I wanted to wrest back my own self and show that, yeah, I'm of a generation where we were coming of age with old messages that did not match the on the ground realities of our own lives, and that's a very confusing landscape to navigate. And so I wanted to show that anxiety and confusion.”

Generational differences

"I'm feeling kind of concerned about generational differences in terms of #metoo because I think it's amazing what the millennials are doing. Overall, I think that millennials do not get the respect they deserve, they are an incredible generation. And, you know, that's because they've inherited, or because the socially progressive ideas that have been in the works have finally permeated to such an extent that they can live them out in a way that our generation couldn't. And so when I hear women of our generation or above casting aspersions on the younger women, it really bothers me. I think it just shows a lack of curiosity and also an ageism.

“We're all shaped by the social political context of our time and place and we react to it in different ways. And so when you're of a younger generation being more progressive than the generation that came before, you didn't do it on your own, you know, you got help getting there. I wish there was a way that we could sort of just erase generational divides and make there be more of a cross-generational conversation...”

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