Dr. Matt Bowker, of the Department of Interdisciplinary Studies, was recently interviewed by Otegha Uwagba of Elle (UK) on the fears and stigmas associated with solitude, with particular reference to women.

In this interview, the full-transcript of which can be read here, Dr. Bowker argues that solitude, for persons of all genders, is stigmatized when solitude is perceived as withdrawal, and when withdrawal is perceived as a rejection of the value of those from whom one withdraws.

In this case, expressions of the need for solitude seem to suggest a lack of caring about other people, such that when one says, ‘I am off to spend time alone,’ others hear, ‘I don’t care about being with you.’

For women, in particular, Bowker continues, the stigma associated with this misunderstanding of solitude is often compounded due to the influence of archaic gender-constructions in which women are imagined to (and socialized to) carry a special burden of responsibility that involves caring for others (for families, for spouses, for children, etc.).

That is, even though our need — and it is a real psychological need — for solitude does not actually mean we do not care about others, when women violate the expectation that they always stand at the ready to attend to and care for others, they can be stigmatized (sometimes unwittingly, and even by other women) for gender-role-betrayal.

Tragically, many women (and, indeed, persons of all genders) internalize this stigma and, as a result, feel profound internal conflict and shame about expressing and fulfilling their needs for solitude.


  • : Medaille College

Posted by: Medaille College