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The Single Woman and the Fairytale Prince

ISBN: 978-0-7456-4050-1
200 pages
October 2008, Polity
The Single Woman and the Fairytale Prince (0745640508) cover image

Description

The number of one-person households is rising steeply all over the world and a growing proportion of these 'new singles' are women. It is estimated that one woman in three lives on her own. This development reflects general social trends, ranging from rising divorce rates to the growing professionalization of women and their dissatisfaction with a traditional model that offers them a future organized solely around 'husband-baby-home'. At the same time, the attractions of that model still linger and the fairytale prince is by no means a figure from a story or a remote past. Even in an age in which the internet promises that love is 'just a click away', many women still wait for their prince to come.

Jean-Claude Kaufmann's sympathetic study of the lives, aspirations and sometimes despair of the 'new single women' is based mainly on an analysis of a sample of the hundreds of letters sent to Marie-Claire magazine after it published a first-hand account of the single life. Funny, touching and at times profoundly sad, the letters paint a collective portrait of the single woman and her life that is both intimate and socially significant. Kaufmann concludes by situating their stories in a broad comparative context and considering the possible impact of novel phenomena such as the recent vogue for 'mail-order brides'.

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Table of Contents

FOREWORD TO THE NEW EDITION

INTRODUCTION

PART ONE: IS THERE A MODEL FOR PRIVATE LIFE?

1. LIVING ALONE: A LONG HISTORY

Intolerable Celibacy

Great Buffalo Woman

Celibacy Becomes Legitimate

A Maid in Men’s Clothes

Introspection

The World Turned Upside Down

The Nineteenth Century: The Main Trend Begins

Grisettes and Phalansteries

The Break

Dark Times

The American Model

The Scandinavian Model

Crazy Times

Uncertain Times

2. A LIFE DIVIDED

The ‘Accusing Finger’

‘Weird’

Uncomfortable Places

The Family: What Can Be Said and What Cannot Be Said

The Laughter of Girlfriends

Betrayal

A Cycle in Three Stages

3. A LIFE SHARED

Back to History

Premonitory Experiments

The Personalization of Feelings

A Model for Private Life

The Mother-Children Group

The Model Undermined

4. PRINCE OR HUSBAND?

Facts and Fairies

The Prince with a Thousand Faces

‘Like a Love Story’

The Prince Settles Down

When the Carriage Turns Back into a Pumpkin

The Prince Plays Musical Chairs

PART TWO: PORTRAIT OF A SINGLE WOMAN

5. INTROSPECTION

‘The Disease of the Infinite’

From Laughter to Tears

Double Reflexivity

From Diaries to Blogs

The Mirror and the Clairvoyant

6. AT HOME

Fixtures and Fittings

Bed

Meals

Wrapping Up and Regressing

Freedom from Domesticity

The Lightness of Being

7. THE OUTSIDE WORLD

Going Out

Other Ties

The Family

Work

Being Oneself in the Outside World

8. MEN

Arms

Sex

Man-Hunters

A Gloomy View of Life

Married Men

9. THE INTERNET REVOLUTION

A Sudden Change of Epoch

Love is Just a Click Away

The Dark Side of the Web

Real Life

Men and Women: Sex and Commitment

‘Don’t Give Up’

An Experience in its Own Right

PART THREE: THE AUTONOMY TRAJECTORY

10. BEING ONESELF

The Concept of Trajectory

The Irresistible Injunction to be Oneself

Oneself

Widows

Young People

Women Who Have Broken off Relationships

Predisposing Factors

The Impulse to Remain Single

The Lesser of Two Evils

Two Trajectories, Two Identities

11. WAITING

Dinosaurs of Love and Galloping Horses

The Ravages of Love

For Want of an Alternative

Sentenced to Hard Labour

Comforting Habits

Extreme Isolation

Negative Individualism

12. ‘WOMEN CAN DO ANYTHING!

Flight as Therapy

The Logic of the Shell

The Paradox of Appearances

Women Can Do Anything

Autonomy with Company

CONCLUSION

EPILOGUE

DOSSIER. THE GLOBALIZATION OF SINGLEDOM: THE FIGURES

The Irresistible Rise in the Number of One-Person Households

Interpreting the Figures

Late Marriage

A Short World Tour

Mail-Order Brides

A NOTE ON METHODOLOGY

Stages in the Research

The Letters

Constructing Hypotheses

The Informants

BIBLIOGRAPHY

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Author Information

Jean-Claude Kaufmann is a Sociologist and Director of Research at the CNRS (National Centre for Scientific Research) in the University of Paris V, Sorbonne.
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The Wiley Advantage


  • A highly original book about one of the key social changes of our time: the growing numbers of people - in particular, the growing numbers of women - who are living on their own.

  • Explores the tension between the desire of many woman to lead independent, professional lives, on the one hand, and their longing for a meaningful and fulfilling relationship with Mr Right - the ‘fairytale prince’ - on the other.

  • Ties in with the kinds of themes addressed by television and popular culture - e.g. Sex and the City, Bridget Jones, etc.

  • Includes up-to-date analysis of internet dating and ‘mail-order brides’.

  • A beautifully written and very accessible book about the changing nature of personal life today, written by one of the leading sociologists in France.
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Reviews

"Kaufmann is a wise and clever microsociologist, inspired by Erving Goffman, by fashion magazines, and by kittenish and cougarish women. He is the voice of the annoyed, the vexed, the fearful, and the comforted."
Contemporary Sociology

“Freedom and autonomy have their glories and their miseries. Jean-Claude Kaufmann has composed a thoroughly researched inventory of both, while analysing in depth the present-day condition of women and its impact on the male half of humanity. As women replace self-effacement with newly gained self-confidence, the lynchpin is driven out of the family and the private sphere, and the hard-to-reconcile drives to autonomy and companionship result in the increasing fragility of commitments and fear of loneliness for both women and men. In masterly fashion, Kaufmann records the ongoing transformations in the human condition that follow. His findings hit at the very heart of the harrowing dilemmas which most men and women confront these days and struggle to resolve.”
Zygmunt Bauman, Universities of Leeds and Warsaw

“Anyone seeking to understand the fastest growing trend in personal life – more people living alone – should read this book. Jean-Claude Kaufmann moves elegantly between broad-brush historical overviews of changes in family life and fine-grained scrutiny of the narratives of women ensnared in the drama of these new demographics. Paradoxically, the opening up of personal choices for everybody seems to close down the options for many women, who are finding it harder to find the partners they long for.”
Lynne Segal, Birkbeck College, author of Why Feminism?

“This is a brilliant book on the everyday effects of the rise in female singledom. Kaufman provides fascinating insights into the pressures that single women experience today, from society's disapproval of female autonomy as a threat to traditional family models, to the hopes and disappointments of the modern dating world.”
Veronique Mottier, University of Lausanne

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