Shaming Sheng Nu: career Chinese women are are not leftovers

The concept of Sheng Nu has ruined the lives of many career driven Chinese women ... photo by CC user Aldousleung on wikimedia commons

Think that women (more or less) have equal rights in most developed nations around the world? This assumption would be wrong, as there are many nations where social conventions are markedly different from those in the West.

In many Far East nations such as China, there has been a long-held social norm that women are to be married before the age of 25; if they are still single after that age, it is generally assumed that there is something (be it something physical, emotional, or mental) wrong with them.

Even in today’s world, women that fall into this category are deemed as Sheng Nu, which translates roughly in English as “left over women”.

This characterization is offensive enough by itself, but considering the fact that women in today’s world are choosing to pursue careers and their own happiness over the expectations of others, outdated social conventions such as these are just plain insulting.

Chinese women are expected to do it all these days

As China has industrialized over the past generation, the pool of available male workers shrank to the point where females were encouraged to join the workforce alongside them.

Yet, with all the pressure that years of schooling and a demanding career path places on these women, they are still expected to live up to generations-old expectations that dictates that they should be married to a man before their 25th birthday.

Considering the intensive series of tests, essays and other academic work that female students have to deal with, and the intense work loads that entry-level employees have to deal with upon their entrance to the world of employment, finding the time for dating and courting a potential suitor is often limited.

What’s more, women have begun to realize that they don’t have to settle for whoever they can find within this short time frame, as they have begun to realize their own personal power, electing to delay marriage until they can find a mate that actually resonates with their inner spirit.

With evidence suggesting that meeting all these expectations at once is unrealistic for the vast majority of women in China, you’d think that cultural, political and economic leaders would understand that expecting them to enter into a marriage so early in life would be asking too much.

Clearly, this hasn’t happened, leading to a situation where many Chinese females deal with unhealthy levels of stress in an effort to save face with family, friends, and society at large.

Would you let your parents play matchmaker for you against your will?

Even if Chinese women insist on charting their own course through life, their parents, who are very much rooted in the way things used to be, will often choose to seek out a suitor on their behalf.

This is often done behind their children’s back, leading to an unpleasant surprise when their mom and their dad show up on their doorstep one day with a random man in tow.

While some of these unanticipated dates are recommended by friends of friends, many are recruited through marriage markets, which can be found in many major Chinese cities.

Here, single people or surrogates walk around with poster ads that tout all the attributes of themselves, or that of the single people that they represent.

No matter how these forced unions are coordinated, it comes as a nasty surprise to Chinese women that have poured the majority of their attention into building a successful life, which has led to them becoming accustomed to governing their own affairs, and determining their own destiny.

Even so, many play along with these unwanted arrangements, as they do not seek to embarrass nor shame their parents. No woman, whether they live in China or anywhere else in the world, should have to deal with awkward situations like this.

Despite ingrained traditions, things are starting to change for the better

Tradition and ritual are very powerful influencers in human societies, and nowhere else is this more true than in China.

Yet, the way we live our lives is shifting dramatically thanks to the influence of the internet. This worldwide virtual forum has catalyzed unprecedented changes in many facets of human society, from the economy to long held social conventions.

Connected to each other in a way that has never been seen before in human history, women in China have been able to share ideas with each other, and access philosophies beyond its borders.

This has charted the course for the 21st century Chinese woman, a person that is not necessarily governed by old philosophies, but by the idioms that speak to the deepest parts of their soul.

Chronicling a historic surge in Chinese female empowerment


On April 6th, a film was released to the world that covers the injustice of Chinese marriage markets, and the women that are actively resisting an age-old social expectation that no longer makes sense in today’s modern world.

By watching this movie, you will see how the iron will of a few passionate Chinese women has the potential to change the long-term potential for other single females that might not realize that they too have the power to rise up and demand that their family, their friends, and average citizens on the street treat them with the respect that they deserve.