Our office has been flooded with zines ever since we let y'all in on our new zine library. Before I get started with this week's zine review, I want to take a moment to give a big thank you to everyone who has mailed zines to us. Checking the mail has become quite an exciting activity for me. Please keep 'em coming!
The newest zine to our library is White Blackbirds: conversations with women who aren't married and don't want to be. This zine was compiled by Katie Haegele, who wanted to write about women who have decided not to be married, but wasn't sure how to approach the topic.
I'm not married and I often feel sure that I don't ever want to be, but the truth is I haven't decided how I feel. A lot of the traditional male-female unions I've observed have been kind of a bad deal for the woman, but I know that's not always the case. It occurred to me that a more interesting approach might be to talk to women who know they don't want to get married and ask them about it.
The title of this zine comes from an old Irish expression that says, "There will be white blackbirds before an unwilling woman ties the knot." The zine features interviews with 11 women who all have something to say about why they don't want to be married. While the women featured are in their 20s and 30s, I was impressed with the array of perspectives presented. Hannah, who is queer and Catholic and would only get married if she were allowed to do so in a Catholic church. Alex, who has been through a divorce once and doesn't want to sign a legally binding contract ever again. Johanna, who is married because she has chronic health problems and needs the health insurance, but she doesn't always disclose her marriage because she feels that it hides the fact that she and her male partner are both queer. Ciara, who got "spinster" tattooed onto her knuckles to remind herself to "continue to be critical of traditional romantic myths" (what a great way to take back the word, right?).
People started using the word "spinster" in the early 19th century, when unmarried women were forced to spin cloth in exchange for housing. When people hear "spinster" today, they think of a childless, frumpy, middle-aged woman who isn't married because no one wanted her. (I also just described the librarian stereotype, but we'll get to that in a later post.) The spinster stereotype is currently being unraveled (get it?) by women who are deciding not to get married and proving that happiness and stability are not exclusive to marriage.
This zine challenges not only the spinster stereotype, but also conventional notions about what it means to be married. I didn't walk away from this zine thinking "marriage is bad!", but was instead reminded that there are as many reasons to get married as there are not to get married. The fact that marriage is constantly being redefined is allowing for healthier and more authentic relationships and identities.
Haegele asked the contributors to answer the following questions: Why don't you want to get married? Are you in a relationship now? If so, have you shared your decision with that person? Do you have children? Do you want to have children? Things you're most passionate about in life? Do you have any unmarried role models? I'd like to end this post by asking commenters to answer the questions above! Feel free to share your opinion, regardless of whether or not you're married or want to be!
Spinster: An Evolving Stereotype Revealed Through Film [Journal of Media Psychology]