The ranks of single people swell in January due to the surge in marital separation in what has become known as "divorce month." For some people, this newly found singledom is welcome relief from a failed relationship. For others, it is an unwanted and unforeseen tragedy.
During this transition, many people may experience an oft-ignored phenomenon well-known to existing singletons -- that single people can be marginalized in 21st-century Canada.
Like all forms of social marginalization, it can result from the attitudes of individual people, as well as from government and institutional policies.
A notable example was the government's decision to exclude single men from its Syrian refugee resettlement program. This blatantly discriminatory decision was weakly justified on the grounds of security, and sadly left unquestioned by most of the mainstream media.
This may leave many singletons questioning any notion of an inclusive society.
This was a sin of commission, where single people are deliberately discriminated against. Other more subtle examples are better conceptualized as sins of omission.
One example would be the clearly conscious decision of the main political parties to focus their ongoing campaigns on "middle-class families." In making no attempt whatsoever to appeal to single men or women, the parties continue to ignore the existence of a large and growing demographic. This may leave many singletons questioning any notion of an inclusive society.
Another example would be the tax system which penalizes single people in multifarious ways. Families are eligible for numerous tax breaks and credits including the Family Tax Cut Credit, Spousal Transfers and sharing of Tax Free Savings Accounts. Not so single people.
Furthermore, single people are often stereotyped by wider society: cat adies, Lotharios, spinsters, basement-dwellers, career women, drifters, sluts, creeps, prudes, deadbeats. All terms drearily familiar to many singletons. This can result in suspicion and social distance from others. Indeed, a group of single fathers recently made a hard-hitting documentary about their struggles and endurance, dispelling stereotypes and informing viewers. This can be seen below.
These stereotypes are embodied in fictional characters. Single men are often represented as a threatening, corruptive presence lurking in the shadows of polite society: think of Svengali, Dracula or Don Juan. Likewise, single women are often represented as rudderless, sex-crazed sirens such as Carrie Bradshaw, or matronly asexual prudes such as Lady Violet Crawley.
Such notions are rooted in religious and philosophical notions that unmarried equals untamed, a peril to bourgeois society in need of reform.
All of this may have a significant effect on the self-esteem and self-identity of singletons. On the one hand, some can internalize such stigma, perhaps contributing to elevated rates of mental illness and suicide in single people.
On the other hand, many men and women are consciously embracing their single status. Women can feel supported by the feminist movement, which has pushed for the social acceptance of women who choose to be single. Likewise, more and more men are identifying with a rapidly growing underground phenomenon known as Men Going Their Own Way (MGTOW).
This is an issue that is not going away.
MGTOW is not a movement in the conventional sense, but more a philosophy of living, welded together by websites, writings and local meet-ups. These websites boldly declare that society is biased against single people (especially single men), with adherents making a conscious decision to minimize contact with said society to prevent perceived exploitation.
In her popular book, author Helen Smith aptly calls the MGTOW phenomena "men on strike."
As January progresses, family lawyers will be rubbing their hands with glee as the dollars roll in. However those of us committed to a cohesive society need to seriously examine the state and well-being of single, divorced and divorcing people in Canada.
Given that this is a growing demographic, this is an issue that is not going away.
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