China’s ‘Left Over’ Women

Single women over the age of 27 in the People’s Republic of China are called ‘left over women’ or ‘sheng nu,’ a derogatory term meant to chide women into ceding independence for marriage.

Social expectations on women to get married have made it a social stigma for Chinese women to be independent and unmarried past a certain age; yet, many question the legitimacy of such notions and even label it a patriarchal tool used to oppress women.

Lita HongFincher with Tsinghua University in Beijing thinks that the term ‘left over women’ was coined by a government desperate to overcome a looming demographic crisis as China’s population ages.

Ever since 2007, the state media have aggressively disseminated this term, in surveys, and news reports, and columns, and cartoons and pictures, basically stigmatizing educated women over the age of 27 or 30 who are still single.

Lita Hong-Fincher, Tsinghua University in Beijing