Leftover women - China - StijlmeisjeWomen in China are advancing like never before: educating themselves, becoming financially independent and carving out a bigger role in society than being only someone’s wife or mother. In response to this, All-China Women’s Federation launched the term Sheng Nu in 2007. It translates to ”leftover woman” and it has been used to classify woman who remain unmarried after the age of 25, implying that they have been passed over by men. Since then, the international media has reported that Chinese women are describing an even bigger pressure than before to marry young, take a step back from their flourishing careers and focus more on their husbands and family life. Single, professional women are portrayed as miserable and lonely to pressure them to marry as soon as possible. Women who want to wait with marriage until they meet the right person are stigmatized. And even worse, the pressure comes from family and friends as well. In China’s biggest cities so called marriage markets are common sight. Here, parents go to post, compare and match personal ads, listing the height, weight, salary, values and personality of their sons and daughters. In many cases, women are unaware that their parents have listed them at a marriage market. I was literally shocked when I heard of this. And above all I felt privileged that I have never had to fight such difficulties… In spite of all this, Chinese women do are fighting fiercely for their right to marry who and when they want.

The pressure to get married is something that most women around the world can relate to somehow. Questions like ‘isn’t it time to settle down and find a man’ aren’t uncommon when you start getting older. The only difference is that in China society will label you as ‘left-over’ if you haven’t settled down and married by the age of 25.

So what the Federation did was creating a ‘makeover’ of the marriage market. An impressive installation was made with ”marriage ads” that were in fact not ads but messages from hundreds of independent women/daughters, stating that they want to be in control of their own destiny. They filmed the makeover, covered the reactions and shot interviews with women who take pride in being independent. The result is a film about the inspirational women who won’t let pressure dictate their future. The film, launcing today, shows that Sheng Nus are not leftovers but on the contrary, strong women who choose if and when they want to get married. Beautiful message….