Someone forgot to send me the memo on how October 19 was Write About Leftover Women Day. Aren’t I part of the club? After all, I used to write about a special leftover woman in my life named Teacher Wang, and I could have updated my readers on how she’s doing and whether she’s drawing anymore Venn diagrams.
Or maybe no one bothered to clue me in because I’m just a wannabe fiction writer with a dinky blog, not a cool journalist attached to major publications. Yesterday, both The Atlantic and Hong Kong’s South China Morning Post unleashed some pretty standard, predictable articles about how China’s single ladies are all leftover and feisty and independent and don’t need a man to be happy or engage in aromatherapy, rah rah rah, etc.
Is this attention to single women in China new? Of course not. Almost exactly a year ago, I remember a similar wave of leftover women articles (like these in CNNGo and NPR) before I blogged about my teacher. Back then I thought it was such a hot topic, but apparently the same stuff is regurgitated at the same time every year. Teacher Wang was only one of many.
So, dear readers, if you aspire to publish a China story in major media, you should remember to pitch ‘China’s leftover women’ articles timed for October-November 2012. To help you out, below is Shanghai Shiok’s advice on how to write a serious piece about China’s leftover women for prestigious publications, illustrated with examples from the recent ‘single women’ articles in The Atlantic and SCMP:
1. Stalk some educated, successful single women who are old but not too old (maybe in their early thirties) until they are willing to talk about how happy and independent they are. Examples:
Wei Pan, a 33-year-old biomedical engineer can’t seem to find Mr. Right. A fresh-faced woman with an M.D. and Ph.D. under her belt, Wei should have her pick of men. [from The Atlantic]
Jakii Zhu is among a growing number of women in China who are finding their paths to happiness and financial independence through hard work and a good education rather than a marriage certificate. [from SCMP]
2. Show that these women once gave love a chance or have actively looked for love, so that the audience doesn’t immediately think they are cold-hearted bitches.
Three years ago, Zhu’s family tried to persuade her to quit her job and marry her first love in the United States. Instead, she decided to end the eight-year, long-distance relationship as it had grown impractical. [SCMP]
She has tried everything: online dating, set ups, social clubs like Toastmasters. She even took her search to the outdoor marriage market at Shanghai’s People’s Park, where, every weekend, parents of the unwed blanket the park with their children’s resumes. Wei, who went with her mother, was disappointed that few singles actually showed up. [The Atlantic]
3. Throw in the really cool term ‘leftover women,’ or shengnu in Mandarin. The phenomenon of educated women being picky/unable to find a spouse sounds so much cooler with a catchy label like that.
Juggling work, family and friends is a fulfilling life for women such as Zhu who are educated, open-minded and goal-oriented. But when they get to a certain age, usually around 28, some people begin to label them shengnu, Putonghua for “women left on the shelf”. They also hear others call them “3S women”, which stands for “single, seventies (the decade in which many of them were born) and stuck”. [SCMP]
The Chinese media has been buzzing with stories about urban single women like Wei, so-called sheng nu, which literally translates to “leftover women.” While countrywide, the gender imbalance, which tallies up to an average of 120 males for every 100 females, might seem to favor women, there’s another force working against this class of ladies. The country’s long-held tradition of marriage hypergamy, a practice in which women marry up in terms of income, education and age, means that the most highly-educated women often end up without partners. [The Atlantic]
4. Stick to the ‘fact’ that men want to marry down, women want to marry up. Sometimes there are exceptions where leftover women are willing to date down, but if you pay too much attention to these cases, you don’t really have a leftover woman story, ‘coz your subject wouldn’t be leftover. Ignore exceptions, stick to the rule.
Sometimes, men are intimidated by her accomplishments. Six years ago, on an online dating site, she met a primary school teacher who hadn’t even completed college. After many long phone calls, she could sense a spark. When they met in person, she started falling for him. But soon after, he pulled away. She still doesn’t understand what went wrong. [The Atlantic]
Just as some Chinese men sought out women who were less successful than themselves, Huang said, some single Chinese women seemed to want a smarter, more capable man.
Women like Zhu would like to settle down, but not by lowering her standards. “Increasingly, more women regard dating as a social life rather than just a road to marriage,” Zhu said. “The ultimate goal of dating is not only marriage but also fun and self-growth.” [SCMP]
5. End with an air of contentment. Remember, aromatherapy has all the answers.
“I like reading a book with the smell of aroma therapy while listening to lounge or jazz music on a rainy day,” she said. “How luxurious that is. But it’s unthinkable for a married woman with a kid.” [SCMP]
6. Also, pretend no hot girl-on-girl experimentation goes on at these shengnu club meetings.
In a cheeky response to the mocking title, women have launched “sheng nu” social clubs across the country. At a Starbucks not far from Shanghai’s People’s Park, the founders of one such club, which boasts more than 1,000 members, met on a hot summer night to talk about single living in Shanghai. [The Atlantic]
Good luck, and looking forward to reading your forthcoming leftover women articles!