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China Sex & Gender

Pressured to get Married: For the Country and For Society

Every year, China’s bachelors and bachelorettes are dreading the return to their hometowns, as parents and family members will inescapably ask them that one question: “Why are you not married yet?” This year, a group of Chinese young women protested in the streets of Shanghai against marriage pressure.

Manya Koetse

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Chinese New Year and the pressure to get married: it has already become an ‘old’ topic. Every year, China’s bachelors and bachelorettes are dreading the return to their hometowns, as parents and family members will inescapably ask them that one question: “Why are you not married yet?” This year, a group of Chinese young women protested in Shanghai against their parents pressuring them to marry, holding signs saying: “Mum, please do not force me to get married during New Year, I’m in charge of my own happiness.” The women became a hot topic amongst netizens and authors, reigniting the online discussion about the status quo of China’s unmarried adults. “Coming back to your hometown saying you don’t want to be pressured into marriage is like going to the dog meat festival saying you don’t want to eat dog,” says writer Mao Li. 

 mum!Protest in Shanghai against marriage pressure, February 4, 2015 (Qingdao News).

 

The Shengnü and Shengnan ‘problem’

 

The term ‘shengnü’ (剩女 ‘leftover woman’) has been a somewhat derogatory catch phrase in China’s media for years. It refers to women who are still single at the age of 27 or above; usually well-educated ladies who have difficulties in finding a partner that can live up to their expectations. Their disadvantage in finding a partner relates to existing ideas in Chinese culture about the ‘ideal’ marriage age of women. A recent survey has pointed out that 50% of Chinese men already consider a women ‘left over’ when she is not married at the age of 25.

The male counterpart of the shengnü is the so-called ‘shengnan’ (剩男, ‘leftover man’). Chinese men face great difficulties in finding a bride, as Mainland China has been faced with an unbalanced male-female ratio since the 1980s. At the peak of disparity in 2004, more than 121 boys were born for every 100 girls. One explanation for this imbalance is the traditional preference for boys and sex-selective abortions since the one-child policy was introduced in 1978. According to estimations, there currently are 20 million more men than women under the age of 30 (Luo & Sun 2014, 5; Chen 2011, 2).

The abundance of both single women and men in present-day China would suggest that there is hardly a problem: why don’t they just get married? Problematically, the majority of China’s unmarried women are twenty-somethings who live in urban areas and are at the ‘high end’ of the societal ladder (relatively high income and education), whereas the majority of the shengnan are based in rural areas and are at the ‘lower end’ (lower income/education). Since Chinese women traditionally prefer to ‘marry up’ in terms of age, income and education, and the men usually ‘marry down’, the men and women find themselves at the wrong ends of the ladder (Ding & Xu 2015, 114).

 

China needs a babyboom

 

“Get married soon and have lots of babies,” says Huang Wenzheng, activist and one-child policy opponent (Qi 2014). China is currently facing a rapid decline in births. At the same time, the population is ageing. It is estimated that over 25% of Chinese people will be 65 years and older in 2050, leaving the burden of care to younger generations (BBC 2012). Getting Chinese bachelors and bachelorettes to marry and produce children has thus gone beyond the wish for a wedding banquet and cute grandchildren – it has become an important matter to society.

According to recent statistics, 80% of China’s bachelors and bachelorettes over the age of 24 experience pressure by their families to get married when they go home for the holiday period. The festival is now even nicknamed the “marriage pressure holiday” (催婚假期). After Chinese New Year, there generally is a 40% increase in blind dates. These meetings are often arranged by the parents, who attend ‘blind date events’ for their single sons or daughters. Many parents gather in public parks over the weekend, carrying banners with the picture and details of their unmarried child in the hopes of finding a suitable marriage partner for them.

122316309_21nParents looking for a suitable partner for their single sons and daughter (Xinhua). 

 

“Don’t oppose to marriage pressure if you’re a loser”

 

Well-known scholar Yang Zao (杨早) responds to this topic on Tencent’s Dajia (‘Everybody’, a media platform for authors), with an essay titled “Pressured to Get Married: For the Country, For Society” (为了国家,为了社会,逼你结婚). Yang is the third author to discuss the New Year’s marriage pressure and the Shanghai girls who want to take their love life into their own hands. The other two columns are by female writer Mao Li (毛利), who wrote an essay titled “Prove You’re Not a Loser Before Opposing Marriage Pressure” (反逼婚,先证明你不是废物), and columnist Zhang Shi (张石), whose piece is called “China’s ‘Pressured-Married’ and Japan’s ‘Non-Married””(中国的“逼婚”和日本的“不婚”). Yang analyses the current debate on marriage, wondering if it is so controversial because society is pressuring it more or because unmarried adults are opposing it more.

Parents put more pressure on their children to get married, and children increasingly oppose to it, says Mao Li. According to her, both sides make sense, but it is the children who have to explain their point-of-view; why would their parents understand them? Those who were born in the 1980s and 1990s come from completely different times than their mothers and fathers, who suffered many hardships to get where they are today. Mao Li compares the way they raised their children to a farmer raising his crops: planting seeds, watering the fields and creating the right environment to grow. Now that the children are grown up and have left the family home, the logical step for them would be to get married – after all, their parents worked hard to build the right conditions for them to do so. They should not be surprised when their parents urge them to get settled. “Coming back to your hometown saying you oppose to marriage pressure is like coming to the dog meat festival saying you oppose to eating dog,” Mao says: “You can’t expect people to comprehend it.” According to Mao, children can only oppose to marriage pressure when they are completely independent. They cannot oppose to marriage and still cling to their parents for financial support. “Prove you’re not a loser before opposing to marriage pressure,” she says.

Writer Zhang Shi approaches the issue from another perspective; that of society. In Japan, fertility rates have sharply decreased. While society is ageing, the lack of young workers causes economic problems. In order not to end up with the same problems as Japan, China has to get the marriages coming and birth rates going, argues Zhang. Parents who are forcing their children to get married are actually contributing to society, says Zhang: it is a ‘warm advice’, not a cold pressure. In an age of declining birthrates, urging people to have babies is a “social responsibility”.

 

“For the country, for society, for parents, can’t you let go a bit of ‘personal happiness’?”

 

The pressure to get married is ingrained in social ideology and China’s traditional family ethics, says Yang Zao. The problems that now emerge within society come from a clash between individualist and collectivist values. Chinese society cannot be a perfect mix of both individualism and collectivism, according to Yang: “It is either one, and both will have downsides.” If China wants a liberal, individual-focused society, then its “evils” will have to be accepted too: some people will marry late, some will not marry at all, some will not have kids, others will go job-hopping, some people move from city to city and never settle down. Such a society will also generate low birth rates and an ageing society.

In a collective, family-focused society, the ageing crisis and declining birth rates could be halted. Parents would not have to go to public parks to search for suitable partners for their unmarried kids. “For the country, for society, for parents, can’t you let go a bit of personal happiness’?”, says Yang. After all, isn’t marriage key to solving China’s present-day problems?

Since 1950, marriage officially is a ‘freedom of choice’ in Mainland China. Nevertheless, marriage in China still seems to involve more than two people: it is a get-together of two families with societal backing. One Weibo user says: “The shengnü do not have an individual problem; they are a problem because society at large believes they have a problem – this is why it is a ‘problem’.”

No matter what the ‘nation’, ‘society’, or parents think, the protesting Shanghai girls are positive about their future: it is in their hands, and in their hands alone.

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– by Manya Koetse

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References

BBC. 2012. “Ageing China: Changes and Challenges.” BBC News, 19 September http://www.bbc.com/news/world-asia-19630110 (16.10.12).

Chen, Zhou. 2011. “The Embodiment of Transforming Gender and Class: Shengnü and Their Media Representations in Contemporary China.” Master’s thesis, University of Kansas.

Ding, Min and Jie Xu. 2015. The Chinese Way. Routledge: New York.

Luo, Wei, and Zhen Sun. 2014. “Are You the One? China’s TV Dating Shows and the Sheng Nü’s Predicament.” Feminist Media Studies, October: 1–18.

Mao Li 毛利. “想反逼婚,先证明你不是废物” [Prove You’re Not a Loser Before Opposing Marriage Pressure]. Dajia, 11 February http://dajia.qq.com/blog/466362096792665 [24.2.15].

Qi, 2014. “Baby Boom or Economy Bust.” The Wall Street Journal, 2 September http://blogs.wsj.com/chinarealtime/2014/09/02/baby-boom-or-economy-bust-stern-warnings-about-chinas-falling-fertility-rate/ [24.2.15].

Yang Zao 杨早. 2015. “为了国家,为了社会,逼你结婚”  [Pressured to Get Married: For the Country, For Society]. Dajia, 17 February http://dajia.qq.com/blog/431261063359665 [24.2.15].

Zhang Shi 张石. 2015. “中国的“逼婚”和日本的“不婚” [China’s ‘Pressured-Married’ and Japan’s ‘Non-Married’]. Dajia, 16 February http://dajia.qq.com/blog/462372023502987 [24.2.15].

Image by Tencent Dajia, 2015. 

 

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©2014 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

Censorship of Chinese 6B4T & Feminist Groups Prompts Wave of Support for “Douban Sisters”

Even those who don’t agree with ‘6b4t’ views condemn Douban’s recent crackdown on 6b4t and feminist groups.

Manya Koetse

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What is 6b4t? That is the question popping up in several places on Chinese social media this week after the popular networking platform Douban closed down several feminist groups and targeted the keyword ‘6B4T.’

Douban (豆瓣) is an influential Chinese social media platform that allows users to discuss and review books, music, films, and other topics. The platform has a ‘group’ (小组) function, with groups being like online forums revolving around a particular topic where Douban users can subscribe, post, and interact.

On the night of April 12, Douban closed down more than ten Douban feminist groups, of which some were linked to ‘6b4t’ views.

6b4t is an online movement that originated in South Korea and is about female empowerment and independence that shifts away from patriarchal society and male-dominated fields in popular culture and beyond.

The ‘6B’ stands for no husband, no children, no boyfriend, no male sex partner, not buying any products/brands that are unfriendly to women, and offering support to single women. The movement received some media attention earlier in 2019, when it was still about ‘4B’ or the ‘4 no’s’ (no marriage, no kids, no boyfriend, no sex; the ‘single women support’ and ‘refusal of buying misogynistic products’ were added later). The ‘4T’ stands for the rejection of shapewear (corsets), religion, otaku culture, and idols.

 

“A devastating blow for Chinese radical feminists”


 

The censorship of 6b4t-related groups on Douban sparked sharp criticism and anger online. On Twitter, ‘HAL 10000’ (@dualvectorfoil) called the crackdown “a devastating blow” for Chinese radical feminists.

The Twitter account FreeChineseFeminists (@FeministChina) posted a screenshot of Douban’s notification that the ‘6B4T’ group had been removed, with the platform calling it an “extreme” and “radical” “ideology.”

On Weibo, many commenters also spoke out against the removal of the feminist Douban groups.

“I am 6b4t and although it might seem extreme in the eyes of some, I am not harming anyone at all,” one person wrote, with another commenter adding: “This is completely limited to myself, I do not influence others.”

“I’ve been 6b4t for years without even realizing,” one Weibo user jokingly wrote: “I’ve been single forever!”

Another person admitted: “I don’t really look at Douban, and I don’t really understand 6b4t, but blowing up those groups like this goes too far.”

 

We have to firmly support our Douban sisters”


 

The account of Xianzi, the woman who became famous for the Xianzi versus Zhu Jun court case, also commented on the Douban censorship on April 13:

I am not a follower of 6b4t at all, but I firmly support my Douban sisters and oppose how the feminist Douban groups have been shut out. First, 6B4T clearly is an important branch of contemporary online feminism – shutting these groups out is shutting out discussions on female topics. Seconds, the viewpoint of 6B4T is not radical at all, it just asserts that women do not need to enter heterosexual relationships and can break away from masculine control. This is completely up to women themselves and has nothing to do with anyone else. When even such a viewpoint is banned, and women insisting on being single are still seen as rebellious — this is the fundamental reason why we have to firmly support our Douban sisters.

Many people support Xianzi’s statement, and meanwhile, the hashtag “Women Let’s Unite” (#女性们团结吧#) also took off on Weibo, with many commenters calling on women to let their voices be heard.

“If someone is covering your mouth to try and silence you – scream louder,” one person wrote.

The hashtag was also used to address issues of domestic abuse, a topic that has received a lot of attention on Chinese social media over the past year. In October of 2020, the death of the female vlogger Lamu, who was burnt by her ex-husband, also sparked an online movement that called on authorities to do more to protect and legally empower female victims of domestic abuse.

The ‘Women Unite’ hashtag page had received over 47 million views by late Tuesday night. Another relating hashtag, ‘Douban Feminism’ (#豆瓣女权#) was viewed over 40,000 times.

 

You can disagree, but you can’t silence them”


 

While the search for ‘6b4t’ gave few new results on the Douban site at the time of writing, there were still some older posts on the topic.

One noteworthy one is that by user *Blossom*, who took the time earlier this year to explain what 6b4t means to her, saying “6b4t is an act of struggle, it is not a discipline.”

In the post of February 2nd of this year, ‘Blossom’ explains that 6b4t is a way of resistance where the keyword is “sovereignty,” namely the female sovereignty over her own body. 6b4t is a way to fight for radical feminism, Blossom claims:

In the context of patriarchal society, women are sexually objectified while male sexuality equals power. Under this premise, marriage, childbearing, romantic love, and sexual activity are all about reinforcing the power of men and benefiting them. So we advocate 4b, which essentially is a non-violent and non-cooperative struggle mode, with the same characteristics as workers’ and slaves’ strikes.”

Although there are also people expressing disagreement with the 6b4t movement, many defend their right to have online discussion groups about their ideas.

“You can disagree, you can call them into question, but you can’t cover their mouths to silence them,” one Weibo user wrote.

“We can have groups advocating marriage and childbirth, why can’t we have groups advocating being single and childfree?”, another person asked, with one commenter stating: “I do not advocate 6B4T, but I will defend to the death the right of these women to advocate 6B4T.”

Throughout the years, feminist movements have often become a target of censorship on Chinese social media. Douban previously also censored content relating to the Zhu Jun sexual harassment case, and in the case of demanding justice for Lamu, some hasthag pages were also removed from Weibo. The renowned feminist Weibo account ‘Feminist Voices’ (@女权之声) was permanently banned in 2018, along with other feminist accounts.

“A new era of witch-hunting has started,” one top comment in a thread of 2200 comments said: “Get ready to fight, let your voice be heard!”

A somewhat ironic consequence of Douban’s latest censorship is that many people who had never heard about this ‘radical feminism’ now know what 6b4t is because it became a ‘banned term.’ “I’ve learnt a new word today,” some commenters say, with others vowing to support their silenced ‘Douban sisters.’

By Manya Koetse

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©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 Local News

Video Showing Suihua Female Worker Hitting Deputy Director with a Mop Goes Viral on Weibo

The Suihua deputy director was attacked with a mop after female workers accused him of harassing them.

Manya Koetse

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A video showing a woman beating the director of her work department with a mop has gone viral on Chinese social media. The woman who posted the video accuses the office leader of harassing his female subordinates.

The incident took place on April 11th in the city of Suihua, Heilongjiang province. The man who was beaten in the video is Mr. Wang, the deputy director of the poverty alleviation department of the Beilin district of Suihua.

The 14-minute video shows a woman storming into Wang’s office while another woman is behind her, filming. The first woman initially goes to Wang’s desk and throws some stuff on the ground, before she asks the other woman to give her the mop. She then proceeds to hit Wang in the face and head with the mop multiple times. The other woman yells at Wang that she cannot put up with his harassing texts anymore.

At one point in the video, Wang claims he was “just joking,” but the woman claims he is guilty of harassing multiple women in the department. Local authorities investigated the case after the video went viral.

According to Chinese news reports, Mr. Wang has now been removed from his office and Party position for “lifestyle violations of discipline” (for more information on this, China Law Translate has translated the Chapter XI of the Chinese Communist Party Disciplinary Regulations here.)

The woman hitting Wang with the mop reportedly has not been punished for her actions due to “mental illness.”

On Weibo, many people praise the women for stepping up and rebelling against the deputy director, and fighting to protect themselves. Some people call it “courageous” and a “brave revenge.”

“Harassers deserve to be hit,” one commenter writes, with another person adding: “It is good that young people nowadays come forward against older and more powerful leaders.”

There are also people on Weibo who question the reported “mental illness” condition of the woman who hit Wang, with some suggesting she could have not been a state office worker if she suffered from serious mental issues. Others also denounce the fact that the woman was labeled this way, while allegedly having been harassed and finding no help after reporting it to the police. At the same time, a majority of commenters express relief that the woman will not face punishment for hitting Wang with the mop.

Since the outcome of the investigations has not been made public, some netizens demand to see the investigation’s conclusions to know if the official was indeed guilty of sexual harassment and why nothing was done about the female worker’s alleged reports to police about his behaviour.

Over the past year, the problem of sexual harassment in the workplace has been receiving more attention on Chinese social media. In March of this year, a Shanghai court awarded approximately $15,000 to a plaintiff in a sexual harassment suit against a colleague who had sent disturbing text messages to her over a period of six months (link). In December of 2020, a landmark court case of the female scriptwriter Zhou Xiaoxuan versus Chinese famous TV host Zhu Jun attracted major attention on social media.

By Manya Koetse, with contributions by 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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