China's announcement that it is ending its decades-long one-child policy is good news for married couples who want to have two children. But if you're an unmarried woman, forget about it, writes author Leta Hong Fincher.
The spectacular Chinese property boom is almost entirely benefiting men, while government-backed campaigns stigmatise unmarried women over 27 as 'leftover'
BEIJING — The headlines scream like sensational tabloids: “Overcoming the Big Four Emotional Blocks: Leftover Women Can Break out of Being Single.” “Eight Simple Moves to Escape the Leftover Women Trap.” And my personal favorite: “Do Leftover Women Really Deserve Our Sympathy?”
After years of being badgered by her parents to get married, 26-year-old Zhang Yu finally had enough.
"I have decided never to marry or have a child," said Zhang, a university graduate from Changsha, Hunan province, who moved to Shanghai earlier this year to escape her family and jumpstart her career.
Zhang's vow to never marry is rare in a country where educated women are constantly told by their families, friends and the state media that they will be lonely and miserable if they do not find a husband quickly.
Yet some women are fighting back by rejecting marriage altogether.
BEIJING — Lately, a stream of rosy media accounts has been telling the world to look to China as a model of gender equality in the workplace. “China Dominates List of Female Billionaires” and “Women in China: the Sky’s the Limit” are some recent examples from the international press.
On the face of it, Wu Mei (not her real name) represents the modern Chinese woman who has achieved spectacular success. Just thirty-one years old, she makes around one million RMB (roughly $150,000) a year as an attorney in Beijing, a salary that likely places her in the top 1 percent income bracket in China. Slender and beautiful, she could be the perfect cover model for a magazine feature on “China’s richest women.” Yet, as she speaks, a darker picture emerges. Wu recently managed to obtain a divorce from her abusive husband after five years of marriage, but only by giving up her home, her life savings, and most of her belongings.
SHANGHAI — Wendy is a sales manager in Shanghai, and until last year, she was in control of her destiny. Wendy, whose name has been changed to protect her identity, had saved tens of thousands of yuan after graduating from a university and was about to realize her dream of home ownership by making a down payment on an apartment in Shanghai. Then her parents persuaded her to help her male cousin buy a house instead.
When Wang Mei’s husband first hit her in their Shanghai home, Wang (a pseudonym) instantly acted to protect herself and her newborn baby by calling 110, China’s number for emergency help. That call unleashed a torrent of retaliatory violence and harassment, not just from Wang’s husband but from his extended family as well. Two years later, she has given up her home and only child, a son. She lives with the threat of death if she ever tries to reclaim him.
Last week, 26-year-old newlywed college graduate Li Fang (a pseudonym) explained to me over dinner why she had been in such a rush to marry:
If I hadn’t gotten married now, I would still have to date for at least one or two years. Then I would already have passed the best child-bearing age and I would be a leftover woman.