Opinion / From the Press

"Leftover women" or "triumphant women"?

( Updated: 2014-05-07 13:57

The single status of “leftover women”, or young women who have failed to get married at the age of, say, 30, has become a buzzword in today’s China. People have had heated discussions about why they have been left over and how society can figure out any solutions.

Journalist-turned academic Leta Hong Fincher recently carried the issue further to discuss the link between “leftover women” and China’s “resurgence of gender inequality”.

In a book named Leftover Women: The Resurgence of Gender Inequality in China, she claimed China is now trying to engineer the return of these leftover women to the kitchen and has joined an alliance of property companies and dating websites to confront the issue, according to an Economist book review.

One may wonder why China has tried to do that.

According to the author, China’s expanding social freedoms in the new century have led more women to remain single, whether by choice or not. That has alarmed the Party, the author said, because it believes society is more stable with fewer single people. Moreover, the author claimed, new families can drive consumption and the property boom, and marriage of more educated females will lead to the birth of better “quality” children.

According to Fincher, such a plotting is eroding the freedom that Chinese women gained after the founding of the People’s Republic in 1949.

“Leftover women” is a compelling piece of original research, according to an Economist book review. But it said Ms. Fincher “may be over-egging the pudding a little”. Compared with women in most developing countries, Chinese women are still doing quite well, the article said. Even compared with Korea or Japan, in many areas of society their status and participation are high.

And there are signs that they are fighting back, the Economist article observed. Determined not to be re-subjugated, some have taken a word that sounds like “leftover” in Chinese but means “triumphant”, and are using it to describe themselves and to defend their decision to remain single.

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