Sometimes we tend to forget that what you see everyday, or are surrounded with everyday is part of everyone’s lives. It is “normal” in everyone’s views and you assume everyone you know, knows or has heard about the same topics and information as you have.
One example here is the term “Leftover women” (剩女; shèngnǚ in Chinese). As we both are from Asian descent, European raised, and both having lived in China we have kind of gotten used to that there’s a Chinese classification of women who don’t get married after they reach the age of 25 (even 20 in the more rural areas). It’s a term sponsored by the state, and has appeared in numerous advertisements, tv shows and magazines.
Don’t send your daughters to college
“I regret sending you to university, you won’t be able to find a husband anymore now and you’re getting too old”Simona’s dad when she was 23 years old
This is a sentence that has long lingered in my (Simona) mind, and for a long time just regarded as a typical-funny-Chinese-dad-quote. It finally made sense when I moved to China and got to know the term of “Leftover women”. It wasn’t just a funny quote, or a mind blur from my funny-but-awkward-dad, it was a thought slowly infused throughout time and fed by media and common Chinese beliefs. Even while being in Europe for a good 2 decades, my parents still were convinced that the earlier you find a man, the earlier you give birth to kids and the earlier you start a family, the sooner you had reached “success” in your life.
Although this thinking is strongly rooted in the Asian/Chinese culture, we do see how there’s a small uprise of girls/women with differing thoughts, not conforming to their traditional parents’ desires. We’ve worked at international organisations and noticed that the especially in the bigger cities views are becoming more liberal. It’s ok to be single and career-minded, education and personal ambition has showed them there are different paths than “just getting married and having kids at a young age”. Girls our age and single feel less of a pressure to rent a boyfriend to bring back to the family for Chinese/Lunar New Year.
SK-II (A popular Japanese cosmetics brands) broadcasted a very powerful campaign in China in 2016:
The add is not an exaggeration, there are still marriage markets every weekend at People’s Square in Shanghai where daughters’ (and sons’ for that matter) qualities (height, weight, age, profession, year of birth) are promoted and matched, something like a physical Tinder showcase run by parents.
Don’t let pressure dictate your future
It’s still very common in today’s Chinese society to expect daughters to marry early and give up careers for a family. And it’s probably easier to judge and have an opinion about this from a Western point of view, while not having lived the one-child-policy-Chinese life — however we do truly hope that this term will be a thing of the past, rather sooner than later.
With this we also hope to bring a bit more awareness into our current day swipe-generation. Raising awareness that it’s actually quite OK growing up in the west, where we’re not being frowned upon (or at least to a lesser extent) on our marital state.
One strong takeaway from the SK-II advertisement that kept lingering is the quote
Don’t let pressure dictate your future.
Something not only relevant to our Chinese sisters when it comes to marriage, but to all of our ladies and how we look at current state, future aspirations and our own value systems.
If your interest has been sparked or you want to know more about the Chinese leftover women, there are couple of books published about this topic. Check out the following books: Leftover in China or Leftover women, the latter halfway read-through by Simona but left in the Netherlands (it did show some interesting statistics though – for instance a staggering rate of gay men in China who marry women in order to keep up appearances, while the female side is left in the unknown).