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Over 26 and single? Society has a new name for you…

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Kayleigh Dray
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Forget spinsterhood: this viral Twitter thread has redefined what it means to be unmarried in a boringly patriarchal society.

Back in the bad old days, women were taught that the only way to succeed in life was to marry – and not just that, but to marry well. Indeed, love rarely came into the equation: a proposal was instead secured for financial and social reasons, with a huge amount of pressure placed upon the bride to “keep house” and pump out a succession of chubby-cheeked heirs for her husband (it all sounds ever so The Handmaid’s Tale, doesn’t it?).

It almost makes sense, then, that grooms historically favoured a younger bride: they assumed, rightly or wrongly, that they’d be virgins – and that they’d be more fertile, too. As such, the 14th and 15th centuries saw the majority of brides walk down the aisle when they were between 18 and 22 years old, and sometimes younger: the minimum marriageable age was 12.

Of course, things have changed since then – and for the better. In the UK, women have far more choices available to them, and more and more people are choosing to stay single than ever before. Despite this being the new norm of 2019, though, there’s still a lot of pressure on women to conform to sexist and outdated narratives, and they’re frequently asked why they haven’t settled down, warned that their biological clocks are ticking, and made to feel like bagging an engagement ring is the be-all and end-all of everything. And the archaic term of ‘spinster’ is still bandied around like nobody’s business, too – despite the fact it’s a) hugely derogatory and b) bloody inaccurate.

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Oh yes, that’s right. Writer Sophia Benoit recently took to Twitter to share some interesting points about the idea of a ‘”spinster” and what it means to still be unwed when you’ve passed the ages set by society (aka the patriarchy).

And she revealed that the term “spinster” is, in fact, only relevant to a very small section of society.

“Omg I just found out that spinster used to be reserved for women 23-26 and that after you turned 26 if you were unmarried you became a…. THORNBACK,” she announced, much to the delight of her fellow Twitter users.

“How f**king great is that name!?”

Pretty f**king great, judging by the social media responses.

Of course, it’s worth noting that ‘thornback’ is still an archaic way of looking at women (why do we persist on defining people by their marital status?), but it’s great that so many people have decided to reclaim it and channel its in 2019.

After all, being single is an awesome and empowering state of being – why shouldn’t it get a name* to match?

* note: the author of this article still believes that the term ‘Thornback’ refers to an almighty dragon, and this pleases her greatly. This impassioned piece she penned about Dungeons & Dragons may go some way towards helping you understand why…

Image: Getty

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Kayleigh Dray

Kayleigh Dray is editor of Stylist.co.uk, where she chases after rogue apostrophes and specialises in films, comic books, feminism and television. On a weekend, you can usually find her drinking copious amounts of tea and playing boardgames with her friends. 

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