Connect with us

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

Published

on

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.

1502052206222534--ss1

– by Manya Koetse

[button link=”http://www.twitter.com/whatsonweibo” type=”icon” icon=”heart” newwindow=”yes”] Follow us on Twitter[/button]

 

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. 

 

– Appreciate this article and want to help us pay for the upkeep costs of What’s on Weibo? You can do so here! Every penny helps.

 
©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.

5 Comments

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

China Sex & Gender

Papi Jiang Receives Online Backlash for Giving Son Her Husband’s Surname

As a role model for female empowerment, Papi Jiang should not have given her child her husband’s last name, ‘feminists’ on Weibo say.

Manya Koetse

Published

on

First published
 

An independent woman such as self-made superstar Papi Jiang should not have given her child her husband’s last name, Chinese self-proclaimed feminists say. The issue became top trending on Weibo this week.

China’s favorite online comedian and Weibo superstar Papi Jiang (papi酱) has received online backlash for giving her baby her husband’s surname.

The online controversy erupted on Mother’s Day, when Papi shared a photo of her and her baby on her Weibo account, that has some 33 million followers.

The Weibo post that became unexpectedly controversial, screenshot by What’s on Weibo before post was removed.

Papi Jiang (33) recently became a mum and wished all mothers a “Happy Mother’s Day” in her post, which addressed how being a mum is one of the most tiring tasks she has ever faced in her life. The internet celebrity also posted about suffering from mastitis (inflammation of the breast) while breastfeeding.

Underneath the post, Weibo users started a discussion on Papi Jiang being a mum and why such a successful self-made woman had opted to name her baby after her husband, instead of giving him her own surname.

Dozens of disappointed fans, internet trolls, and self-proclaimed feminists accused Papi of not being an “independent woman,” and some even suggested Papi was a “married donkey” (婚驴) for “blindly following the common rules of a patriarchal society.”

Papi Jiang (real name Jiang Yilei) is a Beijing Central Academy of Drama graduate who rose to online fame in 2015/2016 with her sharp and sarcastic videos that humorously address relevant topics in Chinese society.

She has been a highly successful as a career woman; since as early as 2016, companies offer millions to get Papi Jiang to promote their brand in one of her videos.

The comedian is often seen as an online role model for female empowerment; not just because of her economic success and independence, but also because her success is not based on her looks – which generally is the case with many female online influencers in China. Proudly identifying herself as a “leftover woman” in the early days of her rise to fame, and not afraid to use vulgar language, she was a breath of fresh air in China’s ‘Big V’ culture.

Papi once said that the most important person in the life of an independent woman is herself.

The vlogger already learned that fame can be a double-edged sword back in 2016, when she was targeted by online censors for spreading “vulgar language and content.”

This week, the controversy over the surname of Papi’s child temporarily became one of the most-searched hashtags on Weibo (#papi酱孩子随父姓引争议#), and some Chinese media outlets also reported the issue.

As per China’s Marriage Law of 1980, parents can give their child either the father’s or the mother’s surname. It is relatively unusual for parents to give their newborn the mother’s name, but there has been a recent rise in the number of babies to receive their mother’s surname.

Although Papi faced backlash for supposedly not being ‘independent’ for giving her child her own family name, many of Papi Jiang’s have come to her defense today. According to some Weibo commenters, the people who are criticizing her are “braindead single feminists” or “internet trolls projecting their own unhappiness onto Papi.”

At the time of writing, Papi Jiang’s Mother Day post and the one addressing her mastitis seem to have been removed.

By now, online discussions have also shifted to address what feminism actually is – and whether or not those attacking Papi over her child’s name are feminists or not.

“Some feminists on Weibo are truly ridiculous,” another person writes: “They talk about feminism all the time, but are quick to point their finger at women, what’s that about?”

“I am a real feminist,” one commenter writes: “The core of feminism is all about giving women the freedom to choose. This also means that women have the freedom to give their child the dad’s name.”

To read more about Chinese feminism, also see:
Liberal Writer Li Jingrui Angers Chinese Feminists: “Weaklings and Warriors Are Not Defined by Gender”
Is There No Chinese Feminism?

To read more about Papi Jiang, check out these articles.

By Manya Koetse (@manyapan)
With contributions from Miranda Barnes
Follow @whatsonweibo

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.

©2020 Whatsonweibo. All rights reserved. Do not reproduce our content without permission – you can contact us at info@whatsonweibo.com.

Continue Reading

China Memes & Viral

IKEA China Masturbation Video Causes Consternation on Weibo

For some people, IKEA apparently feels a little too much like home.

Manya Koetse

Published

on

First published
 

A video of a woman masturbating in an IKEA store in China has gone viral among Chinese social media users.

In the video, a woman is filmed while fondling herself within an IKEA store while regular customers are shopping in the background. The video is rumored to have been filmed at the store’s Guangzhou location.

In the 2-minute video that is making its rounds, the woman is first posing on an IKEA sofa – without any pants on – pleasuring herself while another person films her.

Another shot shows her masturbating on an IKEA bed with multiple customers passing by in the background, seemingly not noticing the woman’s behavior.

In a third scene, the woman continues to masturbate within one of the store’s showrooms.

Since the pornographic video has spread across Chinese social media like wildfire, IKEA China released a statement on its Weibo account on May 9th, in which it condemned the video.

The Swedish furniture company stated that it is “committed to providing home inspiration for the public” and strives to provide a “safe, comfortable, and healthy shopping experience and environment” for its customers. IKEA further writes it “firmly opposes and condemns” the video.

In 2015, a similar incident went trending on Chinese social media regarding a video of a naked girl and a man having sex in a fitting room at the Sanlitun location of Japanese clothing brand Uniqlo.

Because of the unlikely combination of a ‘sex video’ and ‘Uniqlo’, many people wondered at the time if the viral video was actually a secret marketing campaign meant to spice up the image of Uniqlo – something that was denied by the chain.

Later on, five people were arrested over the sex tape and the personal details of the woman in the video were revealed and shared by Chinese web users.

“This is the 2020 Uniqlo,” one commenter said about today’s IKEA controversy.

Although IKEA has filed a police report against the people involved in the making of the video that has now gone viral, the identities of the woman and her accomplice are not yet known or revealed at the time of writing.

Some netizens suggest the video was filmed some time ago – in the pre-COVID-19 era – since the people in the background are not wearing face masks.

The controversy has not made the IKEA brand any less popular on Chinese social media – on the contrary. On Weibo, thousands of web users have posted about the issue, with many flocking to the IKEA Weibo account to comment.

Underneath an IKEA post promoted with the brand’s slogan “Your Home, Your Way” – that now seems a bit dubious – people are leaving all sorts of comments about the video.

Although some people express anger over the woman’s vulgar behavior, there are also many people who seem to find the controversy somewhat amusing, and many others who want to know where they can find the video.

“I’m asking for a friend,” is one of the comments that is currently recurring the most in threads about the video.

By Manya Koetse (@manyapan)
With contributions from Miranda Barnes
Follow @whatsonweibo

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.

©2020 Whatsonweibo. All rights reserved. Do not reproduce our content without permission – you can contact us at info@whatsonweibo.com.

Continue Reading
Advertisement
Advertisement

Support What’s on Weibo

If you enjoy What’s on Weibo and support the way we report the latest trends in China, you could consider becoming a What's on Weibo patron:
Donate

Facebook

Instagram

Advertisement

Contribute

Got any tips? Or want to become a contributor or intern at What's on Weibo? Email us as at info@whatsonweibo.com.

Popular Reads