Dressed in White

LEFTOVER WOMEN

Giorgia Wang

According to the Cambridge dictionary, culture is “the way of life, especially the general customs and beliefs, of a particular group of people at a particular time”. Culture is an essential part of human history and it is what makes us feel part of a certain group. Notwithstanding its undeniable importance, failing to change some of the outdated beliefs may cause issues such as disadvantages and prejudice towards a certain group of people. The role of women in society is a clear example. Centuries ago, considering a woman as inferior compared to a man was absolutely “normal”. In certain parts of the world, this is still true today. Fortunately, things have and are gradually changing in many societies, and people are more and more aware of the importance and need to build an equal society for everyone. 


Despite the progress made during the years, there are still nuances of culture that are not easy to change and that are eradicated so deeply in a population’s beliefs that are transmitted from one generation to the other.  One example is the phenomenon of “sheng nü” in the Chinese culture. “Sheng nü” (in Chinese 剩女) translates in English as “leftover women” and it refers to women who are in their late twenties and beyond, and are not married. As the word “leftover” reflects, this term has a negative connotation and embodies the prejudice that women have to be married in their twenties or otherwise considered “too old”, “left not chosen”. Women around the world, including in China, are more and more educated and seek economic independence. Choosing to pursue a career before starting a family should be a choice for any person. However, this is not always seen as a “right” path in certain rigid societies. This translates in a great burden on young females that are pressured by parents, and the society in general, and feel pushed into marriages. A short documentary realized by the skincare company, SK-II, shows perfectly the dilemma, the pressures and the fights for happiness of these young women determined to live according to their terms. 


As many cultural battles, this will, hopefully, change during the years to come. However, this helps us reflect on the fact that there are many aspects of life that we can enjoy, and take for granted, but they may not be for others. In addition, we should not forget that even if something is “normal” today, it is not necessarily the “right” choice for everyone. Changes need to be made for a more equal future.