Monday, September 12, 2016

Leftover women on bare branches

One of the ideas that I get across to students when discussing the two-hundred year transformation is this: We may equally think of the transformation as a history of women.  The past two hundred years has changed, almost overnight, women's roles for the better, and many of the global challenges of today relate to societies (read men!) that are unable to come to terms with this new woman.

Nowhere has the transformation been anywhere as rapid as have been the changes in China.  Not too long ago, we were reading about foot-binding practices in China, and seemingly with a snap of a finger, women have become independent and powerful.  The "traditional" idea of the barefoot and pregnant woman in the kitchen has given way to educated women who are challenging the old ways.  One of the most traditional institutions--marriage--and, therefore, having children, is rapidly falling apart there:
Fewer Chinese people are getting married, a shift with profound implications for China’s economic and social life. The decline in marriages means a decline in the number of babies, and potentially less spending on homes, appliances and other family-related purchases — the kind of spending China needs to drive economic growth.
"Fewer Chinese people are getting married" masks the real story, which should be told as "fewer Chinese women are getting married"
Specialists in economics, demography and sociology say some of those women are delaying marriage to build careers and establish financial footing, resulting in a more empowered female population that no longer views marriage as the only route to security.
“Because they are highly educated, they hold well-paid jobs, they lose the financial incentive to get married,” says Zhang Xiaobo, a professor of economics at Peking University’s National School of Development.
Ever since graduate school, I have understood that education is one heck of a contraceptive.  Typically, the more educated a woman is, the fewer children she has; the fertility story is the same whether it is the First Lady in the White House or women in SmallTown, India.

The higher the percentage of educated women in society, then one of my favorite topics kicks in as well: save the males.  Increasingly men come across as “not mature or irresponsible.”
China still faces yawning gaps in wages and employment between men and women, according to surveys. But women made up more than half of undergraduate students in 2014, compared with about 46 percent a decade earlier, and accounted for nearly half of graduate students, government figures show.
Cheng Guping, a 30-year-old from Hangzhou in eastern China who works at a start-up and is pursuing a doctorate in economics, is one of those women. She cited her professional and educational obligations as the reason she and a recent boyfriend broke up. “I felt that our level of affection wasn’t enough yet,” she said. “I want to see how far I can go on my own.”
Of course, parents who grew up with the older ideas are having a tough time with the new woman; unmarried women referred to as ‘sheng nu’--leftover women.
By government definition, a "leftover woman" refers to any unmarried female above the age of 27.
There is a government definition for this? Yuk!
"Marriage in China is extremely patriarchal and women need to see that being single is something to be celebrated, not to be ashamed of," she says.
"But I believe that this trend of women who choose to be single and independent is going to increase and this is the beginning."
This is the beginning, yes.  The beginnings of the end of men, if they continue to be “not mature or irresponsible."  Good for women, I say!


4 comments:

Ramesh said...

China is indeed a heavily male dominated society. And yes, women are making such rapid progress that as with everything in China, it takes your breath away. Just 100 years ago, foot binding was common. And now .....

More power to the ambitious, confident, woman. Yay Yay lady.

But that it should correspondingly lead to man's decline is something I don't subscribe to at all. We have debated this before.

Sriram Khé said...

What is there to debate about? I never said that the rise of women will lead to the decline of men. You always seem to skip over the caveats that I have when I blog on these matters; in this post, I had included "if they continue to be “not mature or irresponsible." It turns out that many young men--in the US, China, India, ...--act way less mature and way less responsible than their female counterparts, primarily because these young men continue to imagine that they have inherited their grandfather's world. The more the young men live in their imaginary and videogame world, the more the men will decline. It is NOT the rise of women that is leading to the decline of men.

Anne in Salem said...

It all takes time. 100 or 200 years is nothing in Chinese history - a mere blip. Men will catch up to the new powerful women when they finally realize they have no choice. Maybe in another couple of generations, with these women as the trailblazers showing all the younger men and women they have options, there will be the Chinese equivalent of Gloria Steinem or Condoleezza Rice or Christine Lagarde.

Sriram Khé said...

Interesting examples of powerful women you have there ... for a die-hard Republican to list Steinem ... OMG, maybe it was really a flock of pigs flying ;)

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