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Leftover Women: The Resurgence of Gender Inequality in China

 A century ago, Chinese feminists fighting for the emancipation of women helped spark the Republican Revolution, which overthrew the Qing empire. After China's Communist revolution of 1949, Chairman Mao famously proclaimed that "women hold up half the sky." In the early years of the People's Republic, the Communist Party sought to transform gender relations with expansive initiatives such as assigning urban women jobs in the planned economy. Yet those gains are now being eroded in China's post-socialist era. Contrary to many claims made in the mainstream media, women in China have experienced a dramatic rollback of many rights and gains relative to men.

Leftover Women debunks the popular myth that women have fared well as a result of post-socialist China's economic reforms and breakneck growth. It focuses on the far-reaching consequences of the Chinese state media propagation of the derogatory term "leftover" women or shengnü (剩女) to stigmatize professional, educated, urban women in their mid-twenties and older, and pressure them to marry and have a child.

Review excerpts

”Leta Hong Fincher’s ‘Leftover Women’ offers a...chilling account of the pressures on Chinese strivers...One hopes that “Leftover Women” will soon be translated into Chinese, as it is likely to resonate deeply with urban educated women. It seems the party has forgotten the Mao-era dictum: ‘Women Hold Up Half the Sky’.”
— New York Times Book Review by Judith Shapiro
“In ‘Leftover Women,’ Leta Hong Fincher convincingly argues that an orchestrated state campaign co-opts women to marry and buy marital homes, often to the detriment of their careers and financial independence.”
— Wall Street Journal Book Review, by Anjie Zheng
“In this commanding book Hong Fincher argues that China’s international image, celebrating the increasing education and wealth of its women, masks an alarming slide back towards deep gender inequality - and that the very education and wealth of Chinese women is being used against them.”
— Feminist and Women's Studies Association (UK & Ireland) Book Review by Carina Hart
“Leftover Women should carry a health warning: this book will severely raise your blood pressure. Leta Hong Fincher’s subject - researched through statistical analysis, sociological surveys and extensive first-hand interviewing - is the toxic vitality of sexism in China today.”
— The Guardian Book Review by Julia Lovell
“A timely, rich and intricately written book on gender equality in China...Hong Fincher’s work paints a broad and pervasive picture of women’s rights in post-socialist China gradually eroding. She delves into China’s patriarchal culture, the growth of its real estate wealth and the impact of the Communist Party’s central aim of maintaining social stability.”
— The Telegraph, by Marta Cooper
“A powerful — and provocative — argument that China’s female shortage, far from empowering women, has actually resulted in a situation where urban women’s rights are increasingly imperiled....It’s ‘Backlash’, China-style, on a scale Susan Faludi never envisioned, touching the lives of 650 million women, almost a fifth of all the women in the world.”
— L.A. Review of Books, by Mei Fong
“Hong Fincher, a doctoral candidate at Tsinghua University, describes a state-sponsored backlash against economically independent single women in urban China, and the growing wealth gap it enforces, in this highly suggestive study...The book serves as a vital introduction to gender issues in urban China.”
— Publishers Weekly Book Review
“Important and interesting...gender relations, in many ways so much more advanced in China than in India, are going backwards as traditions that were seemingly flattened by Mao re-emerge.”
— Financial Times Book Review, by David Pilling
“A compelling piece of original research...Leta Hong Fincher, an American journalist-turned-academic, argues that the same party that pushed through the elevation of women’s status in the 1950s is now trying to engineer their return to the kitchen.”
— The Economist Book Review
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中國剩女:性別歧視與財富分配不均的權力遊戲

晚婚,在中國為何是條不歸路?
年滿二十七歲的未婚女子為何被冠上「剩女」污名?


□大學以上學歷 □居住於大城市 □中產階級

在中國,一個單身女子只要符合以上條件,就是「官方認證」的「剩女」。她們又依照年紀區分「危險等級」,被戲稱婚姻的「剩鬥士」、「必剩客」、「鬥戰剩佛」和「齊天大剩」。媒體輿論與官方單位極盡所能地羞辱她們的單身處境,並將「剩女現象」從社會話題提升到國家危機的層級。

當本意為多餘的「剩」字使用在女性身上,則為中國媒體詆毀單身女性的運動添加了情緒共鳴。這個運動,其諷刺之處在於中國是個男性人口過盛的國家,一胎化政策、重男輕女和針對女嬰的墮胎導致兩性比例不均,官方稱之為「對社會穩定的威脅」。

在買房與房產登記不利於女性的社會結構下,
原有的經濟優勢瓦解,亟欲脫離單身的「剩女」反而陷入新危機!

為了解決這個社會威脅,並配合國家提升「人口素質」的政策,官方傾全力迫使高學歷女性「別工作了,盡早結婚」,為國家生出「優質」的嬰兒。在媒體推波助瀾之下,年輕女性因感受到來自社會輿論、父母與另一半的壓力,恐懼晚婚,為了早日擺脫「剩女」身分,容易接受不適宜的婚姻。

「剩女」們「積極」嚮往婚姻,卻在買房與財產分配上做出「消極」的妥協與配合:她們被傳統社會觀念與不公的法律制度剝奪了房子的所有權,情願讓不動產登記在丈夫名下,就算她們或她們的父母在買房中有很大貢獻,也是如此。失去了經濟優勢,更容易造成夫妻關係不對等的局面,在婚姻因家暴與外遇而解體時,更突顯她們所面臨的困境。

她們該如何在「三分之一的婚姻都以離婚告終」的中國獲得安身立命的機會?
面對壓迫,她們能夠找出方法,反撃根深蒂固的性別歧視嗎?