September 24, 2010

George Clooney Is a Bachelor, Kim Kardashian Is a Spinster

Originally posted at Ms. Magazine.

It’s official. As Kim Kardashian approaches her 30th birthday in October, she is joining the ranks of women such as Jennifer Aniston and Jessica Simpson: modern-day spinsters. There’s no comparable expression for men, such as 49-year-old unmarried George Clooney, who has traipsed around the globe parading a rotating bevvy of babes. Oh wait, he’s a bachelor.

As Jessica Valenti writes in He’s a Stud, She’s a Slut, and 49 Other Double-Standards Every Woman Should Know:

They’re bachelors, with cool apartments and the freedom to do whatever they want without judgment. Sure, they may catch occasional shit from their mother about “finding the right girl,” but for the most part they’re respected. Single women, on the other hand–especially single women who have the gall to be over thirty–we’re old maids. Spinsters. Desperate to be Bridezillas and moms. There’s no such thing as a happy single  woman. We’re all just wives-in-training or crazy cat ladies. There’s something about unmarried women that society just doesn’t like. That’s why the media is constantly telling us how miserable single women are.

Like celebutante-turned-mega-brand Kardashian. In addition to the standard hoopla about the reality star’s cleavage, her famous curves or her appearance at a variety of red-carpet events, the media has increasingly honed in on her personal status, which mere months ago when from “in a relationship” to “single” after she and football star Reggie Bush called off their on-again, off-again relationship.

Take last month’s group chat with George Lopez (sitting in for Larry King) with most of the major players in the Kardashian-Jenner clan. Naturally, most of the interview questions were directed at Kim, and they kept swinging back to her single status. Lopez made comparisons to Kim’s sisters– Khloe, who married Lakers star Lamar Odom, and Kim, who recent gave birth to a child–hoping that she’d admit pangs of jealousy. Is it weird to be the only unattached sister? Is she lonely? Didn’t she think she’d be married by now? Did she want to get married? Blah, blah, blah.

Since ex-husband Brad Pitt paired up with Angelina Jolie, Jennifer Aniston has also been painted as the unlucky-in-love, pathetic-ex envious of Jolie’s fecundity and subsequent hold on Brad. Similarly, following Jessica Simpson’s divorce and subsequent failed relationships, tabloid stories focused on her supposed jealousy of sister Ashlee’s marriage, baby and sleek physique.

In the interview with Lopez, Kardashian didn’t take the bait. She said that while she imagined herself married with children by 30–and still wants that someday–her single status has given her the ability to achieve things she dreamed of. Still, Kardashian is not framed as an powerful, independent woman able to make conscious decisions about her own life, but as desperate and unable to make wise choices. There must be something wrong with a woman if she’s over 30 and single.

Interestingly enough, Kardashian, Aniston and Simpson have all been previously married. Given this, one would logically assume, as my friend Theresa puts it, that “you can’t go back to being a spinster, just like you can’t go back to being a virgin.” Well, apparently, in our culture you can do both. Meanwhile, eternal bachelor George Clooney goes about his single-man business with few questions–because he’s independent, she’s pathetic.

While I have been quite vocal about my issues with Kardashian’s rise to fame, her incessant focus on her body and her mixed message of empowerment while hawking diet pills and seeking cosmetic surgery, I don’t condone the media’s increasing focus on her relationship status and the countless double-standards contained therein. Despite women’s increasing numbers in education and the work force, women are still viewed as “naturally” interested in relationships, especially the heterosexual kind that culminate in marriage and children. Ultimately he’s gonna be a success, she’s gonna be a stay-at-home-mom. In fact, Kim’s focus on her work is presented as one of the major obstacles to finding true love.

Kim’s “pickiness” is also cited as a detriment to obtaining the picture-perfect fairytale romance. If she didn’t set the bar so high, she might finally find a mate. I don’t hear anyone chastising “hot guys” for only dating “hot women. ” There’s a big, fat double-standard when it comes to physical attractiveness and gender. I mean, really, when do men “date down”? Why should Kim have to settle?

I don’t tout Kim as a feminist role model, I don’t think her decision to remain single and focus on her career is a political statement and I don’t see her pointing out the double-standards–but I’m happy to do so.

Photos of Kim Kardashian and a waxy George Clooney from users Kalumba2009 and cliff1066 through Creative Commons License 2.0


  1. Its really a shame that if a woman is single and 30 years old she’s considered a spinster and men as old as Hugh Hefner are bachelors. I mean who made these rules? Its ironic that women don’t want to be in the shadows of men so we chose to work hard so that we can afford our own homes, pay our own bills, and in the end our work load is to much for men to handle, they start to feel…dare i say it NEGLECTED. Men out there want smart women with goals but turn right around and say “how dare you have a life.” What more can we do?

    chynna gordon
    womens studies

    Comment by Chynna Gordon — September 24, 2010 @ 11:31 pm

  2. Interestingly enough I was browsing through an OK! magazine the other day where it said that Kim had just broken up with some other guy and it said it was due to their time schedules not working out. When I read that for some reason I thought that maybe the magazine says all that because they expect her to give up everything she does to be happy with a man. It infuriates me to see that the media antagonizes women when they are not in a relationship and lables them as ‘bitter’ or ‘jealous’ because they are not in a relationship. Maybe these women don’t want to settle and if men like George Clooney can fool around, why can’t women? This world is full of obnoxious double standards.

    Comment by ElizabethPWS30 — September 30, 2010 @ 1:11 am

  3. “When do men date down” … uh, really? Is that supposed to be a joke? The answer is: ALL THE TIME. Granted, there are plenty of (often political) marriages that involve a rich-er wife, but you’re trying to say this is the general rule? Come on… In fact, in generations past, how many poor men could dream of “marrying rich.” LMAO. On the other hand, the idea of a woman “marrying rich” has always been an accepted part of our culture.
    Taking this trend further, in similarly “patriarchal” societies such as India, ONLY the woman is traditionally allowed to “marry up.”

    Comment by Cloudzy — January 9, 2012 @ 11:51 am

  4. Date down refers to beauty, not finances as stated: “There’s a big, fat double-standard when it comes to physical attractiveness and gender. I mean, really, when do men “date down”? Why should Kim have to settle?” Please read before lambasting, please. There’s even a link to a related article about teh double-standard for men and women in terms of appearance.I fully understand the tradition of women marrying up financially. I was referring to something different entirely. Thanks for commenting.

    Comment by Melanie — January 9, 2012 @ 12:07 pm

  5. It’s sad that women who chose to be independent and single are frowned upon in the media and our society. Women are too often viewed as dependent on men and being incapable of supporting themselves. I have read a few magazines where you can often times see George Clooney being praised as being a good looking older single man. The only comments on Kim Karashian’s past of being single would be how she is “depressed,” “lonely,” “chases every guy away.” Why is it so hard for them to just let her be happy? This sends an important message on the vastly different ways men and women are both perceived. This unfair treatment goes a long way and it was great for Kim to not dedicate all her time into a relationship with another man. Because that is definitely not only what women are good for. There is more to the lives of women then marrying and having children, and it is not the end of the world if they choose not to follow that path, or do so on their own time.

    Comment by Nadia A — October 3, 2012 @ 3:21 pm

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