This documentary literally moved me to tears…
I recall around the age of 23, meeting family members and friends at events. Or being invited to weddings (with no “plus 1” to bring) and being asked the dreaded question.. “when are you going to settle down?”. I tested the waters but I just wasn’t ready. Guys couldn’t handle my drive for success and experiencing the modern gentleman of my generation.. I thought I could do better all by myself!
I must admit two years ago I was relieved to meet (who I thought) was ‘The One”, after careful inspection I began to integrate him into my life. Naturally, I brought him around my family and friends and even made space in my career path to prioritise him. We talked houses, marriage, babies, success.. the lot! Well… things didn’t go to plan.. and something I had learned to love deeply – surprisingly unlike my career, woke up one day and decided it didn’t love me anymore.
No closure, no explanation.. I was literally Stood up on our 2nd year anniversary a few months ago. Just like solange said.. I have been working and running it away hoping the burn will leave my system. So, I guess a culture of ‘Sheng Nu’ could explain the reason for some of the emotions I have been feeling for the past 2-3 months. Why do people blame/put pressure on women for being single? When my friends and family found out about me and my ex, all i kept hearing was “the next guy”… is it by force? Because I feel could definitely put men like my ex under fire for being the reason I choose to embrace my career drive. My ‘sheng nu’ – who could blame me?
I have never really felt the so-called ‘female’ urge of wanting kids and having babies, I was simply taught this is what i should have. If you ask my friends and family they couldn’t tell you a thing about what I’d ‘want’ I reckon I only gave it thought when I fell in love and wanted to ‘gift’ this to my partner knowing it was what he really wanted from me and having nieces an nephews I know the love a child can bring and falling in love made me want to share it with him.. well – I thought anyways.. But, I guarantee you, if you asked me what my sister wanted or my best friend. I could give you baby names, wedding songs and colours themes.. But this never has really been ‘my thing’..
As you get older, you notice how lonely things can get at times. My best friends are married, some have kids… Some have even moved so far away I can’t even ‘hang out’ and keep socially busy the way i’d like to… but this change in my surroundings has never been a pressure for me to ‘fill a void’… Yes, My ex has left a huge gap in my life but I am learning to love myself enough again to stay strong and remember the things I have always dreamt of doing and things I’ve wanted – by continually putting myself first! #selflove
Am I destined for Sheng nu?
I have always questioned, Does this make me weird? Does this make me less of a woman. To be more passionate about work and success than signing up to a dating site to meet somebody to supposedly ‘fulfil my life’. I have never signed up to a dating site, Ever. Could this mean I am a rebel? Am I not fulfilling my duty as a woman and making my Christian Jamaican family proud?
The movement of #changedestiny is a breathe of fresh air for me.. I am lucky to have the relationship freedom that I do, I live in a multicultural environment with freedom to be myself. I no longer have my father around to make me feel bad about my choices, he passed away a few years ago and used to call age 23 ‘coming of age’ lol!
But back to the point! these women in China make me proud and comforted to know I do not stand alone! Yes, although I may still be heartbroken and I am not sure when I will recover or IF I would like to start again. But I am glad I still have my first love.. My career.
Article written by Vogue:
When a four-minute documentary-style video exploring the pressures placed on single women in China was released in April, the term sheng nu, which translates into English as “leftover women,” was new to the rest of the world. But for millennial Chinese women, it was an all-too-familiar concept. Sheng nu, which refers to any woman over the age of 27 who is still single, applies to a growing body of women seeking education, economic freedom, and a more unconventional life path than their parents. But despite the progressive movement, the message from society remains unchanged: If you’re not married, you’re doing something wrong.
“If you look before 2007, there wasn’t this extreme, extraordinary anxiety surrounding marriage,” says Leta Hong Fincher, a consultant on the documentary and author of Leftover Women: The Resurgence of Gender Inequality in China. She believes that the Chinese government, concerned with creating a so-called “high quality” workforce that can compete in the global marketplace, coined the phrase as part of an aggressive propaganda campaign to coerce educated women out of the workforce and into matrimony and motherhood. With falling birth rates and much speculation on the impact to China’s economy, Fincher argues that the government is deliberately frightening women into believing that if they delay marriage, no one will want to marry them at all.
“The government is focused on marrying off urban, educated women but it does not want rural, uneducated women to have more babies,” Fincher explains. “This goes hand-in-hand with the population quality—they want these women to build the new generation of skilled workers.”
This campaign of fear is especially effective considering the integral role of family within Chinese culture. Rigid and hierarchical, the traditional family structure places great emphasis upon responsibility to one’s family. For modern Chinese women, it’s a precarious balancing act to keep the older generation satisfied as their country modernizes at an unprecedented pace. The documentary, produced by luxury Japanese skin-care line SK-II (which was promoted with the hashtag #changedestiny), was created as a rally cry for young women to continue the fight for happiness on their own terms.
Li Chenxi, the star of Al Jazeera’s recent documentary China’s Fake Boyfriends, paid a handsome stranger to assuage her parents’ fears about her single status. Li Chenxi, a landscape designer in her late 20s, works in Beijing, about 750 miles south of her home city, Harbin. Each Chinese New Year, she faces the lengthy journey home, and the crushing weight of parental disappointment when she arrives alone. “Sheng nu is not a positive word,” she says in the documentary, while applying a face mask and moving around her tiny apartment in a giraffe-print onesie. “In Chinese, it feels like someone has been abandoned.”
And so Li Chenxi finds herself trundling north, prepping her hired boyfriend with photos of her family and confirming details of their fabricated relationship. Despite their preparation (and the significant finances that Li Chenxi invested—the going rate for a fake boyfriend is roughly $150 per day) the plan quickly derails. “He is too tall and too handsome for you,” her mother scoffs upon meeting him. “You need a shorter and more plain man.”
Daniel Holmes, the filmmaker behind China’s Fake Boyfriends, became intrigued by the concept of sheng nu after he moved to China in 2013. Holmes worked at a news organization where most of his colleagues were young women aged between 24 and 34 years old. They were smart, successful, and crippled by overwhelming societal stress to marry young.
“I’d often hear anecdotes from these friends and colleagues about the pressure they felt to settle down and how this affected their lives,” Holmes remembers. “On the flip side, I’d also hear gossip in the office directed toward my single female colleagues, who were considered too old to ever find a partner. When I heard of the extreme measures that some people were taking to assuage their parents’ fears, I wanted to take a deeper look at what drives the stigma of sheng nu, how it must feel to be labeled ‘leftover’ and to show some of the cultural and historic reasons behind the term.”
Although Li Chenxi failed to convince her parents that she had settled down, Holmes still views her plan as proof that the younger generation is resisting expectation. “For Li Chenxi, renting a boyfriend wasn’t a way of giving in to her parents’ wishes. It was a way of fighting back against the pressure, and it let her continue on her career path,” he says.
Vivienne Chow, a 38-year-old Hong Kong–based cultural critic, is upfront about the feelings of inadequacy that she and her other single friends experience. Her inner circle is full of ambitious, worldly, and highly independent women, most of whom speak several languages. And yet they believe their success is underscored by one significant failure.
“Society makes you feel there’s something missing in your life, that you just haven’t completed certain programs,” she says. “What most people do is go to school, get a good job, save money, buy property, get married, and have kids. That’s your life program,” she continues. “So if you don’t get on with the program, then something’s missing.”
In the SK-II documentary-style film, which went viral (above) and has now been viewed more than 2 million times, all ends well. The women confront their parents in a moving scene in which they explain their decision to remain single—tears are shed, the burden of expectation is cast aside. But, as Fincher points out, this is an ad; it has to have a fairy-tale ending.
“In part, it’s inspiring because the reality is so awful,” she says. “The marriage pressure is so incredibly intense and horrible. You have to have a very strong will and strong personality to withstand that kind of marriage pressure coming from all sides.”