Single and Over 27: What the Chinese Government Calls 'Leftover Women' | PRI's The World
A television drama, that ran a couple of years ago called “Old Women Should Get Married,” featured a 33-year-old woman who watched her younger sister get married, suffered through blind dates (including one who turned out to be a drug dealer), and put up with her family telling her to stop being so picky and just find a man.
This kind of message gets hammered in multiple ways in China’s state-run media. Even the webpage of the government’s supposedly feminist All-China Women’s Federation featured articles about leftover women – until enough women complained.
So, what’s all this about?
“I argue that the ‘leftover women’ term is actually part of a sexist media campaign by the government, which is facing a severe demographic crisis,” says Leta Hong-Fincher, an American doing her sociology Ph.D at Tsinghua University in Beijing.
She’s written about the leftover women phenomenon, and she says state-run media started using the term in 2007, the same year the government warned that China’s gender imbalance – caused by selective abortions because of the one-child policy – was a serious problem.
“Ever since 2007, the state media have aggressively disseminated this term, in surveys, and news reports, and columns, and cartoons and pictures, basically stigmatizing educated women over the age of 27 or 30 who are still single.”
But the gender imbalance in China is one of too many men. There are an estimated 20 million more men under 30 than women under 30. So why the pressure on women to marry — specifically, educated, urban women? Huang Yingying says it has something to do with men wanting to marry down.
“There is an opinion that A quality guys will find B quality women, B quality guys will find C quality women, and C quality men will find D quality women,” Huang says. “The people left are A quality women and D quality men. So if you are a leftover woman, you are A quality.”