Over the past few years, Chinese media has been portraying the image of an unwanted leftover woman. The term leftover woman, has been used in the media to persuade women to be less career-minded, ambitious and be more centered on matrimony. The prospect of an educated, successful women in her late 20s is made to appear more like a death sentence than a good thing.

There has been a recent backlash over the past few decades against women’s rights in China. Recent gender inequality is beginning to rear its ugly head again and perpetuating the idea that women are not focused on the traditional way, which is marriage and motherhood. Less than half of China’s women are employed and that rate continues to drop each year. The Gender Gap report stated that an average income for women is 67% of men’s income while the nation is ranked 50 out of 137 countries for equal wage. Female employment has gone down over 10% through the past 10 years, due to the gender based view of the unwanted, over-achieving women in China.

A woman facing the business marketplace in China endures discrimination based on her gender and measuring up to the beauty standards placed on women in the professional world. Some Chinese women are told from a young age not to pursue certain careers like those in the medical field, because that would make them seem undesirable to a man. The pressure increases as women finish school and grow into their mid-twenties to settle down and have a family. There is also the pressure to maintain a perfect figure instead of embracing the normalcy of aging. Women that do not fit these molds and instead gain higher education are blamed for the high numbers of unmarried men.

Leta Hong Fincher, author of “Leftover Women,” states that “the image of the left over women is everywhere and in the end it is insulting.” In her book, she explains that the Chinese government is blaming these women for the high number of single adult males. The fear is that those unmarried men will cause problems relating to the social stability in China. Moreover, problems like bride kidnapping and prostitution are increasing each year the marriage crisis continues.

The traditional view of men and women, that men are superior to women, has molded the Chinese culture today. The Chinese government passed the one child law in the 1980s and gender-based abortions have skyrocketed since 1995, when gender-confirming technology was introduced. The fact is that Chinese families prefer a son over a baby girl. This supports the overwhelming number of men under the age of thirty in China today.

China’s rapidly-changing economy is changing how women view their positions in society. Women want access to the same positions as men, and are doing so by obtaining higher degrees such as masters and PhDs. These degree programs require more time spent in school and women are not looking to marry until later in their twenties. The traditional mind-set of these women is fading and marriage is no longer the focal point. The market in China continues to be flooded with men, but the future of  highly-qualified women reaching the same opportunities is changing China’s structure and providing women with more rights.

– Rachel Cannon

Sources: The Telegraph, The Economist
Photo: Ministry of Harmony