Emma Watson's 'Self-Partnered' Status Sparks Shade And Support

Nov 9, 2019
Originally published on November 9, 2019 6:02 pm
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MICHEL MARTIN, HOST:

And finally today, Emma Watson of "Harry Potter" and "Beauty And The Beast" fame made headlines this week, and not because she was promoting her latest film. She made news because of two simple words - self-partnered. Watson used that term in an interview with British Vogue. The interviewer had asked Emma Watson about her relationship status, and this is what she said.

(SOUNDBITE OF ARCHIVED RECORDING)

EMMA WATSON: I never believed the whole I'm-happy-single spiel. I was like, this is spiel. It took me a long time, but I'm very happy. I call it being self-partnered.

MARTIN: Since the release of the article and the video, there have been a number of opinion pieces written about Watson's use of the term. And, of course, some poked fun, but many others applaud it. We wanted to learn more about the term and the response to it, so we've called on Lisa Bonos. She writes about dating and relationships for The Washington Post. And she's with us once again in our studios in Washington, D.C. Lisa Bonos, welcome back. Thanks for joining us once again.

LISA BONOS: Thanks for having me.

MARTIN: All right. So where do you stand on self-partnered?

BONOS: I like it. I think it acknowledges that every person has a relationship with themselves. And that can be good. It can be just as fulfilling as a relationship with somebody else or more fulfilling.

MARTIN: And you wrote about the fact that, first of all, a lot of people agree with you. They think it's a very good term. It's dignified. It, you know, it's complete. But a lot of other people were throwing shade. Why do you think it is that it caused such a splash?

BONOS: People have been trying to find alternatives to single for a very long time. I remember five years ago going to an event in D.C. looking at why are so many Washingtonians single that don't want to be, and a dating coach there suggested that people call themselves available instead of single, which didn't strike me as quite right. He might have liked that term. To me...

MARTIN: It made you feel creepy. It was creepy.

BONOS: Well, crepy and desperate. Like, not everybody that's single is looking, right? So maybe they wouldn't be available. And, I mean, at The Washington Post, when I started writing about single life several years ago, we coined a term called solo-ish.

MARTIN: Solo-ish. What did solo-ish mean?

BONOS: Solo-ish means that you're not married, but that there are other people in your life that may be very fulfilling relationships - with family, friends, co-workers, that your life is your own but you share it with other people, too.

MARTIN: And the people who were throwing shade, what do you think that was about?

BONOS: As much progress that we've - as we've made to accepting different lifestyles, still, the thought of a woman who's not in a relationship and is happy without one is threatening or different.

MARTIN: So do you think, in part, it has to do with the fact that she's a young woman? Because do men have a similar dilemma around how they describe themselves? I can't...

BONOS: I think it's more that there's more stigma around saying that you're single if you're a woman. A man might just say like, yeah, I'm single. But there's more expectation on women to be partnered off.

MARTIN: You also wrote - and you wrote a piece about this. And you said that the term speaks to a larger trend of how to - I don't know how to pronounce this - sologamy?

BONOS: Sologamy.

MARTIN: Sologamy.

BONOS: Yeah. This been this solo wedding or self-marriage trend that's been going on for several years all over the world - Japan, Korea, Italy. You can poke fun at this. But sometimes these are women - usually women wearing wedding dresses, throwing parties for all their friends and family because they want to celebrate their lives without a traditional wedding involved.

MARTIN: Traditional wedding dresses aren't that great. I just have to mention that there's lots of great outfits out there that you can wear at a party. I'm just saying.

BONOS: You don't have to wear a white dress.

MARTIN: You don't have to wear a white dress that makes it hard to...

BONOS: One of these women that did this wore, like, a fantastic purple dress.

MARTIN: Well, see, there you go. But beyond that, what - I guess the bigger question is, what's so terrible about single? I mean, is it that every generation wants its own language? Or what's so terrible about the term single? Is there a feeling that it's just dusty and needs to go away, or is there some connotation to it? What's wrong with single?

BONOS: I think it just doesn't convey the richness of a single person's life always. Single implies that maybe you're lacking. You're looking for that partner, that double. You know, you look at pop music right now. Who is one of the biggest stars? Lizzo - one of her most famous songs about being her own soulmate. And Ariana Grande singing about being in a relationship with herself and how fulfilling that is. So I think it's both the fact that single doesn't quite fit how people feel about themselves and this recognition that the relationship with yourself is very important and just as important as a relationship with other people.

MARTIN: That's Lisa Bonos. She writes about dating and relationships for The Washington Post. And she wrote about self-partnered. Lisa, thank you so much for joining us once again.

BONOS: Thanks for having me. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.