WORLD VOICE: “Leftover Women” in China Fight Back

Photo Credit Wikipedia commons: kanegen kto288 (talk)

Are you a single woman currently enmeshed in the dating scene? Do you find it easy or difficult to find someone to date because of your success or independence? Being a single, independent woman should not be seen as a disadvantage, but in China, women are being targeted for not conforming to what’s seen as part of their tradition.

A recent advertisement has been circulating in China where a woman who may still be single after the age of 25 is labeled as a “Sheng-nu” or “leftover woman”. It is believed that women who have not secured a marriage before a certain age are not as favored by prospective suitors. Those who have been “lucky” enough to be matched are considered to have their future secured, unlike these women.

In this day and age, dating in any culture can be challenging. Finding the right person to connect with takes time and commitment, and should not be forced. The video in question shows how these women are pressured by their parents, going so far as listing profiles of their daughters at a Marriage Market in Shanghai. Shanghai’s Marriage Market at People’s Park has been around since 2004 and has been widely used by parents to find matches for their daughters whom they believe are past their prime. While the Market also lists profiles of men, it is those of women that have raised the alarm to fight back.

The advertisement is meant to bring awareness to the issue of women being discriminated against for not wanting to be part of what has been a tradition in China for many years. Part of the hold on this tradition is the thought that marriage is seen as the ultimate success of increasing one’s familial line. Any delineation from it is seen as turning away from one’s culture. Another reason is that women are seen as unable to fend for themselves, and need a man to support not just her, but her family as well. One heartbreaking segment is of a woman who sits by silently while her mother speaks about the difficulty of finding a mate for her average-looking daughter. Or a father saying that it would bring him heart disease if his daughter couldn’t find “the one” because she’s too picky.

While the idea of finding a mate in any culture is part of the norm, finding one because of a society’s view on unmarried women is subject for concern. The objective of being married off becomes the focus, instead of what they really want for themselves. This is happening even in this modern culture in China, where women work and are able to provide for their families

Shouldn’t women be acknowledged and supported for having the courage to say “no” to a tradition that’s forced upon them by their family and society?

Instead, so many women are caught between a rock and a hard place. To refuse to be matched by their parents would be the ultimate disrespect, but to acquiesce to an age-old tradition may only bring unhappiness.

The women in this advertisement do fight back by letting their parents know via video that they, too, want marriage, but on their own terms. They ask for support instead of disapproval for their success and independence.

As someone who grew up with strict parents, dating was nonexistent for me until I was in college. While I didn’t agree with my parents’ rules about dating then, I appreciate them now. Dating in my twenties gave me the opportunity not just to find the right person right for me, but know what I wanted in life.

The women in this advertisement may initially be seen as victims, but their desire to speak out against being labeled and let others know they deserve to be happy, make them worth remembering.

To see the video regarding this article, clock below:

This is an original post written by Tes Silverman for World Moms Network.

What do women in your culture think about marriage by a certain age?

Photo Credit Wikipedia commons: Traditional Chinese Wedding Ceremony by kanegen kto288 (talk)

Tes Silverman

Tes Silverman was born in Manila, Philippines and has been a New Yorker for over 30 years. Moving from the Philippines to New York opened the doors to the possibility of a life of writing and travel. Before starting a family, she traveled to Iceland, Portugal, Belgium, and France, all the while writing about the people she met through her adventures. After starting a family, she became a freelance writer for publications such as Newsday’s Parents & Children and various local newspapers. Fifteen years ago, she created her blog, The Pinay Perspective. is designed to provide women of all ages and nationalities the space to discuss the similarities and differences on how we view life and the world around us. As a result of her blog, she has written for and has been invited to attend and blog about the Social Good Summit and Mom+Social Good. In addition, she is a World Voice Editor for World Moms Network and was Managing Editor for a local grass roots activism group, ATLI(Action Together Long Island). Currently residing in Virginia Beach, VA with her husband, fourteen year-old Morkie and a three year old Lab Mix, she continues to write stories of women and children who make an impact in their communities and provide them a place to vocalize their passions.

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UNITED ARAB EMIRATES: Feminism Matters Because…There Are Too Many Reasons To List

UNITED ARAB EMIRATES: Feminism Matters Because…There Are Too Many Reasons To List

skater girl

In March, I wrote a post in honor of Gloria Steinem’s birthday, in which I mentioned that when Steinem spoke at my college graduation way back in the 1980s, my friends and I had wished for a speaker who was more “relevant.”  In our innocence, we believed that Steinem had won her fight; we were graduating from a women’s college and thought that fight for gender equality had been more or less won.

More than two decades later, I wish I could say that Steinem was irrelevant and that gender inequality is something we only read about in the history books.

When I wrote that post about Steinem, I was thinking about the Common Core curriculum, which relegates women’s contributions to history to the sidelines.  Now, of course, we are all confronted with the horror that’s unfolding in Nigeria, and while the plight of those schoolgirls devastates me, it has become, in my mind, another instance in a long list of the ways in which groups (comprised mostly of men) attempt to score political points by seizing control of women’s lives.  As an example, think about the Tea Party conservatives in the US, who prove their conservative bona fides in the United States by voting against support for Planned Parenthood, or Head Start, or universal kindergarten, or…

What is so scary about educating a girl? In the middle ages, accusations of witchcraft were often leveled against women who had amassed too much wealth or land, or who in some way differed from those around them.  We teach our children that things like the Salem witch trials happened because “people didn’t know better” or because of “mass hysteria” but sometimes I wonder how far we have progressed since those days.  What happens to women who challenge the status quo–or who have the potential to challenge the status quo?  Don’t they still run the risk of being punished, whether literally or figuratively?

It’s funny to me now, but when I first moved to Abu Dhabi the two most obvious indications that we’d left Manhattan behind—besides the searing heat—were the adhan and the abaya-clad women: religion and covered bodies. I found the abayas more unsettling than the call to prayer, even as I sometimes envied the women their public invisibility.  The longer we live here, however, my perceptions have changed so that I no longer see hijab as an automatic symbol of oppression or subjugation or second-class citizenry.

 I would imagine, however, that as women here, we’ve all had moments where we’ve felt marginalized, silenced, lesser: the day I trotted down the sidewalk to get in a waiting cab and the cab driver chastised me by saying “women should not run, madam, I will wait, and you should walk.” Or when a guard at the border crossing into Oman looked over at the passenger seat where I was sitting (in long trousers) with one foot propped on the dashboard and told me “to put my foot down, sit like a lady, more properly, sit properly.” When that happened my first impulse was to laugh: surely he couldn’t be serious? But, of course, he was serious. I put both feet on the floor and looked at the map so that I didn’t toss out a few well-chosen swear words.  (A general rule regardless of where you are: don’t swear at anyone, male or female, who is wearing a uniform at a border crossing.)

So yes, in that instance, I was silenced as I suppose I was by the cab driver too, who took it upon himself to offer some unsolicited advice. And yes, there is now a slight internal pause before I leave the house as I run through a kind of inner checklist about what I’m wearing: if short sleeves, a long skirt or pants, or vice versa (long sleeves, shorter skirt or shorts); do I have a shawl (equally for frigid air conditioning and bare shoulders); if I’m going to the beach, I make sure that my beach cover-up is more than a ratty t-shirt. There are days where I know I’ve failed the checklist and am too busy or late to care, but overall, I dress more modestly now than I used to and probably that’s not a bad idea: no one needs to see a fifty-year-old woman slopping down the street in cut-off shorts and a tank top.

Am I being repressed, or respectful?  Does my feminism mean that I yell at the cabbie, keep my foot defiantly on the dashboard, saunter down the street in a halter top and tight jeans? Or, alternatively, does feminist politics remind us that silencing and the policing of women’s bodies happens—sadly—in almost every culture in the world, including the US?  Without making light of the specifics of being female in this region, I’ve come to think of the issues facing women in this part of the world as being differences in degree, not kind, from the problems facing women in other parts of the world.

What do we, as women, do to help other women and girls find their voices–find our own?  How do we create strength to silence those who would silence us?

This is an original post to World Moms Blog by Deborah Quinn in the United Arab Emirates of “Mannahattamamma.”

Mannahattamamma (UAE)

After twenty-plus years in Manhattan, Deborah Quinn and her family moved to Abu Dhabi (in the United Arab Emirates), where she spends a great deal of time driving her sons back and forth to soccer practice. She writes about travel, politics, feminism, education, and the absurdities of living in a place where temperatures regularly go above 110F.
Deborah can also be found on her blog, Mannahattamamma.

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