Teaching “Leftover Women” to Find an Elite Husband

At Daily Life, Monica Tan tells of her experience alongside scores of China’s “leftover women” (剩女)—the ranks of successful women in China who choose to remain single amid societal pressure and a skewed sex ratio—at a Shanghai conference encouraging marriage as a business decision:

Crammed together in the company’s office foyer, we’re here today to learn about the “business of marriage”. Many participants have been lured by the underdog story of founder Liang Ya Li, and following a long build-up, a staff member presses play on a thumping pop track, and Liang emerges from a side door to enthusiastic applause.

[…]In the eyes of the Ya Li Marriage Quotient, the traditional Chinese approach to love, yuanfen (fate or serendipity) is a fool’s approach to quality marriage. Instead Liang and her staff borrow concepts from the business world to show women the game isn’t over: do we want our value to “depreciate or appreciate” over time? A truly powerful brand has “timeless and international appeal”. The success of luxury products like Ferrari, LV and Hermes, comes from “forever capitalising on one’s advantages, and turning disadvantages into style”.

[…]In their client’s quest to land a happy marriage, the company offer tools such as the “5P system“: “positioning” (establish personal goals), “ponds” (target populations), “present” (create files on potential candidates), “prospects” (filter candidates) and finally “partner” (getting hitched!). This strategic approach appeals to women such as office worker Sharon, 31, whose last boyfriend was four years her junior – an age gap that didn’t bother her, but when she was ready to marry, he wasn’t. She says today’s lecture has taught her the importance of “customisation” and that “life requires good planning and the ability to take action”.

[…]When I ask Sharon to elect who is giving her the most pressure to find a husband: society, parents, relatives, friends or herself, she abruptly answers: “Society”. In this prevailing social climate, “leftovers” are made to feel it’s the last hour of the dance, and they’re standing by the wall while couples dance cheek-to-cheek. Which makes Liang’s message not to simply marry, but to marry well – while hardly a feminist catch cry – almost subversive. [Source]

The pejorative term “leftover women” has been rejected by many as an unfair admonishment. For more on “leftover women” and women’s rights in China, see prior CDT coverage, and follow the work of Tsinghua University’s Leta Hong Fincher, author of a forthcoming book on gender inequality in China.


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