Not 'leftover women': New campaign challenges social pressure to marry in China

If social pressure in India to marry can be tremendous, then a new campaign suggests that it's much worse in China.

A skincare brand has launched a short video campaign, detailing the immense social stigma unmarried Chinese women beyond the age of 25 face. The video, shot in a documentary filmmaking style, and just under 5 minutes in length, is called “Marriage Market Takeover” and depicts how a group of these women challenged societal norms.

A still from the 'leftover women' campaign. Screen grab from YouTube

A still from the 'leftover women' campaign. Screen grab from YouTube

The film clip begins with images of little girls. In the background, we hear parents saying in a scolding tone: “You’re not a kid anymore. Find someone to marry. I won’t die in peace till you’re married. Don’t be so free willed.” As the girls grow into womanhood, but refuse to settle down, the parental voices label them “stubborn”, “picky” until finally, one of them uses the phrase: “You’re a leftover woman”.

Apparently in China, women over the age of 25 who aren’t married yet are called “sheng nu”. The words translate literally into: “leftover woman”.

As a montage of women enjoying a night out plays across the screen, several young women step forward to tell viewers their experiences:
“You become a subject that people talk about. And there’s so much social pressure,” says one, as we see glimpses of couples with kids and the elderly looking at single women.

And just as festivals and celebrations are the hardest time for singles all over the world, in China too it is no different. “Chinese New Year is the hardest time. So many people will ask you: How old are you? Why are you not married? You’re no longer young,” says one woman.

“People in Chinese society think that an unmarried woman is incomplete. You feel like an outsider,” says another.

Their parents feel that things were easier in the olden days, when a matchmaker found a suitable match for you and then a couple was married. Perhaps a throwback to those days is the “Shanghai Marriage Market” — an event held in abustling people’s park in the city, where parents post profiles of their sons and daughters and look for an ideal match.

What’s his income? Does he have a house, a job, a car? These are the questions that are asked. “It’s like you’re selling your daughter,” says one of the young women featured in the campaign, explaining why she doesn’t like the idea of the marriage market.

The campaign helps turn social norms on their heads by having its women subjects attend the marriage market — but only to deliver a message to their parents. Against their portraits — positioned throughout the park — the daughters put up messages reflecting their true state of mind.

“I don’t want to get married just for the sake of marriage. I won’t live happily that way,” proclaims one.

“Even if I’m alone, I will be happy, confident and have a good life,” announces another.

As they see things from their daughters’ perspective, the parents too experience a change of heart, and one of them exclaims: “It’s the leftover women who need to watch out!”

As the video ends, we see one of the women encapsulate the change in attitude she wishes would come about in the way people see her: “As opposed to the term ‘leftover woman’, I (would like the one) ‘power woman’. I'm confident. I'm independent. I love life…I’m a pretty outstanding woman.”

Now if only someone would come up with a video like that for Indian parents!

Watch the video here:

Updated Date: Apr 08, 2016 15:23 PM

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