Single and ready to mingle? A feminist exploration of singlehood, dating, and leisure
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Stemming from my own experiences (and tensions and paradoxes) negotiating the complexity involved in dating as a single, adult woman, this study explores the gendered complexity of singlehood for adult women. To unpack this complexity, I argue dating – a social practice commonly associated with leisure – is a useful conduit to achieve this end. Aligning a third wave feminist theoretical orientation with narrative, I conducted one-to-one interviews and group interviews with 12 single, adult women. From the interview data, I created five composite characters to reflect five different phases of singlehood and dating women experienced. To represent the findings, I then engaged the five composite characters in conversation using dialogue-based vignettes to represent the complexity and diversity of their experiences through three larger thematic areas: Gendered Pressures to Connect, Gendered Modes of Connecting, and Gendered Connections. Taken together, the findings highlight the ways single, adult women can face marginalization and stigmatization because of their single status. More specifically, the findings illustrate the ways gendered ideologies, expectations, and roles can discipline and constrain women’s experiences with singlehood, dating, and leisure, but also the ways women can resist gendered ideologies, expectations, and roles through their experiences with singlehood, dating, and leisure. Given that the experiences of single, adult women negotiating the gendered world of dating have been largely ignored in the literature across many disciplines, and most noticeably by leisure scholars, this research provides an important contribution to the literature, bringing attention to the topic of singlehood and dating and its ties to leisure for adult women.