San FranciscoSex and Dating

Viva la Spinster! And Other Derogatory Terms Women Are Reclaiming

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The word “spinster” is trending on Twitter, reminding women everywhere that it was not long ago when society would order you a wide selection of moo moos, blue hair dye and more than a few cats if you hadn’t snagged you a husband by the ripe old age of 23.

Not that the tweet hell hole is in any way an authority on important issues (see #TriangleDance), but the women taking over today to reclaim, and laugh at, terms once used to degrade the hell out of female-kind are pretty awesome. The spinsters and thornbacks are out in full force, and those of us poor fools who got married along the way are kind of jealous we don’t get to add one of these nifty tropes to our bulleted résumé list of life badassery.

The word “spinster” is akin to “old maid” in the negative connotation, but a little dive into the word’s etymology reveals that, in today’s modern lense, the true meaning is deserving of some feminist pride. A spinster was someone who spun material like wool for a living. The job was one of few opportunities unmarried women legally had to earn an income, making spinsters a symbol of an independent, working woman.

Since we live in an era when marriage rates are declining, divorce rates are increasing and people are waiting much longer to say “I do,” if in fact they ever do, there are growing numbers of spinsters and thornbacks living single, and many living quite well. It seems like a terrific time to reframe the narrative behind some of these old derogatory terms and establish pride in what it means to be self-sufficient. In honor of this amazing #spinster trending day, we have to mention the Spinsters of San Francisco, a social and philanthropic organization “redefining what it means to be a spinster since 1929.”

So, to all the spinsters, thornbacks, “venus deathtraps” and “woolly mammoth matriarchs” out there, we say, go on with bad your self, thorns and all!

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Nik Wojcik - East Bay Editor

Nik Wojcik - East Bay Editor

Journalist, editor, student, single mom to a pack of wolves, foodie, music lover, resident smart ass, and champion of vulgarity and human kindness.