The Shengnu Dilemma in Modern China
An analysis of the issues facing the single professional woman in modern China and the social construction of the shengnu "problem".
# 153898 | 0 words | 0 sources | 2014 |
Published on Jun 15, 2014 in Asian Studies (East Asian Cultures) , Gender and Sexuality (Sexual Politics) , Asian Studies (General)
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From the Paper:"Shengnu is a uniquely Chinese term that is roughly translatable to "leftover women," and today, it is also a widely-known social phenomenon. The Chinese search engine Baidu shows that "shengnu" is one of the most frequently searched words, with more than14 million search results. By the start of 2008, the Chinese Ministry of Education declared that shengnu would enter the dictionary based on "circulation and popularity" (Lake). Shengnu is more precisely defined by Baike, China's user-generated Wikipedia, as "modern, single metropolitan women with high education, high income, and high age," further elaborating, "because they are professional, intellectual, white-collar, career women, they are too intimidating to be taken" ("Shengnu"). Interestingly, as China marches towards economic progress and greater female career success, its single professional women are marginalized.Shengnu have been unfairly sensationalized in the Chinese media because they do not fit within the paradigm of the ideal woman--namely, a married woman--thereby turning a non-problem into a socially constructed problem,but a closer analysis reveals more nuanced cultural explanations for their problematization.
Chinese women today are unquestionably being empowered by the economy and have adopted a Western outlook on love. Women born in the 1970s and 1980s experienced the benefits of Deng Xiaoping's new economic liberalization policies, asfemales in professional fields has increased by 23% between 1990 and 2000 ("2000 China National Survey" 13). Accordingly, women's spending power have improved: the employment rate of Chinese women between 18 and 50 is 72% and the average yearly income of middle class Chinese professional women is more than 17,000 RMB ("Third Survey on Chinese Women's Social Status" 4). In fact, most urban women now have their own independent income("Third Survey on Chinese Women's Social Status" 4).This is undoubtedly a positive outcome, since the economic freedom has given women the choice to remain single and make "essential decisions in their marital lives" (Lin 229). This freedom also makes some women question the necessity of marriage. In fact, the past two decades has seen the Chinese divorce rate skyrocket by 500% (Lin 231).The newfound prosperity that many women enjoy today is a sign of personal autonomy, so the shengnu phenomenon objectively should not be considered a problem because economic liberalization is, needless to say, a positive indicator of a country's liberalization and development."
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