More and more modern Chinese women are choosing to wait to get married, despite the social pressures and the stigma associated with being a single, thirty-something woman in China. They don’t want to make compromises; they don’t want to get married for the wrong reasons; they don’t want to rush into marriage just to get their society “off their backs.” So they’re labeled “sheng nu.” In response to this public disparagement, these women have formed “sheng nu” clubs.
These brave Chinese women prefer to hold out for the right man, and they have every right and the luxury to do so. Because of their supposed undesirable age and unexpectedly intimidating educational and career achievements (at least, as both are perceived by most Chinese men), they are finding it extremely difficult to find a suitable partner.
But many of these women are in no rush to get married at all, and they have learned to simply shrug off the criticisms that have been thrown at them for choosing to stay single at a time when single, Chinese men are just piling up, especially in the rural areas. In fact, the number of bachelors in China is increasing at such an alarming rate that many experts worry about the real possibility of serious social unrest among the male population.
As part of the “sheng nu” stigma, these women are also criticized for having standards that are just “too high.” Given their great achievements, many naturally look for mates who have equal or better qualifications as/than they have. For most, however, material richness is not a factor, richness in character is; and they simply want to find love.
In a society where singles are pressured to marry and have children before they reach a certain age, women, especially, practically have to deal with an “ultimatum” of sorts. Attaining masters and/or doctoral degrees take time, after all; so does pursuing career ambitions. So they can either give up these personal goals and give in to the social pressure to marry before they reach 30, or bear the ridicule for going against tradition.
At the same time, these women, having explored the greater possibilities that their society and the world outside it have to offer, have realized that they also have better marriage options. They do not have to get married at so and so age just because their society expects them to; they do not have to marry the next “suitable” man that comes along so they won’t be seen as selfish, greedy, or odd.
Perhaps it is their higher educational attainments, or perhaps it is their greater exposure to western ideas; in any case, they have realized that marriage should not be mandatory and it should not just be about mutual convenience. They can actually wait for and actively seek out love.
More importantly, they can choose to be with a man who will appreciate, respect, and cherish them for their accomplishments, whereas marriage with a Chinese man often means they will have to give up their careers. There’s also the fact that the “national pastime” of Chinese men is having affairs.
Women gaining more autonomy and breaking away from traditions are a common trend in many other countries all over the world. Unlike their counterparts in the west, however, these modern Chinese women enjoy their independence but still desire a family founded on good values, and a marriage on love, loyalty, and respect.
So these brave, independent, and highly desirable women of China have developed a “healthy” way of dealing with the disparaging “sheng nu” label. They have joined forced and formed clubs all over the country. In Shanghai alone, one such club has upwards of 1,000 members. They get together regularly to discuss their “social status” and the challenges they encounter in their quest for a potential mate. At the same time, they also share with each other their hopes of finding their Mr. Right one day.
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