China’s ‘Leftover’ Women

In the International Herald Tribune, Leta Hong Fincher translates articles posted on the website of the All-China Women’s Federation, the state agency tasked with “protecting” women’s rights and interests. Instead, as Hong Fincher finds, the articles insult and berate women who choose higher education over marriage, especially those who reach the age of 27 and are still single, known as “leftover women”:

After knocking some good sense into those misguided women who pursue a higher education, the column accuses educated, single women of sleeping around and having degenerate morals:

Many highly educated “leftover women” are very progressive in their thinking and enjoy going to nightclubs to search for a one-night stand, or they become the mistress of a high official or rich man. It is only when they have lost their youth and are kicked out by the man, that they decide to look for a life partner. Therefore, most “leftover women” do not deserve our sympathy.

Glad we got that straight. Now, why would China’s state feminist agency conduct a scare-mongering campaign against single, educated women?

Curious, I searched the Women’s Federation Web site and found that it posted its first article on “leftover” women in 2007, shortly after China’s State Council issued an edict on strengthening the Population and Family Planning program to address “unprecedented population pressures.” These pressures include the sex-ratio imbalance — which “causes a threat to social stability” — and the “low quality of the general population, which makes it hard to meet the requirements of fierce competition for national strength,” according to the State Council. The State Council names “upgrading population quality (suzhi)” as one of its key goals, and appoints the Women’s Federation as a primary implementer of its population planning policy.

What better way to upgrade population quality than to frighten “high-quality” women into marrying and having a child for the good of the nation?

Read more about “leftover women” and about women’s rights in China via CDT. See also the All-China Women’s Federation website.

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