China’s “Leftover” Women

The year is 1978. Communist China has just created a one child policy out of fear of overpopulation. In a society where males are the desired gender of offspring, this could not pose any future problems for women, right? Now fast forward to 2015, where the women that were actually kept by their parents and are pursuing degrees and careers, are now being shamed by the government, for not having marrying and having kids.

The so called ‘Women’s Federation’ says of these unmarried “leftover” women, “they don’t realize that as women age, they are worth less and less, so by the time they get their M.A. or Ph.D., they are already old, like yellowed pearls”. Did China just go back in time to the 1950’s?

Born out of an era where women were given up or hidden away, these government-dubbed “leftover” women are bettering themselves and proving to their parents that they made the right choice in keeping them. And yet, the government is harkening back to 1978, and saying to these modern women, “hey, now it’s your responsibility to undo what our policy forced three generations of Chinese women to endure”. The one child policy that institutionalized and reinforced sexism in China is now catching up with the country, and they are of course putting the responsibility and burden to fix this on the backs of women.

Yes, the nation of China will be much better off when all the women of their country are uneducated, oppressed, child bearing-mothers. A woman outside of the home probably could never do as much for the good of the nation anyways, right? China’s view on the role of women in their society solely lies in the domestic realm, and so from their point of view, these educated career women are just hindering their country’s need for wives and children.

The root of the “leftover” women argument lies in the problem of unmarried young Chinese men. Leta Hong Fincher, in her book, “Leftover Women”, states that, “restless young men are seen as a threat to the foundation of Chinese society. And single women threaten the moral fabric as well, for being free agents, unnatural in failing to perform their duty to give birth and tame a restless man”.

Unnatural seems China’s perfect word to describe a women choosing education and a career over marriage and motherhood. Women are constantly bombarded with misogynistic notions of who they can be. These women are radicals, they are pushing the boundaries of what a woman can be, and it scares the Chinese government.

The one-child policy has propagated a sexist treatment of women in China, and has resulted in a population crisis that once again focuses on the problems of men instead of women. It places unfair pressures on women, and paints them in a negative light. The “leftover” women argument is rooted in sympathy towards the single Chinese man, and really shines a light on the sexism in China.

China is 45 years too late. They can not blame a population of women raised out of three generations of parents wanting men not women, for not wanting to marry and have children and populate the country with a million little baby boys. China can not put the burden of fixing the gap in gender in population on these women’s backs.

Poor single restless men of China, their life is so hard. These men are held in the highest regards by all of society, and their female counterparts are looked down upon since the day of their birth. To shame a woman for choosing education and a career over not having children and being married before she is 27, is quite possibly the most misogynistic thing I’ve seen, since reading my Medieval Literature book in class yesterday of course.

It is 2015! China’s women should be praised and held in the most esteem that can be given for pursuing degrees that can be used towards, yes, the good of the nation! There is not only one way to be a woman in this world, despite their policies.

The inherent patriarchy within China’s outlook on women needs a serious wake up call. While the women of China have been forced to become ‘hidden children’ in the one-child policy, and “leftover” women in the aftermath of that policy, China’s stance has gone from breeding out women from their society, to relying on women to save their society. How very hypocritical, China.


One thought on “China’s “Leftover” Women”

  1. This was very interesting to read about. When I heard about the abolition of the one child policy, my first thought was, I wonder if Chinese will be more inclined to keep female babies now? I know that many people only wanted male babies when they could only have one, because they wanted someone to carry on the family name. However, based on what you are saying, it seems that they are just plain sexist. It is not just about carrying on a name. This is so terrible for these women who have worked so hard.

    Liked by 1 person

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