Leftover Women: An Analysis

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In the past decade, the castigation of “leftover women,” referring to educated, professional Chinese women who haven't gotten married by the age of 27, have been getting increasingly stronger. In this paper, my central argument is that this stigmatization of single women, constructed by the state to specifically achieve its goals of social stability by promoting marriage, was permeated into multiple facets of women's life and becomes a three-dimensional form of power that transforms women in a way that they go against their own interests and behave as the state wish without coercion (Lukes, 1974). My paper is structured in the following way: I will examine how three social forces, cultural norms, media, and parents, exert power on "leftover…show more content…
I will draw on Confucianism's views on gender hierarchy, media's depiction of leftover women, and the power dynamic between parents and their leftover daughters to verify my arguments. My motivation of this research lies in understanding how women's personal agency in their decision on marriage is gradually erased, or in some cases disappears completely, by the influence of various social forces.

In Chinese patriarchal culture, women's identities are defined by their roles in family relationships such as good mothers and obedient wives, and leftover women are castigated against because they don't fulfill these roles, which harms the stability of society. The Chinese femininity in the present is largely influenced by traditional Chinese culture. For thousands of years, Confucianism has served as an ideological and
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The media simultaneously uses the mechanisms of ridicule and persuasion, subtle yet very potent means of control (Berger, 1963). The ubiquitous presence of this message makes women internalize it and gradually give up their personal agency in the process. First, media creates a sense of anxiety within women by ridicule: portraying single, educated, urban women in a derogatory way. The image of "leftover women" is always depicted as too smart, nerdy and thus frightening to attract men. For example, one popular cartoon shows a woman with a birthday cake showing the giant number 27 in melting candles. The woman, who is wearing thick-rimmed glasses to indicate her high education, contorts her face in frustration (Hahn and Elshult, 2016). Women who see this image will worry about themselves and seek a way to avoid being anything like
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