Chinese women have had to put up with one of the worst forms of emotional and mental harassment, unfortunately, even at the hands of their own parents. The family and societal pressure on women to get married (at the right age) is enormous. What’s worse is that the Chinese also have a term for women who aren’t married by the age of 25! They call them sheng nu, or “leftover” women. However, regardless of the derogatory words against them, this group of women is changing China’s culture. They are seeking higher education, holding top-level positions in companies, or leading their own startups. They are in charge of their own money, and their aspirations are steadily modifying the Chinese view of the leftover women.
The “leftover” term has been used in China for several years to define unmarried women over the age of 25-30 years. The world outside of China came to know about this term through a video commissioned by SK-II to spread awareness about this stigma and to help empower women.
Women in China are constantly battered by the society and their family to get married and settle down. Those who are unable to do so or haven’t found the right person become the subjects of discussion in the local community they belong to. So much so that these women even dread Chinese New Year, as it is the time they are questioned the most. People make these women feel like outsiders and that they are incomplete, or even failures, for being unmarried. The families even berate the women, their looks, their nature, and their behavior for ending up being a leftover woman. These women are also blamed for being disrespectful to their families for not getting married. The statement is heavy, especially since Chinese culture considers respecting parents and elders as the greatest value.
The leftover women today don’t necessarily feel like they have been left behind, and they certainly don’t feel incomplete. These women have moved their focus toward propelling their careers and their personal lives on their own terms. They are not shy about being ambitious and independent. Work experience, higher education, worldly knowledge, and connectivity has given them the confidence to take a stand against this pressure and fight against it. It has given them the resolution “to marry for love and not for the sake of being married.”
The women have also figured out that they don’t really need a partner to make themselves successful. They have learned to build their own social status and life. That doesn’t mean that they don’t want to get married. Their new life has empowered them to take the time to find the right person. However, their pursuit for a suitable partner will not be at the cost of their ambitions.
On the other hand, Chinese society continues to be ruthless. While the wheels are turning (rather slowly), many still make unmarried women feel worthless for their marital status despite their academic and/or professional success. Sadly, it’s become natural to assume that there’s something wrong with a woman who decides to still be single. However, the new cultural shift and the women’s relentless confidence is changing Chinese thought. Just like Chinese men have become accustomed to women holding senior management positions in their companies, Chinese people will accept that the age beyond 25 years is not a barrier for women to get married, and marriage is certainly not all that defines them. Ultimately, it is the confidence and determination of these “leftover” women that are making them China’s “power” women.