China’s View on Female Education and Marriage

A recent article in the New York Times, written by Leta Hong Fincher, focused on China’s Leftover Women (剩女). I thought, what an interesting title to catch the readers’ attention.

At the same time, I remembered the derogatory term Christmas Cake used for unmarried women in Japan. In the early 90s, an unmarried Japanese woman was referred to as such. Back then, I was in my early 30s and independent,  and I needed clarification for this term. I was told a woman over 25 is not desirable for marriage, just like a day-old Christmas Cake. Ah so desuka.

I was hoping this outlook would improve for Asian women (in general), but it seems China is still holding on to its very traditional perception of female roles in society.

During my first reading of the above article (link below), I kept just shaking my head in disbelief in what the author shared in her writing. During my second reading – one just for good measure – I started smiling, and yes, sometimes even laughed out loud.

Quoting one part from the website of the Women’s Federation *:

Pretty girls don’t need a lot of education to marry into a rich and powerful family, but girls with an average or ugly appearance will find it difficult. These kinds of girls hope to further their education in order to increase their competitiveness. The tragedy is, they don’t realize that as women age, they are worth less and less, so by the time they get their M.A. or Ph.D., they are already old, like yellowed pearls.

Quoting Ms. Fincher’s words:

* In 2007, the Women’s Federation defined “leftover” women (sheng nu) as unmarried women over the age of 27 and China’s Ministry of Education added the term to its official lexicon. Since then, the Women’s Federation Web site has run articles stigmatizing educated women who are still single.

– end of quote –

I guess they see the age of 28 and above like an overly ripe commodity which is no longer wanted on the market. On the other hand, I wonder who makes up this Women’s Federation. Women themselves? I doubt it. Unless these are pretty women who have been employed by this Women’s Federation to write what they have been told by powerful old men.

See for yourself what else Ms. Fincher has to share with us in her post China’s “Leftover” Women.

Be prepared for a good reminder how different our values are. Sad to say, this stigma has also increased the suicide rate among young women, the ones who fear the sheng nu status.

Another reason for China in strongly encouraging women to consider early marriage is the current statistics for university graduates. Close to 52% of all graduates are female, and hence, the Chinese government might worry about its male-dominated employment situation.

Where once bound feet was a mark of beauty, being a prerequisite for finding a husband, as well as a way to marry into money, the current China seems to put a tight wrap on women’s education. When young women are being discouraged from higher education and careers, in order to find a husband at a young age, then we are looking at some dark times again.


Quote of the Day

Educate a woman, educate a nation.

– Fanti Proverb (Ghana) –

Quote of the Day

Words are the breath of the heart.

– Kenyan proverb –

Never Marry a Woman with Big Feet: Women in Proverbs from Around the World

Working Women in Germany

Today’s International Herald Tribune carried an article about women in the former Communist East and the former West. The writer, Katrin Bennhold, pointed out how advanced and modern women in the old East had been – even before our time.

Some interesting facts she revealed about women in the former West:

* They could be divorced for being a bad housewife until the 60s.

* They needed their husbands’ permission to work until 1977.

In contrast to Eastern women, a woman’s life in the West must have seemed  mundane. With schools closing and kindergartens closing at lunch time and kindergartens, most women had to stay home as part-time jobs were scarce. Private day care was unheard of and a working mother was easily labeled a Rabenmutter. In general, girls (especially from the country side) were not encouraged to attend secondary schools. No schooling was needed to make a gute Hausfrau.

Women in the former East worked, had kids in full day care, and the term Rabenmutter did not exist in their society.

It might be a noble thing to be a stay-home mom, but it might be more beneficial for women to be part of the work force, even after the beginning of motherhood.

Read the full article In Germany, West isn’t alway best

How to Address a Woman

After having read Key’s Corner most recent post International? Not us Mate! about the difficulty of some international companies getting the mailing address right in Germany, it got me thinking  of my husband’s aunt who still addresses envelopes to me in a queer way. From her perspective, I have no name, as her letters are addressed to me in my husband’s name.

She did this 20 years ago and is still doing today. Aunt M. sends me letters the old-fashioned way. It is not only via postal service versus e-mail, but she addresses me with my husband’s full name: Mrs., his first name, his middle name and his last name (the last name we share). Using a random name for an example, she posts her letters to me: Mrs. John Elsmer Smith.

In our early years of marriage, I would have loved to tell her to address me by MY name. I did not see myself as a man’s property. I am sure Women’s Rights would have supported me on this.

But nowadays I just find her way of addressing me quaint and nostalgic. It is a petty issue in a world full of other challenges.

Most times, when a letter is addressed to Mrs. husband’s last name, I automatically put it on my husband’s desk. I make no connection while fleetingly reading Mrs. and my husband’s name. My husband then returns the envelope, having to point out it was addressed to me, but not in my name. Shoot. I had missed this little letter s behind Mr. again.

Does the letter s, being the only differentiation between two identities, stand for servant? Mister’s servant.

Nevertheless, I have kept these envelopes to show them to my grandchildren some day. I want to tell them about the first time women were allowed to vote, to drive a car, … and to be called by their own name.

It just makes me wonder. How many women out there in the U.S.A. (or other countries for that matter) still get mail addressed to them as the Mrs. of their husbands?

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