When The World’s Asia correspondent Mary Kay Magistad reported last Friday that Chinese women in their late 20s are considered “leftover women,” social networks were quick to respond. Comments from links posted from the New York Times, Times of India, and The World rose to over 1,000 by Wednesday evening.
Many non-Chinese commenters identified the cultural stigma in their own countries.
In Japan they’re called “loser dogs.” The “winner dogs” are the ones who get married (and usually quit working right after).
In Japan they’re known as Christmas Cake, because after the 25th they’re no longer wanted.
In Latino cultures after 30 they say a woman is “para vestir santos”, i.e. she’s only good for dressing up the statues of saints in the church since no one will marry her. This is quickly changing, though.
And “Bartleby1955” added:
In America, we call them Sit-Com material.
A lot of commenters identified with the cultural stigma around unmarried women in their late 20s and beyond, and mentioned the popularity of blind dating to avoid the situation.
It mentions it in the article, but blind dates are a huge thing. In the West they’re seen as sort of a desperate measure to try and get married, but in China they are a legitimate way of finding a husband or wife (again, often perpetuated by the parents). I’ve had several friends practically forced into blind dating after they finished university, because they couldn’t find a boyfriend.
And “fiat_lux_” wrote:
I’m pretty sure that in every major Chinese city, there’s a place called “The People’s Park.” In that People’s Park will be a  ton of old people advertising for their children and trying to set up blind dates.
Many commenters took issue with the fact Magistad’s article placed blame on the Chinese government for the “leftover woman” stigma.
It’s worth mentioning that Leta Hong-Fincher says the words “state media” over and over as if the order to criticize these women came down from Hu Jintao himself. The government’s grip on the media is slightly more nuanced than simply telling the news organizations what to run and when. If it’s a time of crisis, direct orders will come down, yes, but more often, it’s the government giving them directives on what not to publish. Hong-Fincher also doesn’t mention whether or not these are op-ed articles she’s referring to (which it sounds like they are), which is important information. For someone completing her PhD, she should know to cover her bases.
Others agreed that the problem lies in the Chinese government.
Most of the people who control China are old men who are used to seeing women in their place, and so I personally think that this whole ‘leftover woman’ campaign (pronounced ‘shung-nyu’) is a last desperate attempt by the patriarchy to reestablish women’s notions that they are lesser and incomplete without a man, that they need to be constantly worried about finding a man, and that they shouldn’t be distracted by such unimportant things as government corruption, advancing reform, protesting criminal behavior by public officials, or taking high paying jobs from men.
I also read an article which mentioned that the term was made up by the CCP to encourage woman to marry earlier because of the demographic gap. Lots of single men = big social problems. That would make a lot of sense if it’s the case.
And hundreds upon hundreds of commenters raised the issue of unmarried men, and why they might be fighting an even bigger stigma.
Older well educated professional women who is looking for the right men that can match her status (who is most likely already married), and is not willing to marry down. At same time, there is huge number of less successful men can’t find wives, not because of physical or personality flaws, but rather because they are too poor or not well educated. Edit: lastly, just want to say, the issue with first group is rather overblown, while the second group does pose an interesting demographical challenge for the Chinese government.
I think this is one of the most messed up long-term implications of the one child policy. Since males are preferentially selected there are now literally millions more unmarried, single Chinese men. I think I read somewhere the figure was like 50 million. I wouldn’t be surprised if their prospects for marriage are essentially zero.
My wife actually told me a story several months ago of a family in Tianjin with a male son who was preparing to get married. The parents sold most of their possessions and borrowed lots of money from relatives in order to raise the money for a house so the son could get married. In the end, though, the funds were insufficient. The son got angry and told his mother that if she wasn’t prepared to buy him a house, then she should’ve just never given birth to him. The mother ended up committing suicide.
This guy was an  about it, sure, but it’s indicative of the pressure that’s placed on young Chinese men to act as the primary breadwinner in a marriage and the expectation by Chinese women themselves that they be afforded the opportunity to simply not work and play the complacent trophy wife role.
These readers and commenters show there is a lot left to unravel about this new generation of women in China. Keep the discussion going in the comments section of Magistad’s story or by tweeting with the hashtag #worldgender.