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Women and Chinese New Year: The Pressure to Get Married

Chinese New Year is here

Yes, Chinese New Year is a reason to celebrate. Let’s enjoy the national holiday that spans one week. But, what of the Chinese women who are single? They feel the pressure to get married as they return to their parents’ homes.

As Chinese New Year is like Christmastime, it is primarily a family celebration. One option for single women is to spend it answering the questions of their parents about why they are not married yet.

Another option for single young women is to rent a boyfriend. Yes, this service is available online in a Craigslist sort of platform. In a recent SBS post, one man named Zhi Hao describes how he earns extra money during the Chines New Year by advertising himself as a boyfriend for rent:

“On New Year’s Eve I will prepare some gifts to bring her family and go have a few drinks with them. I think it’s great. I help solve people’s problems, and I earn money.”

But, is it as “great” as he says for the Chinese women who are not married? In China, if you are not married by the time you’ve reached 30 that is considered, well, unsuitable. Unmarried women approaching age 30 are known as “sheng nu” or “leftover women.” BBC reports that census figures show one in five women aged 25-29 are not married.

So, renting a boyfriend is an option some of these single women take to relieve the pressures from family about getting married when they return home for Chinese New Year.

There are definite issues with this practice of renting a boyfriend. Here are some but certainly NOT all of the issues. Firstly, it is deceitful. The women are lying to their families when they say that they have a boyfriend. True, they are doing it to avoid receiving implied messages that they are not good enough because they are unmarried. But, still, if the family were to find out about the fake relationship then the family would likely be more disappointed. In addition, lying to family is simply not a good practice to get into.

As well, when the single Chinese women rent boyfriends, they leave themselves vulnerable to being taken advantage of by the men who are ultimately strangers. These men could have fake profiles on the online platform where they had advertised their services and be completely different than they appeared on the computer screen. The women could be sexually assaulted when out with these men. Does the online contract for the services cover the humiliation and emptiness that haunts women after being sexually assaulted?

In addition, the worth of a Chinese woman appears to be hinging on whether or not they are married. It is not tied to their education level, intelligence or any other quality. In this context, a single, educated woman seems to have less value than a married one. Hello inequality?!

Of course, there are women who are happily single in China. Of course there are. They are educated and motivated, enthusiastic about life; they do not deserve to be discounted because they are not married. They are not the focus here in this post as here the writer is trying to bring attention to the pressures many Chinese single women feel during the Chinese New Year.

As well, this writer realizes that men also feel pressure to return to their families with a woman at their side during the celebratory time. This post focuses on female issues because this is a blog about women; each post centers on women.

25 thoughts on “Women and Chinese New Year: The Pressure to Get Married”

  1. I feel sorry for these women and the pressures that their culture puts on them to be married by a certain age.

    On meeting a friend’s Hungarian mother, she asked if I was married. I said no and her reply was not getting any younger. I chose to ignore the comment and realized that was the way she was brought up.

  2. It would be great if the ‘leftover’ women could have the time to enjoy the tranquility of life without the added pressures of having a man tag along. Like, surely some of them prefer life that way? I’m sure there is a lot of pressure for those women and it’s just not needed, really.

    Great article, Christy :)

  3. To rent a boyfriend…. oh :idea: :oops:
    Well that’s something extremely odd… I wonder who is the procurer…
    It must be a huge business, even more considering that women are always the objects in those sort of illicit activities… Great reading…. Love Christy Pie. Aquileana :D

    1. Christy Birmingham

      It’s an interesting concept and apparently people are using it in more than just China! Thanks Aqui for taking time to read the posts and share your lovely words with us.

  4. Hi Christy… Thank you for bringing his to light. Over the years I have heard of this practice and have seen it in action, it is very sad. For the young lady’s who fall victim to such judgement, they sometimes make wrong choices to appease the family and suffer with the consequences. It is hard to understand cultural differences and yet we see much the same in Western Society as well. Unless there is love in the center of any relationship you have nothing.

    Hugs for this Christy… a good message here.

    1. Christy Birmingham

      Thanks Rolly for lending your voice to this post given what you have noticed as well. I try to understand a range of cultures and sometimes I cannot make sense of it but I do want to be respectful whenever possible. I appreciate your time here!

  5. As some of your other commenters said, I had this overwhelming sense that this issue isn’t just related to Chinese women anymore! (Actually, wasn’t there a movie with Debra Messing about something similar?) Outside of that, though, this is a HUGE important issue to share! Thank you for bringing it to our attention!

  6. This is an issue in many Asian nations. Why it continues is beyond me, however it does. The stories I could tell about some of the Japanese engineers I knew back in the day pressured to get married before 30. Terrible, but funny also.

    1. Christy Birmingham

      After I wrote the post, I started to wonder, why by age 30? What’s the magic of that number? Then I realized, probably because risks associated with having children increases substantially after age 30.

    1. Christy Birmingham

      I know right?!! The first I heard of it. And as Resa noted in her comment here, there’s rent a friend services here in North America.

    1. Christy Birmingham

      Woah!! Resa, I just went on that rent a friend site and it customized to where I live and found me friends in my own city… I prefer traditional too – so come move here :D xxoo

  7. Thousands of years of Chinese ideals comprise their culture. This is one facet, however, it will not change until the younger generations band together in forging a new version of the traditional Chinese culture. There, like here or anywhere else, change is slow, but as more Chinese are educated and experience other cultural influences beyond China, it will change.

    1. Christy Birmingham

      So many changes feel slow to me… I wish time would hurry up some days… Thank you for the insightful comment. xx

  8. It is sad when family/society puts so much pressure on a woman to be a certain way that she feels she must be deceitful in order to have peace. Unfortunately, although it isn’t a national theme here in the US, I’m afraid many women also feel this pressure. And, if they are married the pressure often shifts to producing grandchildren.

    1. Christy Birmingham

      That’s very true, Jane. You’re quite right that many women feel pressure to marry and/or have children in other places than China. There is a similar issue here in Canada. Thank you for adding to the conversation!

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