“Why do sheng nu happen now in China?” Wu asked. After a dramatic pause, she answered her own question: “It is a result of high GDP growth.” At this point, several women in the audience fidgeted, wary of an economics sermon, but Wu continued. “In the past, there was no such word as sheng nu. But today women have more wealth and education — they have better jobs, and higher requirements for men.” She reflected: “Now you want to find a man you have deep feelings for who also has a house and a car. You won’t all find that.”
She wasn’t telling the women they should want less, exactly. What she was really pointing out was just how much better today’s Chinese women have it. Thirty years ago, a marriage certificate was a passport into adulthood. “Until you married, there were no basic human rights. No right to have sex before marriage. No house allocated by your danwei [government work unit] before marriage.” Today those barriers have crumbled, with rising sexual freedom and a booming private real estate market. Why marry unless you find someone just right? “The future is different,” Wu predicted, waving her arms for emphasis. China’s big cities will be filled with sheng nu. “Those who can bear the shortcomings and sufferings of men will get married,” she concluded. “Those not, single.”
All this grand theorizing was not remotely what Sabrina, a slender 26-year-old with sexy librarian glasses, wanted to hear. “I wish she had given more practical advice about how to enlarge my social circle,” she whispered to me. Sabrina was there because she truly wanted to get married, and by her own anxious calculation, she feared she had about one year left. She had a graduate degree from a good university, held a respectable job in marketing, and was reasonably attractive. It had never occurred to her that finding an appropriate partner would be a struggle. Did I know any unmarried men? she asked. And if so, I should probably tell them she is just 24.
sheng nu- literally, “leftover woman”; derogatory term used to refer to women “past their prime” who are still single… over the age of 27/30.
I honestly have mixed feelings about the article. One is utter annoyance at the almost condescending way it is written- that the author (a white woman) would compare a speaker giving a presentation in this article to another famous white woman at all: why can’t women of color just be who they are?
Second, this line:
The singletons I interviewed in Beijing were anything but dowdy. At 5 feet, 9 inches, the slim woman who slipped into a seat at the table at trendy Opposite House cafe was, in fact, an utter knockout. Annie Xu has a strikingly angular face, large wide-set eyes, shoulder-length hair, and flawless skin.
there’s something in the wording that smacks of cultural assumptions—like why wouldn’t anyone want these women? THEY’RE GORGEOUS ORIENTAL FLOWERS!!!!
thirdly I feel as though she takes the problem to the women, instead of more deeply examining this patriarchal power structure that contributes to these derogatory terms in the first place.
A generation ago, when Chinese society was simpler, there were fewer choices. But today, with colossal economic upheaval — and a yawning chasm between China’s winners and losers — your spouse may be the largest single factor determining whether, in the words of one infamous female contestant on Fei Cheng Wu Rao, you ride home on the back of a bicycle or in a BMW. And that just crystallizes the problem: China’s educated women increasingly know what they want out of life. But it’s getting harder and harder to find Mr. Right.
excuse me, “simpler”? Simpler to who? To you? Take your attitude and shove it up your lily white ass because you clearly don’t understand the substructures that exist within the family dynamic of “pre-liberated and Westernized” China.