I wouldn't call myself a flag-waving jingoist, but there are times I'm pretty happy to be American — while watching that YouTube clip of Whitney Houston singing the Star Spangled Banner in windpants before the Super Bowl or eating a hot dog while keeping score at a baseball game or stalking the White House's Flickr account for cute pictures of Bo, for example. And I'm especially grateful to live in the US of A when I read about how shitty things can be for women who live elsewhere. Case in point: the existence of China's "leftover women" — educated, professional ladies who dared turn 25 without marrying themselves off and, until recently, were told they were doomed to be alone and stigmatized forever.
The problem is, basically, that when it comes to wives, Chinese men like 'em young. South of 25-young. But as anyone who has ever done the dizzying math to figure out how old they'd be when they finished grad school if they started this fall knows (38. Doesn't matter how old you are now; you'll be 38 by the time you're done with grad school), higher education takes time and commitment that makes pursuing personal goals like marriage and babymaking tough.
Prior to the last generation or so, not many Chinese women were in a position to have to choose between career and family because their roles were more limited by tradition, but now that higher education is a much more widely pursued endeavor, an entire class of women is emerging from the ivory tower with their fancy progressive new-fangled degrees only to run smack dab into old fashioned misogyny and sexism. To be unmarried and 25, in China, is to be undesirable and ridiculed and forever alone. All the magna cum laudes in the world can't bring the boys to the yard. And it sucks.
Thankfully, a new mini-movement seeks to confront that old skool piggery and teaching women that there's no need to panic if they're not married by the time they age out of The Real World. Author Joy Chen is the poster girl for the movement, and her book "Do Not Marry Before Age 30" is both wildly successful and important in changing the idea of "leftover woman" into something more desirable — the "single noble," a role which sounds fucking awesome for China, and fucking regular for my group of friends here in the US:
They are electing to stay single and delay marriage by 10 to 15 years.
"There has been a relaxation in sexual activity so that young women can engage and it's not as frowned on," he said. "They can travel, so they don't have to be messing around with mothers-in-law, who treat the young bride, some as young as 15 and 16, as a slave. ... They manage their own money."
But Chen's work to promote the "single noble" woman instead of shaming her for being "leftover" isn't without its detractors. Because of China's ass-backward cultural attitude toward baby girls combined with years of sex-selective abortion, the country's got another looming problem on its hands: leftover men who can't find wives because all the women are too busy not giving a fuck.
"This kind of behavior is starting to disturb the male-female marriage-age equilibrium," he said. "The 'single nobles' phenomenon is taking away even more potential brides. This is a big issue these days in China."
As career women wait to marry, and because of the lopsided birth rate favoring males, "a million extra boys are not finding brides, according to Polston.
"We estimate 45 to 55 million boys who, when they are marital age, won't find girls available to marry," Polston said.
Guess that means it's time to hit the gym and sign up for those cooking classes, dudes.
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