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China Sex & Gender

Defying Spinster Stereotypes: Why Chinese Unmarried Women are Rooting for Actress Faye Yu

Chinese actress Faye Yu has become a social media hit because of her views on love and marriage.

Manya Koetse

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The unconventional attitudes on love & marriage of the unmarried 47-year-old actress Faye Yu have taken Chinese social media by storm. In a society where women are facing real pressures to get married, many welcome Yu’s refreshing perspectives.

With contributions from Miranda Barnes.
 

Chinese actress Yu Feihong (俞飞鸿, born 1971), also known as Faye Yu, has recently become a big topic of discussion on Chinese social media for her refreshing perspective on marriage and singlehood.

The 47-year-old unmarried celebrity was previously on various Chinese talk shows hosted by older (male) presenters, who questioned the actress about her single status. These shows include ‘Behind the Headlines‘ (锵锵三人行) and and ‘Thirteen Invitations’ (十三邀), hosted by Xu Zhiyuan (许知远).

Faye Yu

Yu became a social media hit when popular writer Shen Jiake (@沈嘉柯), on June 20, posted images and quotes of her on the talkshow ‘Behind the Headlines,’ which was hosted by two men Dou Wentao and guest Feng Tang.

The various quotes show how Yu, in a relaxed and matter-of-fact way, addresses questions about her being unmarried, expressing that she does not need a partner to fulfill her needs, and that she did not feel she wants or needs to adapt her life to existing social expectations on the right age to get married.

Within a time frame of three days, the post has been reposted on Weibo over 120,000 times, receiving more than 100,000 likes. Other posts dedicated to Yu’s appearance on the shows have also attracted hundreds of comments and reposts.

Faye Yu became a social media hit after Shen Jiake posted these images of her appearance in a talk show.

Some of these screenshots include the following:

Presenter Dou Wentao: “Why have you already been single for so long?”

Faye answers: “I don’t think it’s a problem. For me whether to be single or married is not a difficult choice. Whatever stage I find more comfortable, is the stage I’ll choose to be in.

Author Shen Jiake says about Yu: “Yu Feihong (俞飞鸿) really mirrors [these] old men’s own demons*, making a fool of their own reflections. Xu Zhiyuan, Feng Tang, and Dou Wentao all have to face their defeat.”

 

“I am rooting for Yu Feihong, she expresses my feelings!”

 

Over the past few days, thousands of people on Weibo comment on Yu’s attitude and previous interviews. Many of them are young and female.

In recent years, much has been written and discussed on the pressures Chinese women are facing today when it comes to marriage, and their risk of being stigmatized as a ‘spinsters’, ‘leftover women‘ or ‘shengnu‘ when they are older than 25 and still single.

In 2016, an SK-II skincare ad campaign titled ‘She Finally Goes to the Marriage Corner’ became a huge trending topic on Chinese social media. The ad video focused on Chinese single women, pressured to get married by their families and society, who pluck up the courage to speak out towards their parents against the burdens they face.

The SK-II video about China’s ‘leftover women’ that became a hit in 2016.

The online hype around Faye Yu shows similarities with the SK-II topic, and reveals that for many women in China today the pressure to get married is very real.

Chinese media outlets have also started to report on the Faye Yu hype, headlining: “Why are young people suddenly such fans of the 47-year-old Yu Feihong?” The trend is especially noteworthy because the talkshow appearances that have gone viral were recorded a time ago; ‘Behind the Headlines’ is a show that has already been canceled since 2017.

“Why have young people suddenly become such fans of Yu Feihong?”

“There is no age one should get married, there’s just an age one feels they should get married” (“没有该结婚的年龄,只有该结婚的感情), Weibo blogger Yan Wangye (@颜王爷) writes.

“I am rooting for Yu Feihong, she expresses my feelings!”, a typical comment says. “She’s just cool. Beautiful and cool,” others say.

But there are also many men responding to the topic. Famous designer ‘Teacher Kevin’ (@Kevin凯文老师) says: “I really appreciate Yu Feihong’s attitude on marriage: marriage is not a woman’s necessity. To be married or to be single is a personal choice, completely depending on what makes you more comfortable.”

 

“I have my own concept of marriage.”

 

Yu Feihong has been in the Chinese showbusiness since she was a child and has starred in dozens of movies since. Outside of China, she is mostly known for her role in the Joy Luck Club (1993). Many of these movies are about romance, and her own love life has been a topic of interest for Chinese journalists for years, especially because Yu is known as China’s “most beautiful woman above the age of 40.”

Faye Yu has worn a wedding dress in many of her movies, but not in real life.

In a 2016 interview with Phoenix News, Yu says: “By the time I was 20 years old, I was instilled with the concept of marriage by society and my family. But up to the present day, I will not simply accept a concept given to me by others. I have my own concept of marriage.”

In the interview, she says she has a stable partner, but does not feel the roles of “wife” or “mother” suit her lifestyle: “I don’t reject it, but I don’t feel it is something I need to attain in this life.”

“She says it so well,” one Weibo commenter writes: “I am a proponent of singlehood, although I do not oppose to marriage. I just feel we shouldn’t enter marriage within such a restricted time frame. This is a state of mind that is not welcomed or accepted by the majority of people.”

“I am not married for the mere reason that I do not want to be married yet,” another person says. “It is just so fascinating to see someone with such an independent way of thinking,” others say.

Besides praising Yu’s courage, there are also many who condemn Chinese men such as the talk show hosts Dou Wentao or Feng Tang who do not hesitate to question unmarried women such as Yu about their single status – even suggesting that being single and “being lonely” are practically the same thing.

Feng Tang about being single: “But you won’t finish a bottle of wine alone, and if you order food, two dishes might be too much but one dish is never enough. Aren’t you bothered by these kinda things?” Faye responds: “I really don’t have any problems with that.”

Many call these male presenters’ questioning a sign of ‘male chauvinism’ or, literally: ‘straight man’s cancer’ (直男癌). “I applaud Faye Yu’s patience to deal with these kinds of boring questions,” some say.

Faye Yu: “Listening to you guys talking, there’s one thing I don’t get – why, from a man’s point of view, is marrying something you seem to do out of some sort of charity for women?”

“I just really like Yu’s view on life,” another netizen writes: “Whether you’re single or married, the most important thing is to be your own independent person.”

Want to read more? Check out “The Shengnu Dilemma: (Don’t) Marry Before You’re 30.”

By Manya Koetse

Contributions from Miranda Barnes

* The term he literally used is ‘照妖镜’ (“老男人的照妖镜”), which means a “magic mirror for revealing goblins.”

Spotted a mistake or want to add something? Please let us know in comments below or email us.

©2018 Whatsonweibo. All rights reserved. Do not reproduce our content without permission – you can contact us at info@whatsonweibo.com.

Manya Koetse is the editor-in-chief of www.whatsonweibo.com. She is a writer and consultant (Sinologist, MPhil) on social trends in China, with a focus on social media and digital developments, popular culture, and gender issues. Contact at manya@whatsonweibo.com, or follow on Twitter.

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China Sex & Gender

Nobody’s Baby? Chinese Girl in Canceled Surrogacy Case Has No Birth Certificate, No Hukou

From surrogacy baby to ‘heihaizi’ – her biological parents canceled the surrogacy agreement, but she was born anyway.

Manya Koetse

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The news story of a child born through surrogacy is the talk of the day on Weibo, leading to heated discussions on China’s ‘underground’ surrogacy practices.

The tragic story of a 3-year-old girl born through surrogacy is top trending on Chinese social media today, where the child is referred to as the ‘unregistered surrogacy girl’ (“黑户代孕女童”).

The child was meant to grow up with her two biological parents, but when the surrogate mother tested positive for a syphilis infection halfway through the pregnancy, the intended parents canceled the surrogacy agreement. The story was told in a short video report by Chinese news outlet The Paper.

The poverty-stricken surrogate mother ended up having the baby herself, but could not afford her bills and sold the baby’s birth certificate. The biological parents have refused to take responsibility for the girl.

Without her formal papers and household registration, the 3-year-old girl cannot go to school and is not registered anywhere.

 

From Surrogacy Baby to ‘Heihaizi’

 

On January 12, Chinese media outlet Time Weekly (时代周报) published a lengthy interview with the surrogacy mother recounting the entire story of the canceled surrogacy agreement.

The story starts in 2016 when the then 38-year-old* Wu Chuanchuan (吴川川, alias) became a surrogate mother as a way to earn money. The older couple who wanted a baby came from Inner Mongolia and had previously lost a child. *(In the interview, Wu claims she is actually younger than the age indicated on her official papers, which say she is now 47.)

The surrogacy agreement, arranged through an underground company, was settled at 170,000 yuan ($26,200). It concerned a gestational surrogacy, in which the child is not biologically related to the surrogate mother.

During the pregnancy, Wu was living together with other surrogate mothers. When she was four months pregnant, she unexpectedly tested positive for syphilis. Wu says she suspects that the infection was spread within the small surrogacy mother community she lived in.

Syphilis in pregnant women is risky and can have a major impact on the baby’s health. It can cause miscarriage, stillbirth, or death as a result of the infection as a newborn.

 

“The intended parents decided to withdraw from the surrogacy arrangement, asking for a refund and offering to pay for an abortion.”

 

Due to syphilis, the intended parents of the baby decided to withdraw from the surrogacy arrangement, asking for a refund and offering to pay for an abortion. Wu would only receive 20,000 yuan ($3085).

This situation left Wu, who already felt the fetus moving, in a very difficult situation. She eventually refused to terminate the pregnancy and withdrew from the surrogacy agency’s home.

Staying at cheap hotels in the city of Chengdu and unable to find a suitable adoption family, Wu eventually gave birth to a baby girl that she would raise herself.

But there was one major issue: money. Wu already could not afford the hospital admittance fee, let alone the 12,000 yuan ($1850) in hospital bills she had to pay after needing a C-section delivery.

To pay for her medical bills, Wu was forced to take desperate measures and ended up selling her baby’s birth certificate. Through the internet’s black market, she found someone who would pay 20,000 yuan ($3085) for it.

Once the baby was born, things looked up for Wu. She soon married a kind man who was willing to raise baby girl ‘Xiao Rang’ (小让, alias) together with her, and the child’s congenital syphilis was cured.

But Xiao Rang still had no birth certificate, and thus no hukou.

Wu and Xiao Rang, screenshot from The Paper video report.

The hukou or ‘household registration’ system is a registered permanent residence policy. A hukou is assigned at birth based on one’s community and family. China’s hukou system, amongst others, separates rural from urban citizens and is essential to access social services, including education and healthcare.

Without a hukou, the child cannot attend kindergarten, and will not be able to go to school – she will be a heihaizi (黑孩子, lit. ‘black child’), an ‘illegal child’ not registered anywhere.

In December of 2020, as reported by The Paper, Wu traveled from Chengdu to Inner Mongolia in search of her daughter’s biological parents.

The girl’s intended parents turned out to have twin sons now. They bought a house and went through the process to get their twins through another surrogate mother. After spending approximately 700,000 yuan ($108,000), the family allegedly could not afford to also be legally responsible for Xiao Rang. Afraid of the consequences, the 50-year-old biological father initially also seemed unwilling to formally arrange adoption papers for his daughter, Wu told Time Weekly.

 

Banned Baby Business

 

On Weibo, a hashtag page about Xiao Rang’s story received over 550 million views on Tuesday, making it one of the most-discussed topics on January 12 (#首个遭代孕客户退单女童无法上户#).

Due to the media attention, and the biological father’s identity being exposed, the case was still developing while Chinese netizens looked on.

According to the latest reports, Xiao Rang’s biological father will now provide assistance in arranging registration papers for the little girl while Wu Chuanchuan will still raise the child.

The fact that the father himself came forward to tell his side of the story also became a trending topic (#遭退单代孕女童生物学父亲现身#), garnering over 260 million views by Tuesday night Beijing time. The biological father confirms that they gave up on the baby once they were informed of Wu’s syphilis infection, and that they did not expect Wu to have the baby after all.

Meanwhile, on social media, there seems to have been a shift in sentiments regarding this story. Netizens initially sided with the surrogate mother and her tragic story.

But as the media continue to report on this story, more and more people are starting to doubt Wu’s sincerity, wondering if she used media exposure to portray herself as a victim to gain the public’s sympathy.

Online commenters criticize Wu for being part of the surrogacy agreement, for choosing to have the child despite her syphilis, and for selling the child’s birth certificate. Many call her ‘immoral’ and ‘irresponsible.’

 

“Surrogacy exploits women, and it is a serious violation of social ethics and morals. Taking part in surrogacy should be severely punished.”

 

Surrogacy has been a hot topic on Chinese social media recently. Just a month ago, a short film titled “10 Months With You” (‘宝贝儿’) by famous Chinese director Chen Kaige (陈凯歌) also stirred controversy for supposedly presenting surrogacy in China in a relatively positive light.

Screenshot from “10 Months With You” by Chen Kaige

The 30-minute film revolves around a young girl who signs a surrogacy contract with intended parents without telling her boyfriend. When she gets emotionally attached to the baby during her pregnancy, things get complicated. But she eventually is persuaded by her boyfriend that the child is not intended to be with them, after which she is willing to part with the baby.

Chinese state media outlets, including Global Times and China Daily emphasized that surrogacy is illegal in China and that those who take part in surrogacy will face fines or even criminal prosecution.

Nevertheless, the practice of surrogacy is a somewhat legislative grey area in China. China’s Ministry of Health introduced regulations in 2001 that made it illegal for medical staff to offer surrogacy services. In 2015, there were official plans to completely curb surrogate pregnancies. But that strict ban on surrogacy pregnancies was later reversed.

In 2017, People’s Daily even published a controversial article that suggested a loosening of surrogacy bans to boost China’s birth rates. Meanwhile, there have been ongoing reports about China’s booming underground surrogacy market (here, here ).

In 2018, state media outlet Global Times quoted Qiu Renzong, a bioethics expert at the Chinese Academy of Social Science in saying: “The Chinese government should consider setting some rules to allow surrogacy in certain circumstances.”

With discussions on Xiao Rang’s case and surrogacy in China being a major topic on Weibo, the legal side is also receiving much attention. Law expert Zhang San (@普法达人张三) uses the hashtag “Criminalize Surrogacy” (#建议代孕入刑#) when he writes:

Although surrogacy is illegal, it is a blank space in the criminal law. Surrogacy exploits women, and it is a serious violation of social ethics and morals. Taking part in surrogacy should be severely punished. If the freedom is not restricted, it will surely lead to exploitation of the weak by the strong.”

Some people on Weibo argue that most of the people involved in Xiao Rang’s story are filthy and immoral, and that they need to be punished. But virtually everyone agrees that the little girl needs to be registered in order to still have a chance to lead a normal life: “The child is innocent.”

By Manya Koetse

Spotted a mistake or want to add something? Please let us know in comments below or email us. First-time commenters, please be patient – we will have to manually approve your comment before it appears.

©2021 Whatsonweibo. All rights reserved. Do not reproduce our content without permission – you can contact us at info@whatsonweibo.com.

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China Memes & Viral

Wedding Canceled over Too-Tight Underwear: Chinese Local Wedding Tradition Goes Trending

Chinese local traditions still matter. A size too small was the end of this Guizhou wedding day.

Manya Koetse

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A wedding in Guizhou was canceled after the bride discovered the underwear bought for her as part of a local wedding tradition was too small. The incident has sparked discussions on old-fashioned customs in modern-day weddings.

There is so much happening in the world right now, but besides the bigger issues, a local Chinese wedding scandal has been attracting major attention on social media over the past few days.

On January 2nd, a young man from Zunyi in Guizhou province had his own wedding day canceled by his prospective in-laws because the underwear that was bought for his bride turned out to be too small.

According to local customs, the groom’s side was supposed to buy the bride a new outfit from top to bottom, including shoes (a custom called shàngtoulǐ “上头礼”). But because the undergarment purchased by the groom was too tight, the wedding ceremony was called off at the very last moment.

Not wanting to waste the expensive food and arrangements, the groom’s relatives decided to turn the wedding reception into a New Year’s party instead.

A video that has been circulating on Weibo, also reposted by Xinhua News, shows how the wedding reception host explains to the guests why the wedding ceremony cannot proceed, proposing to continue the festivities anyway as a casual New Year’s social gathering.

The incident received massive attention on social media, with one hashtag about the news garnering over 740 million views (#小伙因买内衣不合适迎亲被拒#). On Q&A site Zhihu.com, one thread about the issue received over 4200 replies.

 

Size does matter

 

Although there are many commenters who say the bride “made a big fuss over nothing”, there are also those who think bad communication and outdated customs and beliefs are at the root of the canceled wedding.

Many people on social media also express their surprise at the different local wedding traditions within China, which can greatly vary from region to region.

The too-tight underwear case is about more than just being a size too small. The Chinese idiom “wear tight shoes” (chuān xiǎoxié ‘穿小鞋’) means “to make life difficult.” Giving someone tight shoes to wear (给人穿小鞋) means making things hard for someone by abusing one’s power.

In this case, although it is about the groom’s side giving the bride too-tight underwear instead of shoes, the bride’s side allegedly took it as a sign that the groom wanted to teach his future wife a lesson that he would not make life easy for her and would want her to be obedient.

The bride later spoke to Red Star News (红星新闻) to clarify that things were not as simple as presented in the viral news story. The fact that the underwear that was bought for her was too tight – the bra was two sizes too small – was indeed a problem, but it was just the straw that broke the camel’s back.

The couple had conflicts before this occurred, and when the bride wanted to discuss the problem of the tight underwear, she was met with an unpleasant response from the groom’s side, as they refused to buy her suitable underwear.

She also said that after the wedding was canceled the bride price of 88,000 yuan ($13,650) was returned to the groom’s family.

The couple had previously already officially registered for marriage. The two are now filing for divorce.

 

“A struggle between modern society and feudal rubbish”

 

On WeChat, popular blogging account Xinwenge also posted about this matter, suggesting it was actually the groom’s mother who bought the tight underwear.

Xinwenge quotes some netizens from Guizhou who allege that in-laws often buy clothes or shoes for their future daughter-in-law to show the bride their own dominant position. “It’s a struggle between modern society and feudal rubbish,” the author writes.

Other netizens also share their own stories, such as the experience of ‘King Cat Wants To Travel’, who says that her mother-in-law was never involved in the planning of her wedding until she absolutely insisted on making the bed on the night before the wedding.

“I found out why on our wedding day,” she writes: “She put the duvet from their family on top of mine”, implying the husband’s side would be ‘on top’ in the marriage. She adds: “PS: we’re now divorced.”

Another local custom mentioned is that of the bride having to wait outside the house, not being able to go in until someone from her new husband’s family tells her to – allegedly in order to make the bride a more obedient wife afterward.

One Weibo user commented that local traditions and customs are getting in the way of the true meaning of marriage. Regardless of what the groom’s parents say, what the bride’s parents do, what the bride price is, how the guests behave, “do these two people who are getting married actually feel good about it? Do they approve of each other’s values and ideas about life? Do they feel they’re suitable to spend their lives together?”

“If this is a modern-day wedding, why should the bride still be expected to wear the underwear bought for her by her mother-in-law?” another person writes.

“It’s 2021. You’re not getting married over customs, nor over underwear,” another person says.

But not everyone agrees, with some still valuing the power of tradition: “Buying her small underwear means making her life difficult. It’s impossible that they did not know this. It’s good that they didn’t marry.”

By Manya Koetse, with contributions from Miranda Barnes

Spotted a mistake or want to add something? Please let us know in comments below or email us. First-time commenters, please be patient – we will have to manually approve your comment before it appears.

©2021 Whatsonweibo. All rights reserved. Do not reproduce our content without permission – you can contact us at info@whatsonweibo.com.

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