Following last year’s article – ‘The Unmarried Crisis in China’, my editor asked me to write another story on the topic of the “leftover women”.
In the beginning, I was not sure what to write about. Then I started to wonder who actually created this crazy concept in China? The research came back with big surprises. In 2007, the Women’s Federation defined “leftover” women (sheng nu) as unmarried women over the age of 27, and China’s Ministry of Education added the term to its official lexicon.
Since then, the Women’s Federation Website has run a number of articles stigmatizing educated women who are still single. Their articles’ headlines scream out like sensational tabloids: “Overcoming the Big Four Emotional Blocks: Leftover Women Can Breakout of Being Single.” “Eight Simple Moves to Escape the Leftover Women Trap.” And my personal favorite: “Do Leftover Women Really Deserve Our Sympathy?”
Ironically, the Women’s Federation is supposedly responsible for “protecting women’s rights and interests.” But instead, they wrote the following:
Pretty girls don’t need a lot of education to marry into a rich and powerful family, but girls with an average or ugly appearance will find it difficult, these kinds of girls hope to further their education in order to increase their competitiveness. The tragedy is, they don’t realize that as women age, they are worth less and less, so by the time they get their M.A. or Ph.D., they are already old, like yellowed pearls.
The above article was actually published on International Women’s Day, 2011 – a day that should have been talking about women’s economic and political achievements. The state media began very aggressively pushing women who are educated and still single, by telling them that they need to lower their sights when they’re choosing a husband, or time will run out for them and they’ll be single forever.
Being over 27, I don’t plan to be single and die alone. But I also don’t wish to jump on the marriage train with Mr “So-so”. In short, I am very well educated and way too independent to be brainwashed by any propaganda.
It is actually very ironic that this entire campaign is targeting so-called “leftover women”, when demographically, there are actually tens of millions of men in China who won’t be able to find brides, and even feel they have to buy brides from countries like Vietnam. According to the State Council, a sex-ratio imbalance causes a threat to social stability and lowers the quality of the general population, which makes it hard to meet the requirements needed for fierce competition and for national strength.
The Chinese government is very worried that educated women are not going to marry at all. It really wants women like me, in particular, to get married and have a child – no more one child policy, better to have two children now. Therefore, the State Council appointed the Women’s Federation as a primary implementer of its population planning policy.
What better way to upgrade population quality than to frighten “high-quality leftover” women into marrying and having a child for the good of the nation?
The main reason many girls become “leftover women” is that their standards for a partner are too high …If girls are not too picky, finding a partner should be as easy as blowing away a speck of dust.
The Women’s Federation columns on sheng nu all share the same goal; convince single, educated women to stop being so ambitious and get married immediately. They even list helpful tips, such as “seduce but don’t pester” and “be persistent but not willful”:
When holding out for a man, if you say he must be rich and brilliant, romantic and hardworking … this is just being willful. Does this kind of perfect man exist? Maybe he does exist, but why on earth would he want to marry you?
And once a “leftover” woman finds marital bliss, what should she do if her husband has an affair?
When you find out that he is having an affair, you may be in a towering rage, but you must know that if you make a fuss, you are denying the man “face” … No man is capable of spending a lifetime being loyal to an outmoded wife who never changes … Try changing your hairstyle or your fashion. Women must constantly change for the better.
In short, it’s the woman’s fault for refusing to get married, and once she is married, it’s the woman’s fault if her husband has an affair. Of course.
As a child who was brought up in the communist system, I used to look up to Chairman Mao as a God, I used to believe everything in this country is correct and perfect – well, they fooled me once.
During my 20s, I spent the majority of my time learning, traveling and most of all pursuing a good career. By now, I have my own company, make more money than the average man and have a lot of interesting friends who inspire me and keep me busy. Looking back, I don’t think I would have been wise enough to make a good choice, for finding a man who I could spend the rest of my life with, because I didn’t even know what kind of life I wanted at that young age.
Now at 30, I have a bit more experience to know what the most important qualities of a lifelong partner are. Also now, I find myself more popular and patient and much more willing to learn and understand how to interact in a relation-ship. Very luckily, my parents never pushed me into marriage or set up any blind dating for me.
Here comes the question. What does a “leftover woman” really want in a man? Or why aren’t they married?
I believe there are quite a lot of reasons and possible answers, but certainly it is because women’s status is improving compared to the past. Not only can women take care of the household work, but a woman can also run a business, drive a car, repair machines, and now it is even possible to have a baby by browsing through a sperm bank’s catalog! Instead of the “WE” thinking, the Chinese woman is now much more “ME” thinking.
If marriage is good for me, then I’ll marry, if marriage is not good for me, why should I? I will only marry if a man can give me A LOT of love or A LOT of money!
My friend Lily, who is 36 years old, very pretty and successful, said, after a 10 year long marriage, she divorced her husband because he did not give her love or money. She realized that this would never change, and she doesn’t want to stay with the “mistake” for ever.
To end our story and give some advice/hope to the men, here is an interesting suggestion from a famous talk show in China.
‘For men to remember, if a women is looking for money, and you can give her enough money, then she won’t be unhappy if you have affairs with other women. If a women is looking for love, and you give her enough love, then she won’t look down on you because you don’t have enough money. If you can’t give her money or love, but ask her to accept your flirting, laziness and cheating. Then I am sorry, what you need is an idiot.’