Enjoy our first installment of Chaoji Shengnu:
Who is Chaoji Shengnü?
Chaoji Shengnü (超级剩女 Chāojí Shèngnǚ), is a superhero who, using the electro-sensors implanted in her strategically styled purple ponytail, detects when women in China are being chastised for their lack of spouse. When this happens, she swoops in, and with a flourish of her cape or nimble fingers, distracts any nuptial-pushing perpetrators with a minor act of mischief.
Our list of “nuptial-pushing perpetrators,” also known as “underhanded connubial conspirators” (when they’re subtle, but pack a sting), includes: pushy parents and assorted meddling relatives, nosy neighbors, gaga go-betweens, bumptious bosses, and well-intentioned, but misguided friends and colleagues.
Chaoji Shengnü is an equal-opportunity superhero. Fully aware that unmarried Chinese men, or “shengnan” are equally susceptible to marital pressures, (although for rather different reasons), she’s just as likely to sweep in and lend a hand to a gentleman in distress.
Especially if he’s handsome.
What is a Shengnü?
In China, an unmarried woman ever so precariously teetering towards the age of 30 is known as a “shèngnǚ,” or “leftover.” Basically, this word is a not so palatable way of implying that beyond a certain age, a woman in China is too old to be desirable, or must be flawed in a way that makes nobody want her.
After hundreds of conversations with “leftovers” and a bit of research, we’ve discovered that single or unmarried women in China face an inordinate amount of pressure to tie the knot. We’ve also discovered that China’s “leftover” women are often its best and brightest. They struggle to find partners because in Chinese society, where marriage hypergamy, or women “marrying-up” is the longstanding tradition, their educations and salaries put them on par with some of China’s top men, who often shy away in favor of younger, more “manageable” wives.
While a heady cocktail of political, historical, economic, social, and cultural factors all contribute to this logic, we think it’s time for a hearty re-assement of a Chinese woman’s place in society, starting with the elimination of her “expiration date.” As fierce advocates of women and of Tupperware, we believe that “leftovers” should be savored, not stigmatized.
And a few fun facts about Shengnü:
The legions of “leftover” women in urban China are growing steadily. There are over 800,000 of them in Beijing, and they represent about 27% of the female population of Shanghai. (Single women actually represent 34% of New York’s urban female population, but that’s Batman’s jurisdiction, so we’re leaving it up to him).
In 2007, the Chinese Ministry of Education listed “shengnü” as one of the 171 new words of the year.
According to a survey of 30,000 men conducted by The All-China Women’s Federation, more than 90% said women should marry before 27 to avoid becoming unwanted.
The All-China Women’s Federation also recently published the results of survey that breaks women down into different categories of “leftover.” Beginning at 25, it details how women must “fight” and “hunt” for a partner, so as not to wind up alone. By 28, it implies the heat is really on, telling women “they must triumph.” Between 31 and 35, single women are called “advanced leftovers,” and by 35, a single woman is the “ultimate” leftover. This woman has met great professional success, but like the Monkey King—to whom she is compared—she is flawed in thinking that she is higher than the mandate of heaven, which we can only assume is marriage.
Critics say that “shengnü” are single because their standards are too high. While it is no secret that some women in China use marriage as a means to acquire wealth, “shengnü” are generally educated, well-to-do females who support themselves and have less of a need than their mothers and grandmothers did, to enter a marriage for economic reasons. This allows them to be selective, and they are. Most of them disagree with the idea of marriage just for the sake of it.
Top three reasons they’re not married:
1. They’re focusing on careers, enjoying their independence and a more extemporaneous existence before committing to something more serious.
2. They haven’t met the right person yet and aren’t willing to get married and have kids just because their parents want to bao sunzi (抱孙子), or have something small to hug.
3. They haven’t found someone with a big enough house or car (that one’s a bit of a joke, but we realize it happens!)