China is a nation gripped in fluctuation. A Sichuan restaurant that I went to last week will likely be torn down and replaced with a hot pot establishment, usually in a blink or virtually overnight when I’m sound asleep.
A heady brew of economic ping-pong is at play. China is charging into business with far flung countries, beyond their established trading partners in Asia and the Middle East. Brazil is providing China with soybeans, crude oil and metals at an astounding rate (about USD 11.19 billion).
In February of this year, Canadian Prime Minister, Stephen Harper accomplished a historical feat that had been years in process: the signing of a “declaration of intent” for a Foreign Investment Promotion and Protection Agreement (FIPA). Although trade with China has been steadily rising since 2009 (a staggering 38%), there remained uncertainty with the solidity of foreign investments. FIPA should ensure equitable treatment of foreign investors and introduce legally binding accountability for both countries. It will take years to finalize the legal wranglings, yet according to eager Canadian companies, this leap is a flag of triumph flapping in the wind.
Meanwhile, China is a child with an uncontrollable growth spurt, which is partially exciting to witness, and partially unnerving.
The social landscape of China is also morphing at incredible speeds. The phenomenon that women can now not only be financially independent, but possibly earn more money than a man is relatively new.
The backlash to this is being labelled a ‘shengnu’. And what is this seemingly innocuous term? Translation: leftover food.
I’m referring to a Salon piece that gripped me, incensed me, had me at the title.
In the China of the past, women married up one or two social classes. Doing so would ensure financial security and status ranking. Things are changing, but not in favor of females. Roseann Lake, the journalist of the Salon article, spells a dismal picture. Though women are surpassing men in obtaining MBA’s and a good lot of billionaires are women, the social sting of marriage is all encompassing.
Marriage, child-rearing and maintaining the family circle are still beliefs that are precious in China, precious in many corners of the globe, but what women in China experience is the stigma of being single and financially solvent. The numbers of Chinese men have shrunk due to the one-child policy, leaving us to conclude that the pick of women should be enticing.
Yet, Chinese men don’t marry laterally – they marry down – remember? And Chinese women? Well…
If you are educated, capable and self-aware, this is the worst recipe for a Chinese wife. If you earn more than your potential Chinese husband, count yourself out. If you are over 25, even remotely close to 30 years old, you are damaged goods.
This is when that newly popular word “shengnu” (leftover) is pulled out, a sharpened knife at the ready:
“The Communist Party sponsored All China Women’s Federation, China’s most influential women’s organization, published the results of a survey that breaks women down into different categories of “leftover.” Beginning at 25, it details how women must “fight” and “hunt” for a partner, so as not to wind up alone. By 28, it implies the heat is really on, telling women “they must triumph.” Between 31 and 35, these women are called “advanced leftovers,” and by 35, a single woman is the “ultimate” leftover.
I have one. An official title. “Ultimate” leftover. Oh finally.
This crisis of marriage is not restricted to China. Lake includes the Atlantic article written by Kate Bolick that caused a stir. It seems American women are suffering the exact same fate. The pool of educated, American men who earn more than their equally educated female counterparts is wretched.
I’m not attempting to criticize the social intricacies of China.
I bring you my personal experience. The events I witnessed from my mother’s life – one that left her devoid of dreams or enslaved to my father’s whims.
My mother was expected to not work outside of the home, have dinner set on the table and even do things like clip my father’s nails.
Did I win the lottery for being born in Canada and not China or Hong Kong?
I grew up abundant, compared to a woman like my mother. I saw other women’s choices, could hold that concept in my hand, feel it’s weight. My lovely mother was constricted by duty and her expected role in life.
Me – I had the choice and sank my teeth in greedily.
I certainly don’t earn more than a male professional at this moment, so on that score perhaps I’m not as “leftover” as the others.
To be blind again though? To unlearn the knowledge I have or sever the independence I earned? Sorry to crush all the highly educated men threatened by a lady who cares little about marrying up – going backward is unthinkable. Simply wrong on so many levels. A life without choice or even passion? I’ll take my flings with the pool boy, thank you very much.
I actually relish the idea of being a slice of pizza. I mean, pizza is really tasty. Especially with a cold beer.