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What is a Manly Woman?

Is the introduction of manly women or 女汉子 a response to the issue of shengnu?

09·16·2013

What is a Manly Woman?

Is the introduction of manly women or 女汉子 a response to the issue of shengnu?

09·16·2013

Reading an article by ChinaSmack on “Manly Women”  got me thinking: society still has very stereotypical notions of how we view gender roles, and especially of how dependent men and women are on each other.

Recently a new meme has surfaced online, called  Manly Women or 女汉子  [nǚ hàn zi]. Baike defines this as a woman who looks feminine on the outside but is a ‘pure man or man-like’ on the inside. This essentially means that 女汉子 are beautiful women, capable of bearing responsibility, as well as being strong for themselves. Following this definition, there is a portion of women that described being 女汉子 as relatively undesirable, as being 女汉子 makes it difficult to find a boyfriend/husband. In an advanced society where it is often said that men should be equal to women, why has such a meme surfaced?

With the introduction of 女汉子  it appears that the online world is trying to take another jab women who are strong, independent, and self reliant (all coincidentally characteristics of a shengnu). Looking at it from a different perspective, the creation of the meme could also viewed as a push to try to accentuate the rising problem of leftover men and women in China.

Whatever the reason for the origin of the meme, I feel when taking any society into consideration, women are often still seen as needing to rely on a man, not just financially, but emotionally also. More often than not, being head-strong tends to be undesirable because society continues to teach us that a man should support a women and not so much the other way around.

Voluntarily changing the norm has always been controversial, especially in a country where parents push their daughters to find a boyfriend/husband so aggressively. 非诚勿扰 (fēi chéng wù rǎo), is a good example of the increasing demand for both men and women to find a partner in China. 非诚勿扰 is a dating show, where men come and try to find a interested partner out of 24 girls. Other than media, there is also now a class on how to marry an elite laowai for desperate shengnu. In time, we will see whether classes or joining a dating show will change the perceptions of women in Chinese society, or will just further cement the age-old concept that women need to rely on men.

If you know someone who is strong, independent and reliable, would you use 女汉子 to describe them? Would you describe yourself as 女汉子 if you had these characteristics?

Image courtesy of Kevin Dooley via Flikr Commons