Vanity thought #1682. Leftover women

There’s this viral ad by some skincare product company about Chinese “leftover women”, though 1 million views is not that much by modern standards. Nevertheless, the video touches on an interesting topic and it has caught attention of newsmakers at BBC, with predictable spin.

“Leftover women” is modern Chinese slang for women over 25 who are still not married and, presumably, are not likely to get married in the future either. The phrase itself is interesting and catches the very essence of the phenomenon, if you think about it. Young people in their twenties enter into the marriage market, they find themselves spouses, and after everything has been done and everyone was matched up you have some leftovers, like on a cooking table after all required ingredients went into a pot. These chopped up vegetables are perfectly okay but they are not going to be used. Sorry, tough luck.

Chinese culture places enormous value on families and relationships, everyone knows that, and so a single woman doesn’t really fit anywhere there – no husband, no children, and even parents looks at her as a runt of the litter. Without this social capital they have no value, literally. I bet most of them don’t even have friends, even if friends mattered to Chinese very much. Obviously, the women in this situation feel very uncomfortable and the video tries to speak on their behalf. This where it all goes wrong.

Skincare companies are not known for contributing to the pool of human wisdom and if they have any penetrating insights they use them to manipulate their clients. Most of the time they get into news for promoting repulsive stereotypes – white skin is beautiful, dark skinned people are ugly. Last I heard it was about some ad which was pulled off because the actress there attributed her success to her white skin and warned that becoming darker would make her into a loser. This time the message was very well received, however, probably because it’s not so obvious and it plays on the same underlying drive that makes girls to buy skin products regardless of racist undertones.

The phrase “girl power” appears in “leftover women” video a couple of times as an alternative to being married and fitting into one’s family. At one point on of the “leftovers” says that “power woman” is a positive moniker and implies that she’d prefer to be called that. Of course there tons of supporters for such power trips.

There’s nearly a thousand comments under this video and every one I read says something about “brave”, “beautiful”, “empowered” etc. “The society should wake up and accept them for what they are” and so on. Everyone is hugely supportive and everyone seems to be emotionally moved by this tearjerker. One comment puts it bluntly: “love yourselves before other people, even your parents..”

So, support is understandable and predictable but has anyone thought what the results of this self-indulgence are going to be? What are they going to do with millions and millions of unmarried and childless women if this trend catches on as it has done in the West already? China has a huge demographic problem on its hands as it is and they are trying to backpedal on their “one child” policy as fast as they can because they realize that the danger is real and they are going to have a huge and unsolvable shortage of workers to support their quickly ageing population.

They can look over at Japan and clearly see that neglecting reproductive function of the society can put even a wealthy country into a never-ending rut. They can’t restart their economy no matter what they try, there’s simply no mojo left there, and the debts keep piling up. Unlike Japan, China can’t afford supporting their population by borrowing. They came into quick money and they can lose their wealth just as quickly, plus they created hundreds of millions of demanding citizens who need to be kept happy or else the government will have a revolution on its hands.

There’s another explosive addition to the mix – tens of millions of unmarried men who can’t find partners and no one knows how to keep their testosterone in check. It could fuel crime, it could fuel violence, it could even fuel a revolution, but in any case their unfulfilled lust is going to create problems, it never goes away peacefully (unless one is a devotee).

Then one has to think about the future of these leftover women themselves and how long they are going to chase after power. I bet very few of them can sustain their drive for very long, most are not actually powerful but are real leftovers where an unfortunate mix of ambitions, selfishness, and below average looks made men pass them over when looking for partners. I bet most of them are average workers, too, and when push comes to shove they’d be the first ones to be pushed off the train and lose their jobs. They have already excluded themselves from value building social relationships so they need to be extra hard working just to be on par.

For the moment they can turn around and pretend that their situation is actually good and it’s only a matter of perception. They think that their only problem is society’s attitude and if they change that their lives would become happy. It’s a common human weakness – one can ignore his real problems forever if he finds a way to mask them with emotional equivalent of skin products. Some do it with drugs and alcohol, some with social activism, some by self-hypnosis, but it never works in the long run because it’s simply an inferior way to live one’s life. It’s degradation, there’s no masking over it.

I really think that they might end up being eventually born as animals because they consciously avoid all human responsibilities. Human form of life is meant for God realization but these people refuse to accept even the value of family and procreation. They are willfully oblivious to superior happiness and contentment that comes with starting a family and raising children, they are still on a stupid power trip instead. What a waste.


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