Cultural appropriation and dilution is such a hot topic these days. It’s hard to stand in the position of privilege and make judgements regarding the beliefs and practices of others. But then, it’s hard to argue that some opinions don’t deserve to be changed. That certain people don’t deserve change.
Despite the lingering stigmas and stereotypes that plague women in the west, we are still very, very lucky. Many of us were raised by parents who taught us that we are not less than a man; that we have value above and beyond what we can produce from our wombs. We still must fight for equality in some ways, but nobody forces us into marriage. Nobody tells us we can’t marry for love. Nobody tells us that without a man, we are without worth.
It’s hard not to get passionate over the plight of women who are considered leftovers, worthless, or burdens if they’re not married by a certain age.
“Sheng Nu literally translates to ’leftover woman,” says Li Yu Xuan, a 33-year old single Chinese woman. “It refers to women over 25 who are not married.” In a new film by International Prestige Skincare Brand SK-ll, Xuan and others are voicing their concerns, asking for better understanding.
International Prestige Skincare Brand SK-ll launched #changedestiny to empower these women to shape their own destiny and help them not only achieve but also develop their own dreams and goals. They are premiering the film Marriage Market to bring awareness to the Chinese women who are pressured to get married before age 25 or face severe social stigma and judgement from society.
“Marriage markets” are an unfortunately common sight in many Chinese cities. Parents go to post, compare and match personal ads, listing the height, weight, salary, values and personality of their sons and daughters. In some cases, women are unaware that their parents have listed them.
In Marriage Market, Chinese women speak their mind about being labeled “Sheng Nu” – “leftover woman.” According to The New York Times, the term was made popular by the All-China Women’s Federation in 2007, and according to the BBC, The New York Times and China Daily, the term has been used to denounce women who, regardless of the reason, wait to marry – including women who want to marry for love.
“I don’t want to get married just for the sake of marriage. I won’t live happily that way.” – Li Yu Xuan in Marriage Market.
It’s easy to support SK-II’s positive approach in helping these women face the pressure. The film shows the marriage market in Shanghai’s People’s Park being taken over with SK-II’s own ”marriage ads” that were messages from hundreds of independent women, stating that they want to be in control of their own destiny. The women are shown to be happy, independent and confident – the opposite of the desperate image of Sheng Nus. The women tell the world how they see themselves and ask for better understanding.
These women are asking for support to help change the perception of the word. They want to reconstruct the mutual respect between generations, increase society’s understanding of women’s right to choose their paths in life freely, and take control of their destinies.
We stand with our sisters in China. You deserve to marry for love. And you are not a leftover woman.