"Leftover women" or "triumphant women"?

Updated: 2014-05-07 13:57


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Unlike Ms. Fincher, who has made her point by establishing an imaginary link between China’s “leftover women” and the State’s scheme to limit their rights of remaining single, other researchers have looked at the issue more soberly.

Regrettably, there are many such young women who cannot land a man in Chinese cities, but Sun Peidong, sociologist at Fudan University in Shanghai, said the phenomenon also reflects China’s move toward a market economy and a more open society.

“The public is experiencing unprecedented relaxation and freedom, especially in the field of marriage, family and sex," said a July 2013 story in the Los Angeles Times, citing Sun.

Marriage is important, but the “leftover women” could have more choices and opportunities to fulfill their aspirations, researchers said. “For 5,000 years, marriage represented our sole source of stability," Los Angeles-based author Joy Chen said in the Los Angeles Times story. "Now it’s all different. Marriage is not necessary for survival, and we have new dreams, but we have no role models.”

The seriousness of the “leftover women” issue, meanwhile, could have been exaggerated, some researchers said.

The average age of a woman's first marriage in China is indeed on the rise, said Roseann Lake, a Beijing-based researcher. In Shanghai last year, it was 27.3 years, up from 26.4 in 2007. But by age 35, more than 90 percent of Chinese women have married, according to Lake.

“Chinese women are only left over for a limited time, which makes the fact that they're labeled 'leftovers' even more hideous," Lake said. China's real leftovers, she said, are poor, uneducated men in the countryside, who receive little attention.

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