The Leftover Women

Ladies, do you know that you come with an expiration date?

In our contemporary society, many women are encouraged to pursue their dreams, higher education, and STEM-related careers. Slowly, but surely, women have conquered more and more executive positions. However, these opportunities often affect women’s decisions about motherhood and marriage.

In China, women are 48.6% of the nation’s population. A study from 2017 shows that 40.1% of Chinese women are hesitant to have children, while 63.4% are worried that having children would significantly impact their career development. 

During Chinese New Year, when family members gather to celebrate, many unmarried women in their late twenties are pressured with questions: How old are you? Are you married? Do you have a boyfriend? When will you have a boyfriend? When will you get married? Why are you still single?

The tradition of arranged marriage has been illegal in China since the 1950s, nonetheless, many parents remain strongly involved in the marriages of their children.

With the rapidly increasing rate of unmarried women, and with parents’ oppression on their children’s lives, the birth of boyfriend renting apps, and marriage market, expeditiously emerged into the Chinese society.

In 2005, China started a place called the “marriage market,” it is where parents post the profiles of their children; including job, income, and property ownership, in the hope of finding the right match. “It is like selling your daughter” stated one of the casts in SK-ll: Marriage Market Takeover.

Furthermore, the demand for fake boyfriend and girlfriend renting has peaked during the Lunar New Year in recent years. Such desire could be found in a Chinese online shopping site, Taobao. The price of the pretend partner could be up to $250 per day, including the overnight stay.

Many young people are turning away from marriage, which causes an alarm to their parents. Parents fear that the children will break family lineage or will be left with no one to care for them. Chinese Society has set an expiration date on any women who are not married by the age of 25, and will be called “Sheng Nu” translated to “leftover women.”

Many parents misunderstand their daughters and believe women must rely on men in order to have a “complete” life, that women are bound to rely on men and their life would be insufficient without men, even with a stable job. If a woman doesn’t find her partner at an early age she will be left unwanted, and that was her only chance.

Chinese women aren’t the only ones enduring the pressure to be married early. The tradition of arranged marriage is also common in places such as; India, Africa, the Middle East, and Asia. This ideology was taught from generations after another, however, the beauty of culture is that it can also be untaught.

Do we, women, actually have an expiration date on us? Marriage should be a choice at any age for any member of the society, it should never be considered as a “must.” Women who have chosen to pursue their careers should be highly encouraged. Leftover women are to be treated with respect and honor.

Written by: Sopheak Thy

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