What We Can Learn from China's Single Ladies

While their parents resort to bringing their unwed daughters' resumes to outdoor marriage markets, many of China's so-called "leftover women" are rolling with it

Here's another spin on why fewer women are settling down and making babies: In China, it's because educated single ladies just aren't settling, reports Deborah Jian Lee in The Atlantic.

Single, Chinese women over the ripe old age of 28 are tastefully referred to as sheng nu, which literally translates to "leftover women." Explains Lee: "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 one-child policy didn't really help either. According to a 2009 study by the Marriage Department of the Chinese Women's Union, women outnumbered men 10 to 1 in Shanghai.

We may not have a formalized system of marriage hypergamy in the USA, but let's be honest: This not settling thing sounds familiar. Women often worry that our income, education or accomplishments will intimidate potential suitors -- and sadly, we're not always wrong. When Sperling's Best Places ranked America's Best (and Worst) Cities for Dating, urban centers with large populations of highly educated, high-earning women (New York, Los Angeles, San Francisco and Boston) ranked low on the list (18, 32, 38 and 63 out of 80, respectively).

Meanwhile, Austin, Texas took the number-one slot because it has the highest number of residents between 18 and 24, who happen to have the "highest expenditures on alcohol purchased away from home." Touche. It's also worth noting that Sperling's research was sponsored by the makers of AXE Deodorant Bodyspray, otherwise known as the fragrance dealbreaker for any smart woman worth her salt. So that may have skewed the results -- but it also rather nicely underscores my point.

Seen through this lens, it's a depressing dating landscape, to be sure. Is being drunk at a bar the only way to snag a man? The real trouble happens when women begin to think so, buy into a whole "beauty over brains" myth and think we have to start shelving our intellect and downplaying our accomplishments in order to seem more attractive to men. You can see this happening in pretty much any bar around the country, on any given Friday night. All we're doing is reinforcing negative stereotypes that demean women and, frankly, not giving guys enough credit either. 

Instead, let's take a cue from our Chinese sisters. While their parents resort to bringing their unwed daughters' resumes to outdoor marriage markets, many of China's single ladies are rolling with it. There are now sheng nu social clubs, where ladies can enjoy their independence and insist that they shouldn't have to lower their standards for prospective mates just because the dating pool has gotten shallower. "We don't want to make compromises because of age or social pressure," Sandra Bao, one co-founder of a sheng nu social club, told The Atlantic.  

Yes, you might stay single longer with Bao's strategy. But is shacking up with some guy who wishes you earned less or weren't as smart a good alternative? All of China's smart single ladies have the right idea.

The reality is, many of these "leftover women" will not get married. Should that day come, great. If not, they will continue to live these completely awesome lives that they have built all themselves. 

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