Event: Leftover Women

Leftover Women

On July 24, the New America Foundation and ChinaFile will host a discussion on gender inequality in China with:

– Leta Hong Fincher, author (Leftover Women: The Resurgence of Gender Inequality in China),
– Susan Jakes, Editor, ChinaFile and Senior Fellow, Center for US-China Relations, Asia Society, and
– Rebecca E. Karl, Associate Professor of East Asian Studies, New York University and Co-editor, The Birth of Chinese Feminism.

Details of the event are below, but here is some background on gender equality in China:

Even before Mao Zedong proclaimed in 1968 that “women hold up half the sky” (妇女能顶半边天 / 婦女能頂半邊天), the Chinese Communist Party held this principle and codified gender equality the first Constitution of the People’s Republic of China in 1954.  Article 96 states: “Women in the People’s Republic of China enjoy equal rights with men in all spheres of political, economic, cultural, social and family life.” (中华人民共和国妇女在政治的、经济的、文化的、社会的和家庭的生活各方面享有同男子平等的权利. / 中華人民共和國婦女在政治的、經濟的、文化的、社會的和家庭的生活各方面享有同男子平等的權利.)


By the end of the 1970, the government’s planned policies of equal pay for equal work and equal opportunity resulted in about 90% of women being part of the country’s workforce.  However, between 1989 and 2009, the employment rate for women declined roughly 20% to about 65%.  Between 1995 and 2007, their wages dropped from 84% to 75% of men’s wages (for comparison, women in the US make about 80% of men’s salaries).”  Are Chinese women losing ground?

In Leftover Women (review by The Guardian)Hong Fincher suggests market forces, cultural norms, and especially government policies have contributed to growing economic, social, and legal discrimination towards women.  Despite being increasingly educated and making progress professionally, women own a disproportionate small amount of real estate because although a spouse’s income is often needed to purchase a house in China’s booming real estate market.  They often agree to leave their names off the deed, afraid that that insisting on co-ownership of the house will be viewed as a dealbreaker.

Hong Fincher also looks at the government’s use of marriage to promote social stability.  Despite a family-planning policy that has resulted in millions of “leftover men“, the government creates anxiety in women a fear of never getting married and shames them into marriage with its official use of the pejorative term shengnü (剩女, “leftover women”), a word supposedly coined by Cosmopolitan China editor Xu Wei (徐巍) that refers to unmarried, educated women who are older than 27.

The book also examines China’s weak domestic violence and workplace discrimination laws.

For more, attend the event and read Hong Fincher’s interviews with Shanghaiist (part 12), The Wall Street Journal and The New York Times.

[Update: New America NYC has posted the audio and a recap of the event]
New America NYC, 199 Lafayette Street, Suite 3B
Free, but RSVP required

The post was updated to include a link to the event.