Wife sentence – Rachel DeWoskin

In the Times of London, Foreign Babes in Beijing author Rachel DeWoskin wrote last month about the phenomena of ernai (二奶):

Ernai are a modern version of concubines, as common as colds. They are women kept in luxury apartments and goods by married lovers – mostly overseas businessmen and officials but, increasingly, by men at every level of society. The most successful kept women represent entrepreneurs of a sort, floating in a sink-or-swim economy and providing enticing models for what the new China can offer: genuine Prada stilettos, diamonds, iPods and sprawling villas. They work out in the swankiest health clubs, drive Minis, BMWs and Audis, and carry lapdogs in Gucci handbags. They have role models more glamorous than those of most aspiring careerists: from Mao Zedong’s fourth wife, Madame Jiang Qing, to the actress Gong Li’s gorgeous fourth-wife character in Zhang Yimou’s movie Raise the Red Lantern.

And yet, like women everywhere who trade sex for money, ernai are vulnerable to abuse, unprotected by degrees, careers, or backup plans, and often deserted in their thirties. An increasing number of notable ernai now lead lives complicated by corruption and scandal. They are forbidden by law but flaunted in practice, socially both celebrated and condemned, just as concubines have always been. [Full text]



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